Ban Hate Speech From Google News

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In October 2015, Google's famous "don't be evil" motto evolved on Alphabet Inc.'s Code of Conduct page into "do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect."

Particularly given the epidemic of outright fake news that spread through social media in the lead-up to the election, we the undersigned of this petition believe that "doing the right thing" should include prohibiting sites that promote hate speech from appearing in Google News. In accordance with Google's own Code of Conduct cited above and their newer commitment to combating hate speech outlined below, this petition is meant to compel Google to take action on the following three items:

  • Review the below 17 sites on Google News for immediate removal on the grounds of prohibiting hate speech, de-indexing historical links as well
  • Implement a better reporting option specifically to flag sites promoting hate speech on Google News
  • Adopt and be transparent about stricter guidelines for Google News inclusion, particularly around the currently nebulous "news content" and "journalistic standards" guidelines

Not only do many of these 17 websites promote hate speech, they also violate many commonly accepted journalism standards and have a well-documented history of spreading misinformation, often with arguably malicious intent. Nevertheless, each has been legitimized by being Google News verified:

  1. American Thinker
  2. BizPac Review
  3. Breitbart (SPLC's extensive evaluation)
  4. The Federalist
  5. Front Page Mag
  6. Gatestone Institute
  7. GlobalResearch.ca
  8. IJR (Independent Journal Review)
  9. Lew Rockwell
  10. Patriot Post
  11. PJ Media
  12. Prison Planet
  13. Project Veritas
  14. Town Hall
  15. Twitchy
  16. VDare
  17. World Net Daily

"News Content"

“Sites included in Google News should offer timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. We generally do not include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.”

A pivotal sentence in determining eligibility for inclusion in Google News states that "sites included in Google News should offer timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience." Given Google's dominant market share among search engines, “our audience” can include anyone from school nurses to Klansmen.

Without an addendum that explicitly condemns and prohibits sites affiliated with hate speech, fear-mongering, and outright racist and sexist agendas, the risk of these sites gaining legitimacy and prominent visibility becomes irresponsibly high.

Google has committed to a code of conduct penned by the European Union addressing hate speech that includes a responsibility for them to "respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally."

This code makes specific reference to a framework decision that defines hate speech in great detail. In addition to violating hate speech provisions, these sites pose a danger to the epidemic of misinformation to reach alarmingly large audiences.

With regards to the EU code of conduct, Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations Director, Lie Junius, had this to say: “We’re committed to giving people access to information through our services, but we have always prohibited illegal hate speech on our platforms. We have efficient systems to review valid notifications in less than 24 hours and to remove illegal content. We are pleased to work with the Commission to develop co- and self-regulatory approaches to fighting hate speech online."

The above agreement appears to have applied only to YouTube, so it’s imperative that these same standards are more explicitly apply to Google’s other services, especially their News platform which bears a greater responsibility for informing the public and thus a greater potential to do harm by lending credibility to hate speech.

"Journalistic Standards"

“Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values. If your site publishes aggregated content, you will need to separate it from your original work, or restrict our access to those aggregated articles via your robots.txt file.”

This is the other provision that allows sites that contain hate speech and exercise poor journalistic standards to earn Google News verification and the clout that this brings. The extent and nature of these standards is encompassed in one brief, inadequate sentence: "Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values."

There are crucial and widely recognized journalistic standards that should be stated more clearly than this wording. The Society of Professional Journalists has a comprehensive list defining a code of ethics, including important guidelines on the following four principles:

  1. Seek Truth and Report It
  2. Minimize Harm
  3. Act Independently
  4. Be Accountable and Transparent

This is the tip of the iceberg of journalistic standards that are not, for the most part, legally binding, but are nevertheless important, responsible guideposts that should explicitly factor into Google's News verification process in the interest of mitigating the spread of harmful misinformation and hate speech. At present, each of the sites listed above arguably violates some or all of the major tenets of this code of conduct.

What Is An Acceptable Conclusion For This Effort?

We will not rest until news sites promoting hateful agendas are sufficiently discredited by Google, and Google’s standards for News inclusion are updated to reflect Google's Code of Conduct and commitment "to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally" and better reflect their current code of conduct to "do the right thing."

To that end, we will use Google's current "Send Feedback" method in the footer of Google News to report the above sites for not living up to the standards—however currently vaguely worded—that Google has committed to upholding. The promise to remove and bar sites of this nature from participating in Google's Ad Network is a great first step, but there is more work to be done to undo the harm that the legitimization of these websites has caused.

The Magnitude Of This Issue

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