Tag Archives: investigative journalism

Blockbuster WSJ Investigation: How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

Naked Capitalism
by Jerri-Lynn Scofield

Jerri-Lynn Scofield has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The WSJ published a comprehensive investigation Friday, How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results, that provides fodder for ongoing or new antitrust investigations of the company,  both in the US, and worldwide:

THE JOURNAL’S FINDINGS undercut one of Google’s core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power—that the company doesn’t exert editorial control over what it shows users. Regulators’ areas of concern include anticompetitive practices, political bias and online misinformation.

Permit to me quote from the WSJ’s takedown at length – although I encourage readers, if possible, to read the entire (paywalled)  version, for it contains a wealth of information, as well as lots of cool graphics:

Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

• Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBayInc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc.and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

• Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.

• Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.

More…

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Bob Woodward: The Story He Won’t Tell

Editor’s Note: Tis the preseason of the 2018 midterms. This past week saw the release of Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House to much fanfare from the corporate “news” media. Unsurprisingly, Trump administration officials argued that Woodward’s work included made up quotes wrongly attributed to them.

Long ago Woodward and his Washington Post cohort Carl Bernstein’s “breaking” of Watergate reached mythic status in US journalism and political history. Yet myth is usually divorced from fact, and for a reason. When one of the principal figures in this storied saga has long-established ties to the political establishment and intelligence community, as the article below by investigative writer Russ Baker demonstrates, the myth is intended to reinforce a specific agenda, in this case the taken-for-granted suggestion that Woodward is a disinterested writer and the paragon of integrity. 

Is America’s favorite investigative reporter a government operative? Political commentator Russ Baker offers intriguing evidence!

By Russ Baker
(HUSTLER MAGAZINE July 2011)

Woodward at the LBJ Library in 2016. Image Credit: Wikipedia

In June 2009,Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward traveled to Afghanistan with General Jim Jones, then President Obama’s National Security Advisor, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of forces there. Why did Jones allow this journalist to accompany him? Because he knew that Woodward could be counted on to deliver the company line—the military line. In fact, Jones was essentially Woodward’s patron.

The New Republic’s Gabriel Sherman pointed out that when Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee hosted a 50th-birthday party for Woodward’s wife, reporter Elsa Walsh,“Jones was a guest of Woodward. ”According to Sherman, one attendee told him, “Woodward and Elsa were glued to Jones at the cocktail party before the dinner started.”

In September 2009, McChrystal (or someone close to him) leaked a document to Woodward that essentially forced Obama’s hand. The President wanted time to consider all options on what to do about Afghanistan. But the leak, publicizing the military’s “confidential” assertion that a troop increase was essential, cast the die, and Obama had to go along. Nobody was happier than the Pentagon—and, it should be said, its allies in the vast military-contracting establishment.

Continue reading Bob Woodward: The Story He Won’t Tell

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