Google News 'Deranking' Threat Is 'Dark Shadow on Freedom of Speech' – IT Expert

© AP Photo / Virginia MayoGoogle logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. (File)
Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. (File) - Sputnik International
Comments made by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, which suggested that Google News is "working on … deranking" RT and Sputnik, cast a "dark shadow" on freedom of speech, Choong-Fook Fong, CEO of IT security firm LGMS told Sputnik.

A representative of Google has told Sputnik that the tech giant has no concrete plans to de-rank Russian media, including RT and Sputnik, in spite of comments made by Eric Schmidt over the weekend.

"He [Eric Schmidt] was referring to ongoing efforts to improve search quality (e.g., the changes we announced in April), not concrete plans. Also we don't change our algorithms to re-rank individual sites," the representative said.

Choong-Fook Fong, CEO of Malaysia-based cyber security service provider LGMS, told Sputnik that nobody else knows how Google's ranking algorithms work, and the company's work on "deranking" websites is a worrying development.

Google logo - Sputnik International
'Because Russia': RT Editor-in-Chief Slams Google Over Its 'De-rank' Algorithms
"I think such a move [by Google] casts a dark shadow on news and freedom of speech. You see, if Google can 'selectively' de-rank some websites, they can also 'selectively' pro-rank some web sites too, can't they? I think Google executives may need to answer that question in Congress," Choong-Fook said.

"No one, supposedly, knows how the search and rank algorithm works, it's Google's trade secret. I think whoever is claiming that they know and can manipulate output based on Google's algorithm, either they are Google insiders or they are just plain lying."

"Information is available on the Darknet too, is the US government going to denounce that news as well? The Netizens of today have so many choices for sources of info, they can think and analyze for themselves. [The notion of] 'propaganda manipulation' via news is a little 1990s," Choong-Fook said.

In an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, said that the search engine is working on "deranking" Sputnik and RT from its Google News aggregator.

"We're working on detecting this kind of scenario you're describing and deranking those kinds of sites," he said in response to a question, Motherboard reported.

"It's basically RT and Sputnik," he added. "We're well aware and we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it."

Google has come under fire for manipulating search results in the past. Last year, Sourcefed released a video claiming that Google's search suggestions — often called "autocomplete" suggestions — were biased in favor of then-Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. 

Distinguished research psychologist Robert Epstein reviewed the evidence of Google's support for Clinton and found that "Google indeed withholds negative search terms for Mrs. Clinton even when such terms show high popularity in Trends."

​Eric Schmidt is known to enjoy a close relationship with the Democratic Party establishment and Hillary Clinton; Schmidt endorsed Hillary for President in June 2016. 

In November 2016, Wikileaks published emails hacked from the email account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta. They showed that Eric Schmidt was helping the Clinton campaign to draw up plans as early as 2014.

"I have put together my thoughts on the campaign ideas and I have scheduled some meetings in the next few weeks for veterans of the campaign to tell me how to make these ideas better. This is simply a draft but do let me know if this is a helpful process for you all," Schmidt wrote in April 2014 in an email to Clinton's adviser, Cheryl Mills.

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