Home > Analysis, media, Opinion > Listen up, Syria, Google wants you invaded

Listen up, Syria, Google wants you invaded

February 14th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Well, at least indirectly. Google in its exit from the Chinese market for search tried to bolster it’s “do no evil” motto by trying to demonize China’s censorship laws. We have written quite a bit about Google in the past – some directly and others indirectly (see our other  ‘Google‘-tagged articles). In this article, I would like to simply show how Google participates (willfully or not makes no difference) in this one-sided mass barrage of attacks in the Western press against Syria.

Below is the search result for the term, “Syria” in the Google.hk domain (as the writing of this article). Yes, even in Hong Kong!  Google.com has similar search results. I am sure Google.uk, Google.de, and what other domain Google owns will have similar results too.  Wikipedia might be somewhat objective.  If we filter out the map and the travel link below, what we have left is a chilling and concerted one-sided view of the Syrian government.

Every citizen on the planet should ask this question:   Are they being excessively exposed to materials Google finds most pertinent to them?  Are the Google.hk search results subjected to American end-user click priorities?  To American government sensibilities?

If NATO ends up invading Syria, then arguably Google has some blood on its hands.  So much for “do no evil.”

 

  1. Syria – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria – 翻譯這個網頁

    Syria officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية‎ al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabīyah as-Sūriyyah About this sound Arabic pronunciation 

     

  2. Syria News – Protests (2011)

    topics.nytimes.com/top/news/…/syria/index.html – 翻譯這個網頁

    World news about Syria. Breaking news and archival information about the 2011 protests, its people, politics and economy from The New York Times.

  3. Syria

    maps.google.com.hk

    Syria

  4. Syria Travel Information and Travel Guide – Lonely Planet

    www.lonelyplanet.com/syria – 翻譯這個網頁

    16 Aug 2011 – Syria tourism and travel information including facts, maps, history, culture, transport and weather in Syria. Find popular places to visit in Syria 

  5. Syria | World news | The Guardian

    www.guardian.co.uk/world/syria – 翻譯這個網頁

    Latest news and comment on Syria from guardian.co.uk.

  6. Assad forces kill at least 217 Syrians in … JPost – Middle East

    www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id… – 美國 – 翻譯這個網頁

    4 Feb 2012 – NGO says death toll rising as Assad forces crack down on protests mainly in city’s Khalidiya district.

  7. BBC News – Syria profile – Overview

    www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703856 – 翻譯這個網頁

    6 Feb 2012 – Provides an overview of Syria, including key events and facts about this influential Middle Eastern country.

  8. Syria | Reuters.com

    www.reuters.com/places/syria – 翻譯這個網頁

    BEIRUT – Government forces and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad clashed in cities and countryside across Syria on Tuesday and Arab officials 

  9. Syria – CIA

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world…/geos/sy.html

    20 Dec 2011 – Features map and brief descriptions of the geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military and 

  10. Russia, China veto U.N. resolution as violence in Syria worsens 

    www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/…02…/syria…/12012年2月3日
    UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The U.N. Security Council failed again Saturday to take decisive action to stop the 
  11. Syria news, all the latest and breaking Syria news – Telegraph

    www.telegraph.co.uk › … › World News › Middle East – 翻譯這個網頁

    Syria news, all the latest and breaking Syria news from telegraph.co.uk.

Categories: Analysis, media, Opinion Tags: ,
  1. Charles Liu
    February 14th, 2012 at 16:48 | #1

    Well, it might be a reflection of certain POV being more prevalent in the West. Who knows what algorithm/population Google use/sample to determine what is popular

  2. February 14th, 2012 at 23:43 | #2

    Even if Google didn’t tweak anything, this is the problem with private company monopolizing how we access internet information. Should there be laws that regulate entities (for-profit no less) on which people depend for knowledge, knowledge that form our own sense of identity and worldly norm? Does Google own a duty to create a public / common good? Can the (free) market – which presumptively give us choices – substitute for such laws / duties?

    The above aside, I searched syria on bing, yahoo, baidu … some results were better, but I don’t know if I can say anything statistically significant now…

  3. silentchinese
    February 15th, 2012 at 07:59 | #3

    They would claim it is just the result of their search algorithms. they reflect the “will-and-mood of the people”, (never mind that the very product they produce has an effect on the very thing they claim they neutrally reflect)

    but, ofcourse, there is no independent way to verify it. so….

    and the fact that Foggy Bottom is now staffed with these “tech savvy” (oh good god when has “tech” being only about internet, social media and apps on your phone, but that’s gripping for another time… ) do gooders who are in-with the silicon valley crowd.

    does make one wonder does it?

    ==

    anyways

    the entire claim that these searches only “reflect” the mood and state of the internet is utter hogwash.

    The very product they sell affects the state of the internet.

    The same argument could be made for traditional media.

    Newspaper has long claimed both to reflect the will of the people, yet same time claim to be “Opinion leaders”.

    Bull. Shit.

  4. Charles Liu
    February 15th, 2012 at 10:00 | #4

    IMHO it’s little wonder why Google results is so skewed on this – that’s what the media is pushing, a collective, even if not coordinated, “Google Bomb”, if you will.

    But Google can be leveraged. To find and amplify the opposing POV that’s currently invisible in a sea of voices, just add a few key terms you are looking for, for example:

    https://www.google.com/search?tbm=nws&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=Syria+Libya+humanitarian+imperialism

    This will filter out the echo chamber.

  5. LOLZ
    February 15th, 2012 at 21:05 | #5

    Google search algorithm works mostly by popularity. The fact that most of the Google Syria searches produce pro-opposition articles is more indicative of overall biased media coverage.

  6. Joshua
    February 16th, 2012 at 06:17 | #6

    Google’s algorithm probably sorts most articles by what is most relevant to today’s users, and this obviously happens to be the news about the government’s crackdowns and use of violence. If there is a bias, it is in the news more likely than Google’s algorithm (as LOLZ points out). Why do you assume that this is Google “participating in the one-sided mass barrage of attacks against Syria?” You make quite a pointed assumption and throw in phrases like “If NATO ends up invading Syria, then arguably Google has some blood on its hands” in order to grab attention, good or bad, but where is the hard evidence?

  7. February 16th, 2012 at 08:53 | #7

    Technically what Joshua said is correct. But the problem we have in the “democratic” world is they often equate popularity = right. That is nonsense, because such cannot be true all the time.

    Just because the majority of Americans believed it was “right” to invade Iraq, it does not necessarily make the invasion morally right.

    So, Google saying we are simply bringing out the most popular results, doesn’t necessarily excuse it from responsibility for balance, objectivity, and other criteria that could do real good for human societies.

    Google in fact keeps how it ranks results secret. I was a bit surprised in the .hk domain, the most popular results are all Western. NOTHING from the .hk domain in the top results!

    Google IS media, and hence what silentchinese stated above is absolutely applicable:

    >Newspaper has long claimed both to reflect the will of the people, yet same time claim to be “Opinion leaders”.

    Google does this at a more aggregate level by syndicating the various narratives they like.

  8. Charles Liu
    February 16th, 2012 at 11:02 | #8

    It’s not even popularity = right. As Chomsky put it, it’s manufacturing consent. Look at the media vitriol against Iran, and all those reporting will again converge on Google’s algorithm, akin to Google Bomb, and rank up, drowning out the sane voices against war and violence.

    It’s a reflection on our military-industrial-media-complex.

    So what we can try is search for certain things on Google, like humanitarian imperialism in relation to Libya and Syria. Perhaps our activity will trigger the algorithm and tilt the mysterious windmill the other way?

    One can only hope, but I see what you’re getting at DW, Google’s probably replicating it’s US-based search rankings across regions. There could be other factors like language and geopol filters, but samples probably tilted west, from looking at the results.

  9. February 16th, 2012 at 11:11 | #9

    That’s right Charles. It’s a good suggestion for people tag extra terms in their search to get more balance. But for the majority of people who are less critical, they won’t be doing it.

    So, it’s rather funny, but I think it’s when Google runs afoul of different country’s laws that gets it booted – that’s how some balance is achieved.

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