The Separation of Church and Search

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Google has been busy of late laying down a track record of bias against conservative, pro-life, and Christian content.

Credible reports indicate that the tech giant has been manipulating searches on the part of participant users to facilitate end results that favor liberal outcomes and simultaneously suppress conservative content.

Google, via YouTube, has removed videos of Prager U, and Live Action and demonetized YouTuber Steven Crowder’s channel as well as Dr. Michael Brown’s Christian ministry, among others.

Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, had an ad disallowed due to the fact that items in the promotional materials and website postings refer to “Jesus and/or the Bible.”

In early 2019, a Google software engineer became a whistleblower and agreed to go on record to provide an inside witness in support of the premise that the tech company has a bias against Christians.

Hostility by Google regarding the tenets of Christianity comports with the politics of Silicon Valley and in particular the political ideology endemic within the search giant’s corporate culture.

James Damore, an engineer who was terminated by Google, filed a class action lawsuit last year, alleging that the tech giant harassed him and others over their right-of-center political views. Damore had written a memo that characterized the environment within the company as a “politically correct monoculture.”

This descriptive was recently made manifest when Google-owned YouTube suppressed an advertisement for a charity whose purpose is to provide assistance and support to military veterans. The explanation given for the suppression of marketing expression was that the ad in question contained the keyword “Christian.”

Keywords are routinely utilized in online advertising to allow advertisers to have their ads appear in search results whenever potential customers who are conducting internet searches type in a particular term or phrase.

Chad Robichaux, a Marine veteran and former MMA fighter, started a charitable foundation called the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program in order to serve veterans and their families in their battles to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Robichaux became a Marine at age 17 and served eight tours in Afghanistan, where he was part of the Joint Special Operations Command Task Force and earned a Medal of Valor for his service to the nation.

The marketing team of Robichaux’s charitable organization attempted to publish an ad to promote an episode of the group’s “Mighty Oaks Show” that highlighted ways in which the Christian faith assisted a Korean War veteran in finding healing.

“So one of the keywords to boost the ad was the word ‘Christian,’ which we use regularly,” Robichaux told Faithwire. “The ad was denied specifically because of the use of the word ‘Christian.’”

Robichaux posted a screenshot on Twitter of an email that he received from Google, which indicated that the keyword “Christian” was “unacceptable content” and a “potential policy violation.”

According to Robichaux, the group has run ads with the keyword “Christian” for years. In 2019 alone, the group had 150,000 impressions on this word in its ads. However, because it appeared to be a new restriction, members of the group called the Google helpline. They were told that Google’s new criteria prohibited the use of the word “Christian.”

YouTube responded on Twitter, stating, “We know that religious beliefs are personal, so we don’t allow advertisers to target users on the basis of religion. Beyond that, we don’t have policies against advertising that includes religious terms like ‘Christian.’”

Google’s explanation seemed coherent, possibly even one that had been made in good faith, with a line of reasoning based on an ostensible policy of separation of church and search. However, Robichaux produced evidence that Google’s policy treats some religions as more equal than others.

Mighty Oaks proceeded to run the exact same ad with the keyword “Muslim” in place of “Christian.” Perplexingly, the ad was approved.

The two screenshots Robichaux provided stood in stark contrast to one another. The first showed that the word “Christian” had been flagged, while the second showed that Robichaux’s group had been given the green light to use the keyword “Muslim.”

The above example indicates that Google, the company that holds the key to the information door of the digital world and also owns the number one global video portal, has an animus toward a faith to which a majority of our nation’s residents adhere.

In light of Google’s selective application of its business policies, it is appropriate to examine the legislative privileges bestowed upon the tech giant. It is also fitting to question whether or not anti-trust law should be used to restore competition in the market over which Google currently reigns.

Antitrust Law Should Be Used to Break Up Big Tech Monopolies

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President Donald Trump, via his Twitter account, recently prompted a public discussion about the possibility of using antitrust law against major technology companies, due in part to a growing body of evidence that bias is being perpetrated against conservative individuals and entities by such companies.

The primary rationale of antitrust enforcement is the protection of the American consumer and free market economy from unprincipled business behavior by monopolistic enterprises.

Never before in the nation’s history have companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, among others, possessed the size, wealth, dominance, control, and sheer power that the tech giants do.

With more than 70 percent of the PC search market and almost 85 percent of the mobile device market, Google currently has a virtual stranglehold on the gateway to digital information. And Google’s video social media platform, YouTube, controls almost 80 percent of the video market.

Facebook has about 2 billion users worldwide, and when the company’s additional acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp are factored in, 95 percent of young people regularly log on to Facebook platforms.

When it comes to Amazon, by the year’s end the company will have swallowed up almost 50 percent of the U.S. e-commerce business, and additionally lays claim to 80 percent of the e-book market. Amazon is also the largest provider of hosted cloud services, and the odds are strong that an online sales firm that competes with the company would likely be using Amazon servers for its own website.

Research on Google searches has produced data, which indicate that bias against conservative news outlets, blogs, and websites exists, and additionally indicate that ideologically right-of-center content has actually been removed from YouTube.

Despite Google’s denial of bias, PJMedia recently conducted a count of search results relating to President Trump and found that 96 percent of the most visible news articles that arose were generated from liberal outlets.

The Daily Caller reported that Google’s fact check feature engages almost exclusively in the targeting of right-of-center sites.

Facebook has exhibited bias in its trending topics, as well as in its removal of conservative content, and Amazon has manipulated book reviews to favor leftist writers.

Despite promises to the contrary, Facebook continues to censor ideas based on conservative content and has recently been caught doing so. A New York Post article by Salena Zito, which noted that supporters of President Trump were unaffected by the conviction and plea deal of two prominent Trump-associated individuals, Zito’s article was labeled as “spam.”

Facebook even took down an article titled “The School Shootings That Weren’t,” posted by NPR, that showed the number of school shootings, which were claimed to have taken place during the 2015–2016 school year, was highly inflated.

The president is correct in suggesting that the use of antitrust law against tech companies may be a necessary step that the government needs to take in order to awaken the tech giants to the duty that they have, to exercise greater responsibility in their approach to users and content. If they do not, consequences may result as seen with other companies, which were divided into smaller less monopolistic concerns.

In a previous antitrust filing, AT&T was split up into eight much smaller companies, and Standard Oil was divided into 34 firms. Each of these companies possessed the ability to almost totally dominate their respective market. The original AT&T accounted for 93 percent of all telephone calls made in the U.S., and Standard Oil sold 87 percent of U.S. refined oil.

An antitrust case that began in the early years of former President Bill Clinton’s administration was ultimately settled by the Department of Justice. Microsoft had been accused of abusing monopoly power on personal computers, in its handling of operating system and web browser sales, by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system.

Microsoft’s actions are strikingly similar to a recent Google business practice. To insure its dominance of the mobile market, Google forced carriers and manufactures that used its Android operating system to make Google Search the default search engine and include a number of Google apps as well.

In 2008 the Bush Justice Department threatened to bring an antitrust action against Google, due to a proposed partnership with Yahoo for the sale of advertising. At the time, Google had a 70 percent share of the market, and Yahoo, with 20 percent, was the second largest search engine.

Due to the monopolistic realities of these giant tech companies, startups that might compete with the giants may end up being smothered. For example, an entrepreneurial startup company with products that compete with Google offerings has to be concerned that Google will give its own product a higher ranking and may even hide the new company’s competing products.

This poses a danger to the overall consumer market, because consumers lose the ability to become aware of and/or purchase any innovative products that startup companies might have to offer.

Both Google and Facebook maintain that their companies should not be the subject of antitrust scrutiny, because their product is said to be provided to their users free of charge. However, participants who are obtaining the services for free are not the actual customers of the companies. The real paying customers, in both search and social media, are the advertisers and publishers that pay for the ability to broaden their own pool of consumers.

The argument can be made that the big tech companies, via paid search advertising and paid social media advertising, have morphed into monopolies, and these monopolies have effectively stifled competition and innovation, while having a deleterious effect on the free market economy.

The Digital Threat to Free Expression

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Recently, in a series of unprecedented moves on the part of four major social media platforms, free expression was deliberately brought to a halt.

That the thwarting of the free expression in question took place on the same day adds to the alarming nature of the action by the digital powers that be.

Alex Jones’s InfoWars content was banished from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify. The move appears to have been a coordinated effort.

The removal of the content was evidently motivated by a desire to rid the platforms of supposed hate speech. However, the same platforms continue to display pages that have far more incendiary and/or offensive content than InfoWars posted.

Provocateur Jones’s site was a convenient quarry for tech companies to begin their purge of content that they subjectively deem undesirable.

However, tech giants have laid down a track record that indicates they cannot be trusted to maintain a fair venue for the marketplace of ideas.

Approximately 70 percent of the people within our country now obtain their news from Google and Facebook. Additionally, the major tech concerns have a virtual stranglehold on the manner in which billions of people around the globe communicate.

Truth be told, there has never been a more massive concentration of media power than that which is squarely in the hands of Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and a smattering of other internet companies.

As digital companies go about the business of justifying censorship, many are looking for solutions via regulation.

Restraints on speech imposed by private companies are not protected by the First Amendment, and companies do not have a legal obligation to provide freedom of speech to their users. While internet companies were once fierce advocates of free expression, this is unfortunately not the case anymore.

Being larger than many governments of countries throughout the world, the tech giants act in a quasi-governmental manner when they eliminate or limit speech within their internet province.

Some have proposed turning the big tech giants into public utilities. Others have urged breaking up the companies through the use of anti-trust law, a logical idea when considering that the major tech firms have essentially become a monopoly with no significant competition, e.g., Google’s dominance of the internet video market and Facebook’s rule over the social media sector.

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently suggested that social media platforms be treated like news organizations, which would render them responsible for content appearing on their platforms.

Rep. Steve King has recommended revisiting the law that shields internet companies from being treated as the publisher of content users’ posts, thus restoring legal responsibility for defamatory and other tortious or criminal content that is published. The Iowa congressman is referring to a statutory provision that made the current internet social media landscape possible: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Publishers of content are typically liable for the material they disseminate, even when the content originates from individual unpaid contributors, such as a “letter to the editor.”

In 1996, when the web as we know it was still in its infancy, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. An amendment to the original bill, Section 230, stated, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

The statute protected Internet providers from being deemed news organizations and gave legal immunity to the tech companies, ostensibly to foster industry growth and freedom of speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court stripped away much of the bill in 1998, but Section 230 was left unscathed.

Later precedents interpreted Section 230 broadly so that digital platform companies could grow exponentially, without serious concern for illegal speech placed on their platforms. And grow they did, to become the gargantuan companies that they are today, complete with secret algorithms that render selected users invisible. At the start, the young companies would not have been economically feasible minus the provision.

The law also prevents liability in the event “objectionable” material is removed. If the companies do choose to eliminate offensive user-created content, their immunity is not forfeited.

These massive companies are essentially being treated by the law as if they are still mere startups. Although many in the tech community see Section 230 as sacrosanct, i.e., not to be touched, the provision was modified by a bi-partisan coalition in Congress earlier this year. President Trump signed legislation amending Section 230 in April 2018, denying some legal immunity to internet platforms in order to fight sex trafficking.

More carve outs of the statute, or the threat of such, will get the attention of the tech giants and perhaps motivate them to return to the free and open platforms they once wanted to be.

How to Get Real News in a World of Fake News

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There was a time when three dominant television networks had the power to control the news and information narrative. Societal sources of information, though, have been constantly shifting over the past several decades due in great part to changes in technology.

The widespread reliance on digital information today has allowed ta trio of technology companies to be in a position to increasingly influence cultural and political conversations in a host of ways.

When it comes to establishing the news narrative, the big three consist of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It is the tech giant Google, however, that has managed to morph into a monolithic kingdom of web search.

Google has become a digital pathway to information for almost the entire world, having secured approximately 70 percent of the global search market share. The usage of the search site for exploring the net is almost double the amount of its nearest competitor, Bing.

Additionally, as the owner of the principal video sharing site YouTube, Google is second only to Facebook as a social media platform.

Using its extraordinary algorithms and artificial intelligence, search giant Google unfortunately displays blatant and explicit biases against conservative viewpoints, all the while favoring left-leaning positions.

This partiality is underscored by discrimination lawsuits filed by former Google employees James Damore and David Gudeman against their prior employer. Damore alleges that he was fired for writing a memo criticizing Google’s diversity policies, while Gudeman claims he was blacklisted and let go for holding conservative beliefs, particularly for his support of now President Donald Trump.

The lawsuits describe a systemic ultra-liberal atmosphere at the tech giant. What is of major concern for the unknowing public is the fact that the radically left-leaning Google culture has manifested itself in distorted and biased search results.

In 2017 researchers from Northeastern University and the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology presented a paper that demonstrated a pervasive bias favoring Hillary Clinton existed in Google search results regarding the 2016 election.

Later in the year a research report written by Leo Goldstein of the group Defeat Climate Alarmism used data from Alexa.com to determine that Google searches were biased in favor of liberal domains and against conservative domains.

Using a current news story that broke over this past weekend concerning the Democratic memo, which was released to counter the Republican FISA abuse memo, a search on Google was conducted by this article’s author using the term “democrat memo.”

The results of the search were as follows: Two articles that appeared on the first line as “Top Stories” were one-sided pro-Democrat pieces from the The New York Times and Vox.

It was not until halfway down the third page of the Google search listings that a single article with a divergent point of view appeared. The article titled “What The Democrats Left Out Of Their Memo” was from the Daily Caller website.

The Google search exhibited the results, despite the fact that a plain reading of the Democratic memo indicated significant facts set forth in the Republican memo were left unanswered.

Particularly disturbing was the lack of any mention in the Democratic memo of the DNC and Clinton campaign funding of the infamous Steele dossier, or any mention or explanation of why that information was not provided to the FISA Court.

Assuming that Google’s bias is extensive and is unlikely to be addressed, conservatives cannot sit idly by and continue to use the search site.

In the business world, there are antitrust laws that exist to protect consumers from monopolies, which artificially raise prices and stifle innovation. Perhaps people who are seeking objectivity should consider using an alternative approach when conducting Internet searches.

Considering the fact that Google and most other search engines track and mine personal information without an individual’s knowledge or consent, it becomes even more important to adopt an alternative approach.

This brings us to some Google alternatives that may surprise the reader. DuckDuckGo.com not only provides unbiased news and information, it also maintains personal privacy by not engaging in tracking, data mining, or retention of search history. It is as comprehensive as Google and allows customization of its interface. It enables searches to be free from adult content via a safe setting similar to Google.

Ixquick’s Start Page claims to be the world’s most private search site. The site does not participate in data mining or tracking and additionally offers users the ability to visit sites via proxy, thus rendering searchers the protection of invisibility to the sites that appear in the search results.

Yippy is a search engine that also protects privacy with the added benefit of delivering child-friendly results. Yippy pulls search results from other search engines and groups topics together, organizing the results in clusters. Although the site filters out topics to which children ought not be exposed, including gambling, pornography, and other inappropriate material, adept teenagers may still find a way to obtain unsuitable results.

Conservatives may enjoy the experience of a search engine that gives results of a right-leaning nature. 4conservatives.com will do just that. The search engine delivers content from a conservative perspective and uses reputable sources.

By using more objective search alternatives, we can move toward a world with less fake news and more real news.