Google Demands That We Censor Our Content

I received the following email from our ad service yesterday:

Hope you are doing well!

We noticed that Google has flagged your site for Policy violation and ad serving is restricted on most of the pages with the below strikes:
  5. Here are few Google support articles that should be handy:
    1. Google Publisher restrictions
    2. Policy issues and Ad serving statuses
    3. Program policies

I’ve listed the page URLs in a report and attached it to the email. I request you to review the page content and fix the existing policy issues flagged. If Google identifies the flags consistently and if the content is not fixed, then the ads will be disabled completely to serve on the site.  Also, please ensure that the new content is in compliance with the Google policies.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks & Regards,

Here are screenshots of the spreadsheet:

For a full-size/full-resolution image, Command-click (MacOS) or right-click (Windows) on screenshots and “open image in new tab.”

Here are the full complaints about the last two entries, which are truncated in the screenshot above:

That final entry in the spreadsheet illustrates that Google’s demand is capricious, arbitrary, and demonstrably false.1 The URL is for a cross-post from Tom Engelhardt about Chalmers Johnson, Blowback for the Twenty-First Century, Remembering Chalmers Johnson. Johnson was
a mild critic of US foreign policy, and has nothing whatsoever to do with health or health care policy. That creates the appearance that Google regards “anti-vaxx” as a showstopper, and is for some reason desperately applying it to this site, which is not vaccine hostile. Google has blatantly mislabeled unrelated content to try to make that bogus charge.

Needless to say, the Censorship Industrial Complex is now extending its tentacles into commercial relationships. This appears to be going well beyond the “kill a chicken to scare a monkey” strategy of deplatforming and demonetizing particularly strident voices

I am alerting allies and also contacting my lawyer and will keep you updated.

In the meantime, please circulate this post widely. It would be particularly helpful to bring this up in comments in various sites, and alert any publishers that take tips from readers. This is not a one-off. If Google is doing this to a small site like ours, you can be sure there are plenty of others on its hit list.


1 A stickler can argue that the spreadsheet is not from Google but a document prepared by our ad service to convey information provided by Google. Given that the ad service regularly deals with very detailed ad placement/ revenue information in spreadsheet form, the odds greatly favor it having been conveyed from the Google source records accurately. I am raising objections, not that I expect that to go anywhere.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I checked on the Engelhardt post and no, nothing even remotely health-info-offending.

      Many they don’t even say what their beef is.

      1. Alex V

        Looking at just the Engelhardt post I’m guessing their algos (or perhaps even AI) are doing some type of statistical correlation on certain terms and names which offend their sensibilities and are often associated, rightly or wrongly, with the things they say are violations.


        Ron Paul
        Tucker Carlson
        Black Guns Matter

        Computers still can’t understand context or true meaning. It’s also likely the mail you received was automated If a human was involved, they themselves may not understand the context involved, or not be paid enough to care.

        If a real person at the ad service was involved in sending you the list from Google, they likely have a mandate to protect their relationship with Google instead of protecting their customers first.

        Not excusing any of this behavior by Google, just looking for explanations on why things are the way they are.

        1. playon

          My first thought was it’s an AI flagging this stuff. An alarming example of Google’s power.

        2. Fazal Majid

          Google made huge cuts to their Ad Sales team, replacing them with “AI”. The likelihood that the moderation/integrity teams, who are a pure cost center, escaped those cuts is vanishingly unlikely.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > Could this be related to comments, not the articles themselves?

      URL = “Uniform Resource Locator,” whatever resource is returned by the server when that URL is invoked. The “resource” in this case is the page. There’s no notion of a page having meaningful substructure, like post vs. comments (all modulo whatever Google’s horrid policies are).

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Google’s algos are known for not going very far beyond the opening para of texts. So I doubt it.

        But they do scan for images and links.

  1. CrabMaestroJ

    Well Yves if you’ve made Alphabet’s naughty list, then you’re alright in my book. Cheers.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Aaaw, thanks!

      But remember, if this is happening to us, it is happening to others. And how many are prepared to resist? A lot of sites will just knuckle under. I know of one site that even fired a regular writer out of fear of the Google gods, and I didn’t see anything problematic about his writing.

        1. Camelotkidd

          It’s also our government at work
          Officials from the National Science Foundation tried to conceal the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars on research and development for artificial intelligence tools used to censor political speech and influence the outcome of elections, according to a new congressional report.
          “The purpose of these taxpayer-funded projects is to develop AI-powered censorship and propaganda tools that can be used by governments and Big Tech to shape public opinion by restricting certain viewpoints or promoting others.”

          1. .Tom

            Right. It goes beyond capitalism and it beyond government. It’s about the properly fascistic combination of government power, corporate power and concentrated wealth protecting their respective hegemonic, monopolistic, and proprietary privileges against competing interests, thought, and expression. It’s about Us vs Them in which Them is the global elite and their loyal, well trained minions in the PMC. It’s purpose is to enforce their fascist doctrine dressed up as virtuous Western liberalism.

      1. Victoria

        Gmail is definitely not delivering certain content to its users.

        Items either are labled Spam, or they fail to ever arrive. The identical emails are delivered on other email programs. This is without images or links within them.

        Just try and open Gmail on a brand new phone without first having to download their A.I. and other “features” first, or on an old phone with many privacy features turned on.

        Not a techie, just the observations of myself and several others.

        1. playon

          People need to ditch google drive, google email, and google search! I know it’s a pain to change email addresses but gmail reads your mail and also the mail of the people who reply to your email address. I could recommend proton mail for those who would like to switch. Encrypted and private, located in Switzerland.

          1. .Tom

            Drive and Search are easily avoided but avoiding Gmail is hard because it means not emailing with people on Gmail, which, I estimate, is more than half my correspondents.

            1. Late Introvert

              That’s why I haven’t switched. What’s the point when you are the only one not using gmail, all your base still belongs to them.

      2. Piotr Berman

        As an agnostic, I use phrase “Lords of Google”, “Lords of Apple”, modeled after Lords of Xibalba (who helped humans in inventing ball games, thus we worship ballgames till today).

  2. Fred Langley

    Michael Osterholm’s group (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota got targeted by Google, maybe two years ago in one of these censorship campaigns. I don’t remember the specifics, but the U of Minn lawyers definitely got involved.

      1. bob

        I think the election year is more relevant. They seem to fine tune the censorship tools earlier each time around. They can probably afford a broad brush at this point in the cycle. It’s a threat to others as much as anything else.

        They probably can’t afford to do these battles closer to the election. It would be seen as unseemly. Cut all the high grass now and come back for what’s left later in a more targeted way.

    1. Wukchumni

      When I do a Google or DDG search on my NC posts, I’ve noticed that since a number of anti-Israel ditties i’ve penned, they’ve stopped updating my missives, made em’ go missing.

  3. griffen

    To quote LOTR*…And so it begins. Well crap on a saltine cracker…thanks for the notice and a heads up.

    *Start of the battle scene from Helms Deep

  4. Es s Ce tera

    I hope you’re not depending on the ad revenue, I’m actually surprised you made it this far without a google spank.

    I’ve been google spanked before. It became a 10 year sentence and since my site was my sole source of income at that time, that was it for that idea. I completely rewrote content to meet their expectations but they simply did not care and there was no appeal process. Admittedly, it was a very long time ago.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, we do not depend on it. But any loss of income still hurts given the difficult fundraising environment and how lean we already are.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Sending ten of my personally scarce bucks to help fill whatever hole the Googlemonster’s sh!t behavior makes in your finances. Suggest many other readers might do the same. Solidarnosz!

    2. Steven A

      An acquaintance of mine in the UK has a YouTube* channel that deals with issues in west Africa and his posts include input from citizens of several African countries. He checks the comments sections in his posts daily to search for and scrub any entries that could be remotely construed as racist. But sometimes daily is not often enough, as he has gotten numerous finger-wags from YouTube’s grand inquisitors.

      Courage, Yves!

      *also owned by Alphabet

      1. digi_owl

        Yep. I have seen some Youtube channels that have taken to deleting old videos because they may get flagged by the “algos” as the sensibilities shift. And if one get enough flags, the whole channel may be taken down by Google with no recourse or warning.

        I have likely said it multiple times, but if they wanted to stop Playboy today they would have gone for the banks not the supreme court.

  5. NN Cassandra

    I especially like the DEMONSTRABLY_FALSE_DEMOCRATIC_PROCESS tag attached to this article. Whatever is that even supposed to mean (are they accusing Washington???), I don’t know, but we can be confident that they are able to demonstrate it.

    1. IMOR

      Saying Russian ‘interference’ was a put-up intel job; rational examination of vote-count/vote suppression claims by all sides (e.g. the same-day deletion of voters from rolls of 2020 Bernie votes in Brooklyn and L.A. AS WELL AS the Trump claims); etc.

    2. Daniil Adamov

      Maybe it’s just their name for the operation of the US political system. Apt if true.

  6. Art_DogCT

    If NC were to be cut off from ad revenue, what would be the effect on NC’s annual budget? Those of us in a position to increase our donations might want to consider helping offset any Google-imposed shortfall.

    1. johnherbiehancock

      I would happily up my annual donation, or even contribute to an anti-google spot fundraiser intended to offset any decline in revenue.

  7. flora

    In an election year, too, and right before Super Tuesday (today). This is faintly reminiscent of something WaPo did in 2016. / ;)

  8. KD

    There is a top down effort to control the communication space, especially of anything critical of the US narrative on the foreign policy. Google gets criticism for Wokeness–the reality is Google is totalitarian, with artificial woke sweetener. Further, a measured, reasonable critique is more threatening than someone spewing nasty invective, even though the later is closer to the commonly accepted meaning of “violent extremism”.

    1. Pym of Nantucket

      If you’re just noticing the covariance between woke and totalitarian then welcome aboard.

    2. digi_owl

      Sadly i suspect a Chinese advert system would be no better, only for different reasons.

      I am more and more convinced that the net will at some point Balkanize along national borders and/or political blocks, much like the phone network of old.

      And any traffic that is allowed across will be heavily scrutinized for “subversive” thought.


    Why not direct contract a sponsor instead of going through google’s ad network? I assume most are blocking their ads anyway and would prefer a Water Cooler brought to you by: (some link and short description of a not evil company) over an ad network tracking their activity on chrome to personalize ads.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know you want to help but we don’t have the bandwidth to do that. To illustrate the difficulty, please consider how many small independent sites have sponsors.

      We do try to make the ad experience tolerable by rejecting entire categories of high-paying ads, such as popups and video autoplay, so as to allow readers to focus on the content.


        You have 2-3 million views per month with 5 minute+ average duration and like 80%+ direct traffic. And a readership of intellectual boomers at peak earning years/wealth.

        I think many potential sponsors would be quite happy with that. And there are many examples of people with direct sponsorships to smaller/less valuable audiences. I was watching a Russell Brand stream with 10k viewers and he did an ad spot once every 15 minutes or so.

        I think you’ll have a better ROI and more independence in the end if you choose to hire someone for ad sales > hiring a lawyer to go up against google.

  10. Expat2uruguay

    “In the meantime, please circulate this post widely. It would be particularly helpful to bring this up in comments in various sites, and alert any publishers that take tips from readers. This is not a one-off.”

    Will do!! 💪🏻

  11. John Anthony La Pietra

    October 2018?! Isn’t there a statute of limitations on this stuff?? /s

    But somewhat more seriously, I wonder if one major reason for this harassment isn’t NC’s calling out what is so aptly named here the “Censorship Industrial Complex”.

    (Not that I want NC to back off on that truth-telling among others, much less that you should be subjected to any pressure to do so. But if you wanted to camouflage the criticism, perhaps you could hide it in a bigger school of fish by changing the first word to “Misinformation”? Lots of folks comment on the MIC. . . .)

    1. digi_owl

      With statues of long dead people far outside USA being toppled over alleged economic gains from slavery, nope.

      Thoughtcrime lasts eternal, even if it was fully legal at the time.

  12. The Rev Kev

    It is insidious this form of censorship. Instead of directly censoring websites, they threaten to demonetize sites that do not come up to their standards so in the end it is the websites that have to censor themselves. I see this on YouTube where the host will have to force themselves to stop and say that they cannot say anymore lest they be demonetized. Self censorship in a nutshell.

    1. digi_owl

      Yep, this may well be the ultimate effect of DEI worming its way into finance.

      Why attempt to get it banned by law, when it can be defunded instead.

      1. Shleep

        Republicans have been doing this for quite some time now. Much easier to defund programs / enforcement of laws they don’t like than repealing their enabling acts.

        As a bonus, that’s touted as saving money.

  13. Tony Wright

    Yesterday I had the benefit of watching a presentation by Yanis Varoufakis at the (free) Adelaide Writers Festival in which he eloquently made the case that we are all “Cloud Serfs”- providing free input to online businesses/corporations (the modern overlords) via our choices as to what we click on, and the subsequent algorithmic analyses then used to direct to us targetted products/marketting/“echo chamber” information/opinion etc.(Varoufakis explained it better than that, of course…)
    Maybe Google is targetting NC for not adequately feeding their algorithms – “be more compliant you serfs…”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder.

      Upon reskimming, it is striking how many of the writers just abandoned ship when Substack did nothing wrong.


    2. Piotr Berman

      Sadly, I am not aware of improvements in actual railroading in USA if that means transporting goods (and, occasionally, humans) on railroads. I mention it because of a very illuminating series of articles posted here.

  14. .Tom

    The Censorship Industrial Complex also comes out of those commercial relationships. Advertisers are concerned about where their brands and messages appear. They want Google (etc.) to take care of the safe-spacing. Google 1) automates this as much as possible, and 2) wants to be seen a neutral actor in making the safe-space boundary calls, so they outsource it to blamable experts. That’s where the CIC quangos step in to help, and they inject their carefully-built and fashionable politically-correct policies.

    This overall system of publishers (NC), advertisers (Pfizer), ad agencies (Google), and policy consultants (the CIC) looks frighteningly robust. Most parties in this business want, I would think, more predictability in the policies for the automated censorship, i.e. they want industry standards that are broadly accepted, similar across the automated ad platforms.

    (From this point of view, we can see Musk’s experiment with X as a trial-and-error search for its own acceptable content standard. Can there exist one that is significantly more liberal that still attracts publishers (authors of tweets) and advertisers? Right from the outset this looked pretty unlikely. In a commercial face off between ad dollars and democratic values, who would you bet on?)

    Does anyone else remember reading Astra Taylor’s 2014 book The People’s Platform? As I recall it identified the ad business model of the internet as central to all its anti-democratic pathologies.

    Anyway, Yves, this sucks. Infuriating. I’m going to put a tip in the jar now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      While I get the point, overwhelmingly the objections are either not even specified or laughably off base.

      And Google is threatening us over 16 supposedly rancid posts (even if you accept their charges) out of over 30,000.

      1. .Tom

        I wanted to comment on that separately.

        I think the arbitrary nature of the complaints may have a number of factors. One is that Google’s algorithms for categorization are, like its search, kinda crap. And processing of them is only partly automated. When a case gets to the human operator level it can get even worse. We’ve had experience with re-qualifying our use of big platform APIs. Our human (I believe) interlocutors were not paying attention, not reading or understanding our submissions, and in the end the conversation and decisions were incoherent. They are surely expected to dispose cases in their work queue as fast as possible. I guess these operators aren’t more competent because, for the operator’s business purposes, they don’t need to be, kinda like Google Search is only just about good enough for ad placement, which is all Google needs from it.

        Second, all the big platforms put a snitch button on their stuff. When someone clicks a snitch button, that’s an input to the above semi-automatic process. I guess enough snitches triggers another process that can result in an email like the one you got. When I experimented with snitch buttons, I was given a menu of standard complains to choose from. When someone wants to have a go at NC, all they may need to do is organize a bunch of snitch button/form activations. And because the process (my first paragraph) is kinda crap and doesn’t need to be better, Google ends up sending you a threat with a report summarizing the snitch activity. This, I hazard to guess, is the source of the nonsense you’ve been sent, roughly sketched.

        Back to Google’s semi-automatic censorship process itself. They have to have one to be in the automated ad business. I don’t think Google has much motivation to make it work fairly or even coherently. It produces idiotic outputs as the email and and your post make clear. But Google has little incentive to invest in making it less idiotic.

        In any case, it’s certainly open to manipulation from people who want to have a go at you. I remember when the Rogan pile-on was happening, Spotify took down an arbitrary selection of his episodes. The specifics of the complains just reflect the snitch button inputs, which, while not actually random, do not need to make sense to be effective.

        1. David in Friday Harbor

          I strongly suspect that malicious actors can easily manipulate the snitch button in ways that aren’t monitored by humans. They can count on Alphabet/Google’s horrible design and process and the flailing U.S. totalitarian elite’s desperate infatuation with censorship to do the rest of the work for them.

          The random nature of the posts being flagged is certainly a “tell” that malicious actor(s) are “having a go” at creating a “pattern” of flags intended to harm the site.

          The Internet is very broken, as Meta’s platforms going AWOL again today demonstrates. So sorry that you’re having to waste valuable time and energy on this.

          1. digi_owl

            Yep, this is very much a weaponzied variant of the slacktivist generational behavior. Some variant of it is seen all over social media in order to control discourse. And likely they get away with it, much like the media companies get away with abusing DMCA, because delivering proper punishment exhausts processing capacity.

        2. ChrisPacific

          It seems unlikely that this is due to reports from human actors. If it was, they would likely not have chosen ones from so far in the past (some of them go back as far as 2018) and would have focused more on recent and/or topical posts. As it stands, NC could choose to remove every single one of those and most readers would never even notice.

          It feels more like AI powered overreach. As Yves noted, there is no content remotely resembling the flags in the final article, so it’s likely to be guilt by association of some kind (e.g., X has nothing to do with vaccination, but X and anti-vax views are often found together, so the AI lumps them into the same bucket).

          It’s also an example of ‘soft’ censorship. As far as I can tell, none of them have been removed from Google’s search index (although you have to narrow terms significantly to find them, so page rank is another matter). Google can claim they’re not censoring anything. But threatening small sites and businesses with a loss of ad revenue unless they censor themselves can be just as big a stick.

          Needless to say, this kind of heavy-handed overreach will be red meat for actual conspiracy theorists, and as Yves says, if it’s hitting NC then it’s a solid bet that it’s happening widely.

        3. digi_owl

          Sounds like the whole thing was outsourced to an operation not that different from a call center, with the human being paid based on the number of cases closed pr hour.

          Also, this reads not that much different from the kind of stuff i have read involving comments and posts being reported on Reddit. When simply downvoting do not do the trick, they will instead go for the report button and pick some arbitrary reason. Enough reports and it will go hidden until some human in the loop takes a look at it, if ever.

      2. Societal Illusions

        Given the recent drama over Gemini – Google’s AI offering – it doesn’t surprise me that there is a gross disconnect between any accusation and the facts:

        I can’t imagine they haven’t been integrating their LLM into their algorithms to detect offending content but it’s possible I’m wrong, I haven’t seen anything specific to their processes lately.

        From John Thornhill in the FT of 3 February: (as found in Memex 1.1 , John Naughton’s online diary:

        The tendency of generative artificial intelligence systems to “hallucinate” — or simply make stuff up — can be zany and sometimes scary, as one New Zealand supermarket chain found to its cost. After Pak’nSave released a chatbot last year offering recipe suggestions to thrifty shoppers using leftover ingredients, its Savey Meal-bot recommended one customer make an “aromatic water mix” that would have produced chlorine gas.
        Lawyers have also learnt to be wary of the output of generative AI models, given their ability to invent wholly fictitious cases. A recent Stanford University study of the responses generated by three state of the art generative AI models to 200,000 legal queries found hallucinations were “pervasive and disturbing”. When asked specific, verifiable questions about random federal court cases, OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3.5 hallucinated 69 per cent of the time while Meta’s Llama 2 model hit 88 per cent.

        1. jsn

          Ten years ago when I had a Google badge on a lanyard they (Googlers) were talking about the “bozo explosion” that had crippled Microsoft when it scaled too quickly and thought they were avoiding it.

          Now, with the Blob having fully metabolized all the “private enterprises” it launched via DARPA into the information economy in the naughties, we can see what the “bozo explosion” looks like in the consolidating and distended National Security State, bulging beneath the fig leaf of “Our Democracy”.

          It’s terrifying, it’s incompetent, it’s terrifyingly incompetent, and yet it remains in charge…

        2. ChrisPacific

          To be fair to the supermarket bot, the customer was not acting in good faith – one of the ‘leftover ingredients’ they gave was bleach, so the only way to win was not to play, so to speak. The fact that this option wasn’t part of the solution space was a genuine issue, though.

    2. Mikel

      The “CIC” is also a bunch of monopolies looking out for other monopolies. What big conglomerate has been taken out of action by censorship?

      It reminds me in some ways of payola in the music biz. People didn’t understand that once the big mergers/buy outs started happening in the music biz that payola was as much about keeping recordings from non-major labels from being played as much as getting promotion or advertising for a recording.

  15. El Slobbo

    ¡ǝlƃooƃ ‘ʇɐɥʇ ʇǝɹdɹǝʇuı ˙uo ʍou ɯoɹɟ spɹɐʍʞɔɐq puɐ uʍop ǝpısdn ƃuıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ ǝʇıɹʍ oʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʇsnɾ ll,ǝʍ

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Don’t know how you did that, but it was just awesome, not just for talent but for humor.

    2. Mike x

      Didn’t Leonardo daVinci do that in his journals? Damn, that guy really was centuries ahead of his time! Or, we haven’t made very much progress from the Dark Ages in 500 years, kind of depressing…

      1. Posaunist

        Da Vinci did something even more impressive – mirror writing. The average person could read his journals only by using a mirror, although I’m sure Leonardo could read them directly.

  16. Patrick Donnelly

    Those in charge want total control.

    Intimidation can amount to extortion if there is a gain for the offending party. Advertising being the source.

    As AI and human designed algos are merely tools of policy, your lawyers should ask:
    who set that policy,
    what is that those policies and
    how was advertising revenue to Google and the victim affected by these demands?

  17. DJG, Reality Czar

    Well, I for one plan to up my Hateful Content. (I’m wondering if the Goog is reacting to the Water Coolers in which Lambert Strether used the expression “Kill it with fire.”) Have I mentioned how much I hate parsnips?

    Something that has been clanking in my head for several days is the use of the word “redact,” “redacted.” It seems to me that use of the word, which is a highfalutin form of “censor,” “censored,” indicates how much censorship and self-censorship have crept into U.S. society. The “redacted” words in a documents are words you should know–not words that some banality-of-evil bureaucrat should keep from you. Yet the norm is now contraction of discourse in public and private.

    Likewise, these categories of the Goog. What can Demonstrably False Democratic Process even mean? Recent events have meant that the writers at this site have been quoting the U.S. Constitution. Is that the Democratic Process? Is interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment not to be splatter federalism Demonstrably False?
    (Max Blumenthal must spend half his day dealing with the Goog… And, yes, one wonders about smaller sites like Sabrina Salvati and her Sabby Sabs.)

    This is a skirmish when I hope that you have a growly but sharp-witted lawyer. Dealing with the Goog is going to involve how many angels can dance on a EULA, algorithm says / you say, plus the opacity of mindless bureaucrats hiding behind a web site.

    Ahhh, the Goog, it makes me yearn for the days of its eponym, the remarkable Agnes Gooch.

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      And her question, now more and more for each of us: “What do I do now?”

    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      If day start reeding commends fur heightful contents, righting id un Anguish Languish mite fuel the witchers.

  18. ChrisFromGA

    Sorry to hear this. I am a mere 1L and not licensed to practice law, but offer my research skills if needed.

    The most promising cases to stop big tech censorship are Kennedy v. Biden and Missouri v. Biden,

    In both cases, the plaintiffs were able to get an injunction against the government to prevent the CDC, HHS, and other agencies from communicating with Google, Twitter, and other tech co. to censor private speech.

    The issue in Kennedy v. Biden is: can a state actor be held responsible for a private decision made by a tech company when that tech company has been induced, encouraged, or promoted to violate a constitutional right?

    The court reasoned:

    The State (i.e., the Government) can be held responsible for a private decision only when
    it has exercised coercive power or has provided such “significant encouragement,” either overtly
    or covertly, that the choice must be deemed to be that of the State.


    A state may not induce, encourage, or promote
    private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish

    RFK Jr. was able to show harm, in that his posts on social media were censored, and he was deplatformed. The Children’s Health Defense network also was a plaintiff. They experienced similar censorship at the hands of the defendants.

    The bad news is that both cases got consolidated and are headed to the SCOTUS, so the preliminary injunctions were stayed. It will be fascinating to see what happens in the SCOTUS with such a substantial case on free speech and interference by government actors.

    Your hypothetical case is distinguished by the fact that rather than being directly censored on social media, you’re being attacked in the pocketbook through Google ads de-monetization. A similar thing happened to Karl Denninger’s ticker forum, which I occasionally read. He had to split his blog into two sections, one that acquiesced to Google’s demands, and a non-ad-supported section with a free-speech safe space.

    As an aside, and not legal analysis, I find the Republicans utterly useless here. They know damn well this crap is going on and won’t lift a finger to legislate or put policy riders in the appropriations bills. They have a golden opportunity – right now all Federal agencies including the FBI are on a CR. Stick a rider in there to ban this crap. Make Google pay a fine of $10M for every complaint from a private citizen that their free speech was censored, as a matter of public policy. Watch this crap stop.

    Where are Margorie Taylor-Greene and Rand Paul? MIA.

    1. ChrisFromGA

      I realized I left out the most important finding from the Kennedy case:

      However, both this Court and the Fifth Circuit Case
      found the social-media platforms’ censorship decisions were likely censored, at least in part, due
      to the coercion and/or significant encouragement of the White House Defendants, the Surgeon
      General Defendants, the CDC Defendants, the FBI Defendants, and the CISA Defendants.
      Additionally, social-media postings by both Kennedy and the CHD were directly censored.
      Therefore, the Kennedy Plaintiffs have established traceability

      If upheld by the SCOTUS, the defendants will be permanently enjoined from communication with Google and other big tech companies that induce a violation of the 1st amendment, or taking any actions to restrain or censor content posted by users of their platforms.

  19. Arizona Slim

    Whenever I see words like “hateful content,” my snarky little self thinks things like this:

    I hate it when that happens!

    Or how about this:

    Hate to see you go, Google, but there are other search engines out there. And just as you overtook Yahoo, you also will be overtaken. That’s how innovation works.

  20. Paul

    Seems the recent brouhaha over widespread investor & industry disillusionment in the googleplex C-Suite & management teams, especially AI & search, is apparently eliciting reflex to dial up censorship and attendant bullying by the moribund conglomerate. Timely insight.

    Thanks Yves.

    1. KD

      It is interesting that this came down the week after NC posted an article making fun of Gemini. Google is overdue for a change in senior management (as evidenced by the Gemini debacle), but if it does change, its not clear that the new management will not be responding to polite requests from on high.

  21. Tom Pfotzer

    Time to:

    1. Redouble our efforts to remove Goodle from our lives
    2. Pay money to the people that provide invaluable services, such as NC. What these people do appears to be free, but it sure isn’t.

    Ask yourself, yet again, “where is the best place to allocate my purchasing power?”

    The problem with the internet is that it’s paid-for via advertising, and search-engines have been monopolized by a relative few. That confers enormous powers on these few, and it’s not transparent, not announced, but ubiquitous and very influential.

    There is a need for a commons-based search engine. The software is one part, and the paying for the hosting of all that compute power is the second challenge. Would you subscribe to such a service? I think that’s what it’ll take to make a go of it.

    Add that to our list of Big Problems that need solving.

    We have the numbers. We’re not _yet_ playing as a team well enough to defeat the bullies.

    More $ on the way, NC.

  22. C Rogersen Hart

    This was linked to a short while ago on the tech news aggregator ‘Hacker News’. Now I see it has been flagged and de-listed:

    I was sad to see they flagged it, since it will cut down on comments, but the commentary on HN is well worth reading in any case. My favorite commentariat behind NC.

    1. digi_owl

      At least if you want comments aligned with the silly valley zeitgeist.

      Go against the grain and you will get stomped on by Dang, admin and hegemon of the place, for being too “inflammatory”.

      Seriously, i have seen things there being highly upvoted during European time and then get downvoted and flagged into oblivion come west coast afternoon.

      Yet if you happen to have some industry time back in the 80s-90s, you can ramble on about your pet obsolete hobbyhorse for ages without fear.

  23. Skip Intro

    Thought this interesting look inside the beast would be apropos:

    Google’s Culture of Fear

    The piece reveals problems that led to the Gemini debacle, and the HR-totalitarianism that has take over as a result of ubiquitous silos.

  24. LawnDart

    This seems like an example of throwing shit and hoping some sticks, intimidation, and of “guilt” being established by mass of accusations alone.

    It’s a time and energy suck, being put on the defensive, being forced to defend against this effort to hamper your ability to produce and publish content.

    If you guys just switched to edgy porn, goo-gull would leave you alone.

  25. Mike from Jersey

    I am so sorry to hear this. I am sorry, but not surprised. Your site is a valuable source of information and commentary. So I am sorry to hear that this is happening to you. But I am not surprised that it is happening to you. These are the times in which we live.

    I gave up on Google a long time ago. After all, what good is a search engine if it just provides propaganda? What good is a product if it comes with censorship?

    So I just gave up on Google.

    I know that may not be so easy for you since Google is a source of your income. But if it is any consolation you can know that – in the long term – censors always destroy themselves. Free speech is a necessary error corrector. Without freedom of speech errors proliferate and eventually the system brings itself down.

    That will happen here also. We have to cope as best as we can while waiting for the inevitable.

    These are the times in which we live.

  26. IMOR

    Fantastic grammar in their offshore- or AI-generated communication.
    Hope that doesn’t add to the problem as nationalistic or hateful.

  27. Eclair

    Wow, Yves! Talk about suppressing discussion. Back to the ’50’s: are you now, or have you ever …?

    But this is making me think. What would we all do if we were to wake up tomorrow morning and find out that NC had been disappeared? Along with a few others of one’s favorite on-line news, discussion and YouTube regulars?

    What’s the Plan B?

    1. Skip Intro

      Plan B: Email newsletter, then eventually printed snail mail, until the archaic protections for letters are eliminated.

    2. caucus99percenter


      The West has become the Soviet system it claimed to oppose — an ideologically hidebound, totalitarian MIC “Blob” slavishly followed by a bloc of supine European “satellites” (vassals).

      Instead of a central committee, we have billionaire donors, and the nomenklatura is what we’ve been calling the PMC.

      1. JonnyJames

        Don’t forget the historically ironic Genocide of Palestine. It looks like George Carlin was right: “The Germans lost WWII, but the Nazis won”

  28. Carolinian

    “If your business model is a platform” and Google’s business model is the internet itself which is very much subject to actions by the USG and the Congress. Needless to say there are many these days in Congress–Republicans and most especially Democrats–who think Google and the other bigs should be doing even more censoring. Europe is even worse and the EU is threatening speech on the internet in the name of “hate speech” with the latter concern indeed driven by lobbies for a certain country in the Middle East. But one doesn’t have to go all CT to observe that power in general doesn’t like criticism.

    So it’s ultimately our politicians who are at the bottom of this and the decline of free speech culture in favor of grievances and “safe spaces.” If Google has shifted from libertarian to authoritarian it could because of their own threat from DC.

    Hard to know a solution other than to say thanks to NC for all the years of bravery. It’s why we are here. Hope it works out.

  29. johnherbiehancock

    I’ve been planning to ditch gmail for some time now (have had the account since ’05 or so), but have been loathe to go through with all the account changes required.

    I think this is the tipping point for me.

    Side note: wonder why google is coming for NC now? Election year censorship ramping up? Something else? 8 whole years after that PropOrNot BS…

  30. Feral Finster

    As Matt Taibbi pointed out recently, the idea behind EU “anti extremism on social media” laws is to backdoor the First Amendment, since Big Tech will either have to have two separate systems, one for the EU and the other for the RoW, and they won’t want to run the risk that some forbidden content leaks through to an EU viewer who is then led astray.

    “Don’t Throw Me In The Briar Patch!” cries Big Tech.

  31. Roger Blakely

    I went right to this post. I have not even gotten to yesterday’s Water Cooler or today’s Links. Of course I’m disgusted with Google.

    It is interesting that YouTube (Google) is coming for content creators in 2024. Some have suggested, rightly in my opinion, that the censorship is cyclical. The crackdown is on anything that might conceivably help Trump win. It is also interesting that YouTube is not deleting these channels. YouTube is demonetizing them. The suggestion is that all will be back to normal come November 6, 2024.

    1. flora

      60% of the world will have elections this year. I think George Galloway’s win in the UK last week sent a shockwave ’round the neoliberal pols. Then the Supreme’s yesterday decided T must remain on all 50 states’ ballots. (You can find the reasoning and the decisions text online.) Galloway’s win followed by Rishi Sunak’s reponse set the stage for what’s coming in the “silence the counter-narratives at all costs.” One wonders what Goog’s managers are doing in other countries. / my 2 cents.

  32. Palm & Needle

    This prompted me to visit the tip jar.

    Yves, I have also heard of PayPal blocking/confiscating other websites’ donations when they “misbehave”. May be a good idea to withdraw your balance often, if you don’t do so already.

    1. JonnyJames

      True, Consortium News had their PayPal account frozen, I’m not sure if they got their money back.

    1. JonnyJames

      “Obi Wan, you’re our only hope.” Yeah, I’ve heard that BS many times before. I thought DT was our lord and savior, lol. Voting is just a PR stunt to placate the plebs. Knock yourself out then.

      1. Doug S.

        Doesn’t RFK, Jr.’s 40 year commitment to fighting for (almost all) the societal values of N.C. followers demand serious consideration? When was the last time we had a chance to support an electable Candidate who has actually dedicated 40 years (successfully) doing what he says he will do better with greater power?

        1. JonnyJames

          Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that supporting the Genocide of Palestine and the unconditional support and funding for The Lobby and Israel reflect the values expressed here.

          1. doug S.

            I’ll give you that one, but the simple truth is, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to elect a President with a reasoned policy on Israel/Parestine. “The Lobby” is TOO powerful. So, we’re forced to decide the Presidency on other issues. For once, I’m excited to vote for someone who has fought for decades for the principles he’s running on. He;s NOT just saying the same old crap (like O’bama). Want to free Assange? Want to use the Oval Office to challenge Corporate AND Gov’t. abuses? Want to stop the privatization of everything? Want to end censorship? Want a free press? Want to reverse the weaponization of the dollar? Want to reign in Wall St., ask the FED what it’s purpose is? Pick any critical issue we face, RFK, Jr, might be our last chance. The tragedy is how few prominent people (leaders?) we’re seeing stand up & speak for our children & grand-children!

        2. Basil Pesto

          Doesn’t RFK, Jr.’s 40 year commitment to fighting for (almost all) the societal values of N.C. followers demand serious consideration?


  33. Fs

    Plenty of other ad platforms just disable the google scam and take your money elsewhere, it’s the only way to voice your opinion in a capitalist system.

  34. Ghost in the Machine

    I just sent you some money. This kind of thing is appalling and frightening. Great site and I get the added pleasure of voting with my money against google. What a malignant company.

    Also, well wishes on your recovery from Covid. Your hospitalization is concerning and I know you are well aware of the risks you face.

  35. truly

    I fell asleep last night while watching Jimmy Dore’s program “Is China More Free Than The West”. And woke up to this article. Oh my. What times we live in.
    I am surprised to hear from friends and clients the comment “what censorship?”. Sad to say I think a lot of people are in such a bubble, ingesting “approved” narratives from approved sources, and they are completely unaware of how many voices are being stifled, suppressed, and/or outright hidden.

  36. Adam Eran

    First, my sympathies, Yves. It’s still easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.

    For a similar censorship experience, I recommend taking a look at the Wikipedia Government Spending article.

    This is actually handy and factual when it quotes actual figures, despite Heritage and WSJ sourcing, but the initial paragraphs are full of orthodox economic baloney–taxes provision government spending, government crowds out when it spends or borrows, etc.

    I’ve attempted to at least add some MMT reality to this crock, but have been thwarted by the authorized Wikipedia editors. (If you are a login for 30 days and make 500 edits, you too can be an editor).

    Anyway, I’ve been banned from editing, but they do preserve my edits on a tab labeled “talk”…so take a look.

    The myth is that Wikipedia is an open forum. Actually, the committee of orthodox economists is certainly in charge of this page.

  37. Dandyandy

    Does anyone know who actually OWNS the fibre optic cables that enable physical transmittal of information. Those under the sea, then those that trunk into towns and then finally the local installations into our homes.

    Who OWNS the process of exchange of that information? Is the ownership of this process vested in our governments or into the persons that made biggest contributions to the choice charities of our “elected leaders”.

    How can a ordinary person in the street inject his information into the information ocean, without having to be vetted by his government or the self-styled gate keepers? Information is democracy after all. How can we establish democracy of data?

    1. Dandyandy

      Sorry everyone, I am flying off tangent here, but here is what is passing for “news” in my parts. Serious news to that, so serious that we face prosecution if we do not pay our annual TV license fee. OAP or not, kid you not.

      Many many years ago, a character called Grunf, in a cartoon book series called Alan Ford, delivered the greatest philosophical thought ever. Grunf said, “if you want to be alive, you mustn’t be dead”. I mean he beat even Mike Tyson 50 years later.

      It is this level of discourse that is being forced upon all of us as a reality, and if one dares to question this type of reality, well, soon enough, there is a reprogramming facility coming to the town near you.

  38. Mateus Paour

    So shocking and authoritarian that I am compelled to write a comment for the first time. I could not help but laugh as I read through the article, contemplating how much we have sunk into absolute, invisible tirany.
    All the best to NC as they deal with this. I will share with this article with family and friends.

  39. Glen

    Not to sound too much like an idiot, but you have ads?

    Wow, that ad blocker is better than I though.

    (Well, in hindsight, I guess I do see ads if I use the spy tool smartphone.)

  40. ereed

    Google Linkedin Facebook and all the comments sites have the same problem. They are run by unaccountable corporations, where links to prominent political parties and a pre agreed norm runs the dialogue. Anything supporting the government and business is acceptable, anything arguing against is considered dangerous or subversive.
    Whilst there was some initial freedom of speech on the internet, this is now curtailed by sites like Facebook and Linkedin that censor anti government discussion (that linkedin is covered in pro government pro war misogyny instead of business shows how corrupt it is).
    In the 19th century, the freedom of debate was ensured by local presses that printed political pamphlets (often with the press moving to avoid confiscation), now we are limited to using an IT system controlled by the state and those that pay for the state.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We do host our own content and have never used Facebook or LinkedIn to promote this site. But the search part of Google has over the years stomped on small independent sites by favoring “authoritative” meaning mainstream sites, even on very narrow searches where smaller sites dominate the coverage. Google had been an important way for independent publishers to get more readers. No longer.

Comments are closed.