censorship, empire watch, featured
Comments 23

Sky Blocks OffGuardian as a Malware Site


August 4, 2017

Dear OffGuardian readers:

A reader in the UK has just advised us that SKY has been blocking the OffGuardian as a malware site,  using its Sky Broadband Shield to deny the public access to us.

People using Wifi through their Sky package may not find this out and will probably not know how to terminate this intrusion.   The Sky number to call to have them remove their shield is 03442414141.

As the reader who passed this information to us points out:

The assault on truth and sites promoting it has begun and is far reaching and OffGuardian, like WSWS and other left-wing alternate media sites, is obviously being targeted. Hope OffG makes it known as did WSWS.”

Here’s the text of Andre Damon’s “Google’s chief search engineer legitimizes new censorship algorithm,” published by the WSWS on July 31, 2017:

Between April and June, Google completed a major revision of its search engine that sharply curtails public access to Internet web sites that operate independently of the corporate and state-controlled media. Since the implementation of the changes, many left wing, anti-war and progressive web sites have experienced a sharp fall in traffic generated by Google searches. The World Socialist Web Sitehas seen, within just one month, a 70 percent drop in traffic from Google.

In a blog post published on April 25, Ben Gomes, Google’s chief search engineer, rolled out the new censorship program in a statement bearing the Orwellian title, “Our latest quality improvements for search.” This statement has been virtually buried by the corporate media. Neither the New York Times nor the Wall Street Journal has reported the statement. The Washington Post limited its coverage of the statement to a single blog post.

Framed as a mere change to technical procedures, Gomes’s statement legitimizes Internet censorship as a necessary response to “the phenomenon of ‘fake news,’ where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.”

The “phenomenon of ‘fake news’” is, itself, the principal “fake news” story of 2017. In its origins and propagation, it has all the well-known characteristics of what used to be called CIA “misinformation” campaigns, aimed at discrediting left-wing opponents of state and corporate interests.

Significantly, Gomes does not provide any clear definition, let alone concrete examples, of any of these loaded terms (“fake news,” “blatantly misleading,” “low quality, “offensive,” and “down right false information.”)

The focus of Google’s new censorship algorithm is political news and opinion sites that challenge official government and corporate narratives. Gomes writes: “[I]t’s become very apparent that a small set of queries in our daily traffic (around 0.25 percent), have been returning offensive or clearly misleading content, which is not what people are looking for.”

Gomes revealed that Google has recruited some 10,000 “evaluators” to judge the “quality” of various web domains. The company has “evaluators—real people who assess the quality of Google’s search results—give us feedback on our experiments.” The chief search engineer does not identify these “evaluators” nor explain the criteria that are used in their selection. However, using the latest developments in programming, Google can teach its search engines to “think” like the evaluators, i.e., translate their political preferences, prejudices, and dislikes into state and corporate sanctioned results.

Gomes asserts that these “evaluators” are to abide by the company’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which “provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag, which can include misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories.”

Once again, Gomes employs inflammatory rhetoric without explaining the objective basis upon which negative evaluations of web sites are based.

Using the input of these “evaluators,” Gomes declares that Google has “improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content.” He again asserts, further down, “We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content.”

What this means, concretely, is that Google decides not only what political views it wants censored, but also what sites are to be favored.

Gomes is clearly in love with the term “authoritative,” and a study of the word’s meaning explains the nature of his verbal infatuation. A definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary for the word “authoritative” is: “Proceeding from an official source and requiring compliance or obedience.”

The April 25 statement indicates that the censorship protocols will become increasingly restrictive. Gomes states that Google is “making good progress” in making its search results more restrictive. “But in order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes in Search are needed.”

One can assume that Mr. Gomes is a competent programmer and software engineer. But one has good reason to doubt that he has any particular knowledge of, let alone concern for, freedom of speech.

Gomes’s statement is Google-speak for saying that the company does not want people to access anything besides the official narrative, worked out by the government, intelligence agencies, the main capitalist political parties, and transmitted to the population by the corporate-controlled media.

In the course of becoming a massive multi-billion dollar corporate juggernaut, Google has developed politically insidious and dangerous ties to powerful and repressive state agencies. It maintains this relationship not only with the American state, but also with governments overseas. Just a few weeks before implementing its new algorithm, in early April, Gomes met with high-ranking German officials in Berlin to discuss the new censorship protocols.

Google the search engine is now a major force for the imposition of state censorship.

And here’s the second WSWS article on the topic, listing some of the sites Google has been restricting access to, “Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites:”

New data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts, proves that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45 percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.

The drop followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”

The World Socialist Web Site has obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results are as follows:

  • wsws.org fell by 67 percent
  • alternet.org fell by 63 percent
  • globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
  • consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
  • socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
  • mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
  • commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
  • internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
  • democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
  • wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
  • truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
  • counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
  • theintercept.com fell by 19 percent

Of the 13 web sites on the list, the World Socialist Web Site has been the most heavily affected. Its traffic from Google searches has fallen by two thirds.

The new statistics demonstrate that the WSWS is a central target of Google’s censorship campaign. In the twelve months preceding the implementation of the new Google protocols, the WSWS had experienced a substantial increase in readership. A significant component of this increase was the product of Google search results. The rapid rise in search traffic reflected the well-documented growth in popular interest in socialist politics during 2016. The rate of growth accelerated following the November election, which led to large protests against the election of Trump.

Search traffic to the WSWS peaked in April 2017, precisely at the point when Google began the implementation of its censorship protocols.

Another site affected by Google’s action has provided information that confirms the findings of the WSWS.

In late May, changes to Google’s algorithm negatively impacted the volume of traffic to the Common Dreams website from organic Google searches,” said Aaron Kaufman, director of development at progressive news outlet Common Dreams. “Since May, traffic from Google Search as a percentage of total traffic to the Common Dreams website has decreased nearly 50 percent.”

The extent and impact of Google’s actions prove that a combination of techniques is being employed to block access to targeted sites. These involve the direct flagging and blackballing of the WSWS and the other 12 sites listed above by Google evaluators. These sites are assigned a highly negative rating that assures that their articles will be either demoted or entirely bypassed. In addition, new programming technology teaches the computers to think like the evaluators, that is, to emulate their preferences and prejudices.

Finally, the precision of this operation strongly suggests that there is an additional range of exclusion techniques involving the selection of terms, words, phrases and topics that are associated with socialist and left-wing websites.

This would explain why the World Socialist Web Site, which focuses on issues such as war, geopolitics, social inequality and working class struggles has experienced such a dramatic fall in Google-generated searches on these very topics. We have seen that the very terms and phrases that would under normal circumstances be most likely to generate the highest level of hits—such as “socialism,” “Marxism” and “Trotskyism”—produce the lowest results.

This is an ongoing process in which one can expect that Google evaluators are continuously adding suspect terms to make their algorithm ever more precise, with the eventual goal of eliminating traffic to the WSWS and other targeted sites.

The information that has been gathered and published by the WSWS during the past week exposes that Google is at the center of a corporate-state conspiracy to drastically curtail democratic rights. The attack on free speech and uncensored access to information is aimed at crippling popular opposition to social inequality, war and authoritarianism.

The central and sinister role of Google in this process demonstrates that freedom of speech and thought is incompatible with corporate control of the Internet.

As we continue our exposure of Google’s assault on democratic rights, we demand that it immediately and unequivocally halt and revoke its censorship program.

It is critical that a coordinated campaign be organized within the United States and internationally against Google’s censorship of the Internet. We intend to do everything in our power to develop and contribute to a counter-offensive against its efforts to suppress freedom of speech and thought.

Finally, and on the topic of Google censorship alone, here is a link to Robert Epstein’s article in US News, published in June 2016.  “Google, Inc., isn’t just the world’s biggest purveyor of information; it is also the world’s biggest censor.”

Please let us know if you stumble across any other telecommunications companies that use the silent and concealed form of censorship such as practiced by UK’s Sky.


23 Comments

    • Please stay on topic. If you post material unrelated to the specific article, be advised that it may be removed in the future.

      Like

  1. As the American Empire continues to implode expect more censorship and psychological manipulation designed to control our access to information that hasn’t been vetted by the likes of imperial gatekeepers like Google and Facebook and fake alternative media sites like VOX and Vice News.

    The insanity is only just beginning.

    Like

  2. Anna Zimmerman says

    As the article states, we need a well-coordinated international campaign to publicise the censorship and shame the perpetrators. If there anything in existence at the moment? Better to affiliate with an existing campaign than to have a lot of splinter groups.

    Like

    • I’m not aware of any such campaign/project. We’d certainly welcome information on it, should any of our readers come across one.

      Like

      • There’s lots of chit chat about that possibility in readers’ comments attached to a WSWS article on Google censorship, but, indeed, no one, it seems, has put together such a group.

        Like

    • JGarbo says

      These thugs cannot be shamed, only hurt. You’re dealing with an amoral organism, an insect. It must be contained or squashed. Dialog is useless.

      Like

  3. Many thanks Vaska for alerting people. Most SKY users will not be aware that their Broadband Shield is being used in this way, but we can change that.
    🙂 Susan O’Neill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Worldtruth and commented:

    Unless you ask the right questions on your laptop, SKY will not give you the truth of what they have agreed to be part of – sanctioning certain sites whose only “unsuitable content” is the truth.
    For IT knowledgeable SKY viewers it may be possible to remove the broadband “Shield” by going through the interactive facility on your SKY box using “My Sky Account”. I couldn’t find any way to remove it through “services” or “interactive” or settings. Even requesting information regarding the SKY BROADBAND SHIELD offered no opportunity of adjusting it in “My Account”. The only option available was by ‘phone to the customer services call centre requesting the removal of the SKY Broadband Shield. It was done immediately and I was able to access OffGuardian immediately.
    The SKY Broadband Shield is a tool primarily for guarding youngsters against “unsuitable material”, but quite how a site dedicated to offering information based on facts and truth could ever be unsuitable for youngsters, while other sites promoting MSM propaganda are unaffected, is in the real world, egregious Big Brother tactics of silencing critical thinking and information.
    Please make sure you alert all SKY users of this deliberate abuse of their clients trust.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roy buckingham says

      I am in the UK, have sky broadband shield, and off guardian has not been blocked. I did log into broadband shield.sky.com with my account details, and could scroll down to switch off the shield.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. summitflyer says

    The control of what we hear and read has started and under the radar at that.Thank you OG for making us aware of the Orwellian actions of the deep state , to keep us from learning the truth of their actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I mentioned in an email to Sarah Abed, I think that a lot of us, when confronted wth glitches, tend to not say much to many people about it. One, We are dealing with complexity and imperfection. Therefore, How does a non specialist know whether the glitch is nefarious or not? People probably don’t want to look like idiots and paranoiacs and so they keep quiet, assuming that the glitch is a glitch. Two, People just aren’t squawkers. I am. It’s not so much that I’m a squawker though. I just figure that the only way to know is to investigate and who cares if people think I’m a yappy complainer? In the long run, you get the reputation that you give yourself.

      And it’s great to get the enemy on the record bullcrapping you, as I’ve done now and then. Box deleted a comment I made on their public forum about their announcement that they were partnering with Google, calling it a “rant.” It’s good to know what they call a rant. Bit.ly won’t shorten (still) an url to one of my blog posts (dealing with Common Dreams’s sacrificing of progressives for donations from non progressives). I have all the back and forth, via emails, about that. That was interesting.

      I suspect that we are all going to start seeing more and more ‘glitches’ followed by an avalanche. (Then where we will be?) I’ve been visiting Sarah Abed’s website, The Rabbit Hole, recently. Sure enough, when I posted a comment about her series (not finished), which she in fact invited me to do, it completely disappeared. She was appalled. I explained to her that her’s isn’t the only WordPress-powered blog where that happens (telling her about the adventures that Off Guardian is having with PayPal and Sky and, possibly, WordPress). We haven’t caught WordPress (via a whistleblower or some clever investigator) doing stinky stuff (other than dumbing down their once stellar platform), but how is it possible that WordPress, which powers much of the internet, isn’t on the anti-people, deep state’s radar?

      Like

  6. Alan says

    Yesterday I experienced the same Sky block to this site. As with all dictatorial, data mining policies it requires ‘opt out’. Apart from those in the pay of Sky, it disheartens to know that many actually believe corporate/government censorship to be a virtue.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. In fact this Orwellian attack is on one side a real compliment to “Off Guardian” by the powers that (shouldn´t) be! But it is a massive attack on freedom of speech. I have seen a decrease of clicks on my blog as well, which I cannot quatify by now..
    On “fake News” see:
    „Media, Independent and Mainstream: Fake News and Fake Narratives“: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/media-independent-and-mainstream-fake-news-and-fake-narratives/
    Weekend regards

    Liked by 2 people

    • “In the land of morons, a man with half a brain could be King”

      Soon, they’ll just shut down sites like OFFG and demand that you watch CNN or read the NYT/Guardian for your daily dose of BS, lies and propaganda, then go out and shop till you drop!

      Like

  8. bl4ckhawk says

    Five Rules of Propaganda

    1) The rule of orchestration: endlessly repeating the same messages in different variations and combinations.

    2) The rule of simplification: reducing all data to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’.

    3) The rule of disfiguration: discrediting the opposition by crude smears and parodies.

    4) The rule of transfusion: manipulating the consensus values of the target audience for one’s own ends.

    5) The rule of unanimity: presenting one’s viewpoint as if it were the unanimous opinion of all right-thinking people: draining the doubting individual into agreement by the appeal of star-performers, by social pressure, and by ‘psychological contagion’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peter says

      These five rules are being applied here in France by all the MSM, state as well as private.

      I’d perhaps add a sixth rule: cherry-picking ‘facts’ and examples that support your position and highlighting them as proof you’re right; completely ignoring those that don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. DavidKNZ says


    * wsws.org fell by 67 percent
    * alternet.org fell by 63 percent
    * globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
    * consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
    * socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
    * mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
    * commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
    * internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
    * democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
    * wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
    * truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
    * counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
    * theintercept.com fell by 19 percent

    A Handy little list to set up on my RSSFeeds..
    And compelling reason for me to switch my default browser to DuckduckGo..

    Stepping back a bit, the English Establishment, including media and judiciary,
    seemed determined to cover for Tony Blair,a born again catholic with a LOT
    of blood on has hands, and a LOT on money in his bank..

    This is probably minor in comparison to what will / has happened when the
    NeoCon Establishment succeed in ‘eliminating’ all other frames of reference
    other than theirs.
    Millions have died; families sundered, children left traumatised orphans..
    But thats OK – they were terrorists – or brown ‘folks’ – or collateral damage
    – hardly worth a mention in the news in ‘papers of record’

    We live in interesting times 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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