At least two other blacklists are applied to Google’s web answers feature, one of which is manually edited, documents obtained by The Daily Caller indicate.
The first blacklist, titled “webanswers_url_blacklist,” impacts the company’s “featured snippets” or answer blocks, the type of special search result that appears when questions are typed into the search bar. For example, the question “What is the biggest fish?” yields a special search box on the whale shark. (EXCLUSIVE: Documents Detailing Google’s ‘News Blacklist’ Show Manual Manipulation Of Special Search Results)
In screenshots of the blacklist shared with The Daily Caller, the instructions at the top of the page say, “To ensure the blacklist will REMOVE a URL, add a line ‘# REMOVE url’.” And, “To ensure the blacklist WON’T remove a URL by accident, add ‘# PERMIT url’,” indicating that the blacklist is manually edited.
One of the blacklisted results was a Washington Post op-ed titled, “How Vladimir Putin Became The World’s Favorite Dictator,” which the algorithm pulled in response to the query “who is the dictator of Russia.”
In one of the changelogs for the web answers blacklist, a Googler alludes to the blacklisting of all opinion content for web answers.
“We are going to be removing opinion docs from all of newsey/political/sensitive webanswers. So, BLing any document that we consider to be clearly opinion is not an issue,” the note says.
“Featured snippets are a feature within Search that highlights web sources that are likely to contain what you’re looking for,” a spokesperson for Google told The Daily Caller. “Due to the special formatting they receive, we have policies that prevent us from showing a featured snippet for topics like civics or medical information where the content lacks broad consensus. Our systems are designed to not show featured snippets that would violate our policies, and we take action if violating snippets still appear. These policies and actions have no impact on how a page ranks in organic search listings.”
According to Google, they are working on developing ways to ensure that algorithms are weeding out inappropriate web answers rather than having to do so manually. The second web answers blacklist, called all_fringe_domains, appears to be an example of this, as it seems to be generated by an algorithm.
A portion of the fringe domains list was shared with The Daily Caller. On it are the American Spectator, Breitbart, Breaking911, the website of pastor Brian Jones, the website of Bring Your Bible to School Day, Consortium News (published by Robert Parry), St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church, speakerryan.com, The Franklin Society (a cryptocurrency blog), Free Thought Project, The Gateway Pundit, and The Gorka Briefing.
In addition, several blogs critical of conservatives are on the fringe domains blacklist, including Breitbart Unmasked and Spencer Watch, a blog critical of Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress in December that the company does not “manually intervene on any particular search result.” (RELATED: Google Fires Republican Engineer Who Spoke Out Against ‘Outrage Mobs’)
But in fact Google does manually intervene in several different types of special search results, as The Daily Caller revealed in April, through their news blacklist. The web answers blacklist is more evidence that they do manually intervene in particular search results.
Pichai also said in a recent interview with Axios that the company wants to “really prevent borderline content, content which doesn’t exactly violate policies.”
Google is facing pressure from both the Republican administration and the Democrat-controlled House, with a Department of Justice antitrust probe and a new set of hearings in Congress on competition in digital markets.