Life-loving tech geek, wide-eyed and electrified. And suitably qualified.
No, it wasn't a call to arms, or about violently bringing anyone to justice. Not even close.
It was about us NOT blaming other people for the state of the World. It was about focusing on how YOU as an individual can make the World a better place through your own actions and decisions.
You might think the article was removed because it contained "fake news" or something else Google considered "harmful", or against their policies. But that's just not the case.
Here's what the article basically said:
Sounds reasonable, right? So WHY was it censored by Google?
I've been watching the article's rankings on Google for some time. It was ranked #1 for keyphrases relating to conspiracy theories and especially the "New World Order".
And now, it has completely disappeared from Google's index.
Take any specific string of words in the article, and put them in inverted commas, and search in Google.
The article is gone from Google's search results.
Google has said it would censor "fake news". So I first thought maybe Google's automated algorithms accidentally censored the article.
Firstly, there is no fake news in my article. It's just balanced and reasonable advice, mostly saying "stop focusing on conspiracy theories and blaming problems on others, and focus on how YOU can make the world a better place."
And secondly, other articles with much the same keywords were untouched. So why weren't those pages removed? What made other pages different?
Pages that remained on Google are mostly from "over the top" conspiracy theorists. These are the kind of pages and "conspiracy theorists" that my article warned readers about. Some of their unsubstantiated theories are actually harmful.
These uncensored pages makes these mistakes:
So basically the very articles I warned people about were the ones left behind. These are the dangerous articles that potentially do more harm than good.
If Google's filter was 100% automated, it would have removed countless other pages with similar keywords. This just hasn't happened. So I believe it was MANUALLY reviewed by real people, then intentionally removed.
If this was the case, it's a bigger problem because then why would the pages from "hard core conspiracy nuts" remain, but my page be censored?
I can't help but think it's because the real truth hurts.
Blaming others for problems instead of ourselves and doing nothing but complaining, doesn't solve problems. Focusing on how we contribute to problems, and how we can fix them ourselves, does solve problems.
Of course, the censorship could have just been from Google staff who didn't bother to properly understand my article. Although, then why were harmful pages untouched? We'll probably never know the answer.
Forget about my article for a minute. I know very well the Internet is full of junk and harmful conspiracy theories. That's exactly why I wrote my article.
If I were in charge of Google, I would feel partly responsible by allowing harmful conspiracy theories to be in search results. I wouldn't want my search engine to contribute to harm.
But I would very, very carefully find the balance between censorship of genuinely harmful material, and the need for free speech.
Free speech is critical, because what if there really were conspiracies? The truth would need to be known.
Truth is not subjective. There is only one truth. But who gets to decide if something is true or false? I'll get to that later.
The issue of free speech vs censorship actually has similarities to "gun rights" issues.
On one hand, citizens should have the right to arm themselves, because of the possibility of a tyrannical government. Hitler and the Nazis disarmed the German population as a means to control the population. Stalin did the same. We should never just assume our government can't possibly become tyrannical. History has shown many times that absolute power corrupts absolutely. This means if anyone has complete control, it's an invitation for complete tyranny. And guns are control by force. So I understand the arguments for "gun-rights". And I understand why it's part of the constitution.
However, it should be practically impossible for a teenager or some deranged individual to get hold of an assault rifle to murder innocent people in schools. Do we really want to make senseless murder easier?
So where's the middle ground? Which is the lesser of two evils?
This is the same dilemma of censorship vs free speech. Except the possibility of type of potential harm is different.
I believe that . . .
With an open flow of information, there will be an inevitable war between truth and bullshit. But truth always, always wins. Eventually.
But it's not so simple, because we naturally want to prevent harm. Although we may prevent some harm, we cause worse damage.
For example, let's say someone deliberately published "fake news" that an alien spaceship was coming to collect souls to take them to heaven, and that we had to commit suicide to join the incoming spaceship. The people left alive on Earth would go to hell forever and ever. I'm sure some people would actually believe it, and commit suicide. In fact, something similar was done before in a cult. So this kind of "fake news" can cause real harm.
But what if this crazy claim was actually true? Censoring the news would be the real harm.
Google is not just a company or search engine. It is used as the global source of information. It has responsibilities far greater than any normal company. So it should be heavily regulated, as should any media. But regulated to allow a balance of information, free of bias.
The real problems here are:
Nobody can realistically say they unequivocally know that something is a fact, except for what they "believe".
For example, I don't at all believe Earth is flat, because all the evidence I've considered indicates that Earth is a globe. And all the "best proof" from "Flat Earthers" is a mess of poor understanding.
However, I have not flown into space and looked at Earth out the window to see Earth is a globe. So to be scientific about it, I'll say I have no reason to think Earth is flat. But if any "Flat-Earther" has any additional proof that Earth is flat, I'll consider it. It is important I maintain an open mind, or I'd be "self-censoring" new information.
If I ignored new information, I could miss critical evidence that would improve my knowledge of reality.
But if I paid attention to every piece of rubbish, the worst that could happen is I waste my time.
So when it comes to Flat Earth theories, I maintain an open mind, but will only spend time verifying new information if the following criteria are met:
CRITERIA 1. The source appears balanced and credible, and has not already wasted my time presenting unsubstantiated or incorrect theories.
I don't expect everyone to be correct 100% of the time. Nobody ever is. But if I'm going to listen to someone, they can't just be some anonymous person on the Internet. And if they are, they need to back up claims.
CRITERIA 2: There is at least some way to verify the claims as true (i.e. not just theory)
Unsubstantiated theories without verifiable proof are as solid as opinions. We all have opinions based on our knowledge. But some people's knowledge is incredibly poor; hence their unsubstantiated theories.
So my two criteria are CREDIBILITY AND VALIDITY.
Otherwise, rejecting information may harm my own knowledge and understanding. This is how I personally consider any new information. Google and any media company should follow similar principles.
It is not realistically possibly to accurately censor information with algorithms. Such an approach will inevitably censor accurate information too.
Likewise, it is not possible for real humans to know the difference between unsubstantiated theory and likely fact - unless they have very broad knowledge. Google staff censor material with their own best judgement. That's all they can do. But the problem is they aren't experts in the matters they censor. So they can too easily make mistakes.
Arguably, Google could hire experts in matters, to determine what should be censored. But then who decides who the experts are?
I've concluded the only fair and balanced way to censor material is to use crowd wisdom, AND be fully transparent about the consensus mechanisms (like a blockchain).
Certainly though, crowds can be dumb and misinformed. But there is no solution for that, except:
1. It being the responsibility of each individual to do their own due diligence, and
2. The purveyors of information (including Google and Youtube) to allow the free flow of uncensored information, and
3. Using the "open source consensus" of real people to determine what is or isn't harmful, and what should or shouldn't be censored.
I'll use one example of what I believe should clearly be censored: child pornography. But certainly there are people who would prefer it be available in Google search - they would be the minority. And overwhelmingly most people would be against it. I'm sure you'd find 99% of people would support censorship of child pornography. This is an example of where crowd-wisdom overwhelmingly supports censorship.
But what about Flat Earth theory? Should it be censored? Based on my own research from a poll I conducted:
OPINION 1. 14% of people want Flat Earth talk censored, because they believe it is harmful.
OPINION 2. 1% of people do not want it censored, because they actually believe Earth is flat.
OPINION 3. 84% of people don't want it censored, despite believing Flat Earth is garbage, and potentially harmful.
In this case, there is NOT an overwhelming majority of people demanding censorship, so there should NOT be censorship. This balances the need for censorship of harmful information (decided by the overwhelming majority of people), and open flow of information.
Effectively, this allows "we the people" to be the censors of our own society.
A technical challenge though is how do we know the opinions provided are from real people, and not bots? Polls alone are not reliable, because even proxies can be used. Perhaps this is a problem blockchain could solve.
BUT, what about cases where fake news may cause serious physical harm? so let's use another example. Something random, like perhaps . . . the claim that COVID-19 doesn't exist, and is just from 5G radiation.
If the theory is false, then people would be less likely to practice social distancing. This would kill people. Bad idea.
But if the theory was true, then the truth needs to be told (not censored), and properly validated with further research.
So we're in a bit of a pickle here. Should these claims be censored? Which is the lesser of two evils?
I personally do NOT believe COVID-19 is fake. But I do believe it is being over-hyped because:
1. Death rates are being exaggerated by official government policies requiring hospitals to list COVID-19 as the cause of death, even if it was potentially a contributing factor. So even if you died of a heart attack, it could be blamed on COVID-19.
2. The COVID-19 tests are not entirely accurate. Previously it was reported that tests produced 80% false positives. So are we to understand from 1,000,000 positive results, 800,000 people aren't actually infected?
Put these two points together, and you don't need to be a statistician to see a potential problem.
It's a big tangled web going on here. Some big problems and big questions. It is overall my personal belief that we must practice social distancing. But we must also question what's going on. These questions must be asked without censorship, but while practicing social distancing. 5G for now should be deactivated, until further studies are done. The existing phone networks are coping just fine. And besides, 5G is a very short-range technology.
I understand that if the negative claims about 5G are purely unfounded, that it would likely worsen the problem because infections would become more widespread. But people who ignore the restrictions will be fined or apprehended, and not to mention perhaps infected. So it is primarily at their peril.
It's a very touchy dilemma, because these matters affect us all. It isn't all just about what we do privately in our own homes. Everyone's decisions have the capability to affect everyone.
But still should any of the 5G claims be censored? No, I don't believe so. Remember that if anyone ignores the restrictions, they are the minority, and it is primarily to their detriment.
If the virus is indeed real, and you practice social distancing, but others don't, you'll still be safe. Yes I understand a few can affect the many, but that's no different to a teenager who doesn't care about the laws and will visit their friends at the park. There will always, always be the minority.
My article didn't even mention COVID-19. See it for yourself. It was balanced and reasonable. Still it was censored, whereas hard-core "conspiracy theory" pages remained on Google. Why, is a good question. On this note, if it was censored because "the truth hurts", it might be a good idea to share it via Facebook. If it goes viral, it would be interesting to see what Facebook's censors do.
I believe censorship should be reserved only for extreme cases, like child pornography. Other than that, if Google is a company that's responsible, with the world's population in mind, they should only protect the balance of information - not be a tyrannical censor.
It is the responsibility of companies like Google and Facebook to allow open and balanced flow of information, and trust that all truth comes out, eventually. And it is our responsibility to do our own due diligence.