Google’s global warming search bias — Part 2

In my previous article I found that Google search results for prominent skeptics of climate change alarmism included a lot of negative material. Four or five negative items out of ten or twelve on the first page of results were typical. This raises the question of whether Google’s search algorithm is tuned to find and present negative items on skeptics.

Another possibility is that these search results merely reflect the fact that there is a lot of negative material on both sides. The climate change debate is indeed acrimonious and feelings run high.

To test this alternative I did Google searches on a number of prominent alarmists. What I found was that there were very few negative items, in fact in most cases there were none at all. This clearly suggests that Google’s search algorithm likes climate alarmists and dislikes climate skeptics, which has been rumored for some time.

Here are the first page results that I got for Google searches for prominent climate alarmists. A lot of negative material has been written about every one of them.

James Hansen
12 items, zero negative

Michael Mann
10 items, one negative

Ben Santer
10 items, zero negative

Susan Solomon
10 items, zero negative

Gavin Schmidt
10 items, 2 negative

Bill McKibben
12 items, zero negative

Naomi Oreskes
10 items, one negative

In contrast, our search results for skeptics typically contained 4 or 5 negative items on the first page. Thus there is a dramatic difference in how the Google search algorithm treats climate alarmists (positively) versus skeptics of alarmism (negatively).

There are content differences as well. Google search results often include laudatory articles about the leading alarmists, as well as some of their major writings. This almost never happens with the skeptics that we analyzed.

I have myself developed or worked on several search algorithms for the US Energy Department. Tuning an algorithm to target prominent skeptics of alarmism with negative material is not that hard.

For example, for every skeptic we analyzed, the search results include a link to DeSmogBlog. This site’s leading feature is a large database of negative dossiers on prominent skeptics. It would be easy to tell the algorithm to treat everyone listed in the DeSmogBlog database negatively.

Then too, in the natural language processing community there is a lot of research on how to recognize negative content. This is used to analyze everything from message traffic to news items, especially in the intelligence and marketing communities. In the science community there is a whole new field called “altmetrics” that seeks to use things like the volume of tweets and news stories to evaluate the impact of breaking new scientific findings. Here being able to tell the difference between positive and negative items is crucial.

The point is that the technology clearly exists to tune an algorithm into being either positive or negative in compiling and presenting search results. If I can design a search algorithm that negatively targets skeptics of climate change alarmism, then Google can certainly build one. After all, their corporate research and development budget is several billion dollars a year. A good chunk of that probably goes to fine tuning their search algorithm, since it is their claim to fame and fortune.

If Google is in fact using its search algorithm to target skeptics of climate alarmism, by systematically presenting a lot of negative results, then it is time to speak out. This activity may well be illegal, because it is potentially damaging to those being targeted.

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About the Author: David Wojick, Ph.D.

David Wojick is a journalist and policy analyst. He holds a doctorate in epistemology, specializing in the field of Mathematical Logic and Conceptual Analysis.

28 Comments
  1. Brin Jenkins

    The bias is supported by Soros with his charity funded trolls. This technique is the ignorant bully boy approach of my way, or no way. Not something I could ever be proud of.

  2. Dale

    I emailed Google directly and asked the question as to why their obvious bias?
    Surprise. I haven’t yet received a reply.
    Double surprise: My account hasn’t yet been suspended…

  3. Robert

    Noted: nothing beyond your assertion.

    “I have myself developed or worked on several search algorithms for the US Energy Department. Tuning an algorithm to target prominent skeptics of alarmism with negative material is not that hard.”

    And no specifics. I guess you assume your audience is not sophisticated enough to understand the details.

    • David Wojick

      I actually mention several ways of doing this. Perhaps you did not understand (as usual). Or are you asking for a treatise, like you often do?

      • Robert

        Your reply wasn’t about what I asked for. What a surprise.
        So, try this:
        Support your claim: where, exact quotes is your “several ways of doing this”
        “This ” being examples of your search algorithms.

        • David Wojick

          No, “this” refers to how to do what Google is doing, in this case using the DeSmogBlog (DSB) database plus natural language processing that identifies negative content.

          Here is a simple model. The Google algorithm already separates people from things, because it produces a bio window for people. It also collects and ranks a bunch of items for them.

          So first we have the algorithm check the high ranking items to see if the terms climate change or global warming frequently occur. If yes then check the DSB database of skeptical dossiers. If the person is found there then re-rank the retrieved items to include a lot of negative ones on the first page, including the DSB attack piece. Algorithmically this is trivial to do.

          • Robert

            Wow. That’s the leap we’d expect if th writer were being paranoid.
            .”If yes then check the DSB database of skeptical dossiers…”

            Might , since you don’t actually have access to the algorithm, think about weight given by popularity, noted reputation of the sources, how the data point fits to the rest of the data, ….

            Btw, here is what my Google shows for a search on your name:

            David Wojick | DeSmogBlog
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            Feb 5, 2018 · David E. Wojick. … He holds a doctorate in epistemology, specializing in the field of Mathematical Logic and Conceptual Analysis. Wojick was a “scientific advisor” for a now-defunct Greening Earth Society, a group created by the Western Fuels Association, a large US coal industry …
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            Jun 26, 2017 · David E. Wojick is a well-known and vocal climate change “skeptic”, with strong links to the coal industry and a now-defunct coal industry front group called the Greening Earth Society. [1] …
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            Perhaps you could quote were you are seeing you being attacked .

            • David Wojick

              That DeSmogBlog’s attack piece shows up on every single skeptic’s search results cannot be a coincidence. I said it was easy and you asked how, which I answered. Now you have gone nuts as usual. But you and Google missed a good article that explains my work:

              http://www.stemed.info/engineer_tackles_confusion.html

              How about posting your bio? My guess is that you are in sales.

              • Robert

                I’m finding it more than a little ironic that in a thread where you are arguing about “attack piece “, you post “My guess is that you are in sales.”

              • Robert

                A 1980 article linked to from page found in Google search, so hardly “missed”…
                stemed.info/engi…

                Maybe the algorithm puts newer stuff first?

                • David Wojick

                  Google doesn’t, as everyone doing a search gets the same search results. Google just knows that the person searched on is a skeptic, so they include a lot of negative items in the first page of results. Is this too complicated for you?

                  • Robert

                    “…so they include a lot of negative items in the first page of results.”

                    You are making some huge leap from search results to some unsupported claims abouan algorith.

                    Lets consider that a basic rubric, taught from 6th grade on might be part of the basis of the algorithm.

                    C.R.A.A.P. TEST

                    Currency: the timeliness of the information
                    When was the information published or posted?
                    Has the information been revised or updated?
                    Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
                    Are the links functional?
                    Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
                    Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
                    Who is the intended audience?
                    Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
                    Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
                    Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
                    Authority: the source of the information
                    Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
                    Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
                    What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
                    What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
                    Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
                    Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

                    examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government),
                    .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)
                    Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and
                    Where does the information come from?
                    Is the information supported by evidence?
                    Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
                    Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
                    Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
                    Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
                    Purpose: the reason the information exists
                    What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
                    Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
                    Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
                    Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
                    Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

                    http://libguides.library.ncat.edu/content_mobile.php?pid=53820&sid=394505#box_394505

                    “so they include a lot of negative items in the first page of results.”

  4. Robert

    Odd you didn’t test -or maybe decided to not show the results – subscription databases like ProQuest, Ebsco, etc. that are available to anyone with a library card.

  5. Robert

    There is a better explanation than claiming Google is willing to send bad search results which would effect a third of the populace (and the attendees ad revenue) :” For example, for every skeptic we analyzed, the search results include a link to DeSmogBlog. This site’s leading feature is a large database of negative dossiers on prominent skeptics. It would be easy to tell the algorithm to treat everyone listed in the DeSmogBlog database negatively.”

    A simple search rubric such as :

    C.R.A.A.P. TEST

    Currency: the timeliness of the information
    When was the information published or posted?
    Has the information been revised or updated?
    Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
    Are the links functional?

    Relevance:
    the importance of the information for your needs
    Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
    Who is the intended audience?
    Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
    Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
    Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

    Authority: the source of the information
    Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
    Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
    What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
    Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
    Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

    Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
    Where does the information come from?
    Is the information supported by evidence?
    Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
    Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
    Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
    Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

    Purpose: the reason the information exists
    What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
    Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
    Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
    Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
    Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

    http://libguides.library.ncat.edu/content_mobile.php?pid=53820&sid=394505#box_394505

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