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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.
Posted in Science / Social Sciences / Sociology

The alt.Right are Gaming Google: Is RankBrain to blame?

Dec. 7, 2016 2:05 pm

Public Domain

According to a recent news story, the "Extreme Right" (Far Right / alt.Right etc) have been found this year to have gamed Google to get their favourite web sites etc to the top of Google's search engine rankings on searches on innocuous search terms such as "was Hitler bad". As the news story reports the first site listed is a blog site publishing a post claiming Hitler was "a good guy" Here.

This is an easy thing to achieve on Google. The way to do it is to have a number of websites, blog sites and Twitter accounts all linked and all cross referencing one another and citing one another. Doing precisely that is how I got my own highly specialized history of science website so high up Google's rankings. Just Google "Patrick Matthew" to see what I mean - it's currently second, and then only to Wikipedia on any Google search on that name.

The Far Right have been gaming search engines in this same way for years. I was co-author of a peer reviewed paper on the topic over a decade ago: See The Evolution of Hate: Social Dynamics in White Racist Newsgroups', which quantified it to some degree and showed what they were up to.

Today, I suspect it is absence of human intervention following the launch of Google's RankBrain artificial intelligence program that has allowed the far right (alt.right) to game Google. Launched in 2016 it is most likely, in my opinion, RankBrain that has also currently screwed-up our ability to use the powerful myth busting IDD research method on Google: see: HERE.

According to Back (2002): 'Aryans Reading Adorno: Cyberculture and 21st Century Racism'. Ethnic and Racial Studies:

1. Celebrate real instances of racial violence with photographs and dehumanizing comments.

2. Enhance racial narcissism, promoting indifference towards victims – using images and cartoon caricatures.

3. Merchandise white power music and Nazi paraphernalia – building an economic powerbase.

4. Archive and download collections of racialist materials in one place – such as racist speeches and debates.

5. Experience and allow others to experience racialist culture, yet remain geographically distant from its physical and social realities. To provide just one example, this includes indulging in simulated racism through on-line games with names such as Jew Rats, and Ethnic Cleansing10

In addition to Back’s five-fold typology, a sixth category might be added, which may be particularly alluring to the young who could confuse such racist messages with anarchic humour: (Source: Sutton and Wright):

6. Successfully exploiting the technology of the Internet to ensure that ‘racialist’ messages reach as many people as possible and as quickly as possible


Artificial intelligence has a rather lot more "deep learning" to do, it seems. Google should have seen it coming in greater numbers, because it was already here over a decade ago!



The Evolution of Hate by Mann, Sutton and Tuffin 2003 (Internet Journal of Criminology) (c)

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It was a noble 10-year experiment, but it turns out that the writers with the best content are the least adept at the tech required to publish under our model, which in hindsight, makes perfect sense. If you are dedicating your life to becoming an expert in your specialty, you don’t have a lot of time left for figuring out publishing tech.

It hasn't helped that we have entered an age of unprecedented polarization and antagonism which doesn't foster demand for a website dedicated to the respectful engagement of diverse views.

Thank you, everyone!

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