Friday, February 04, 2011

Google attacking news aggregators

Such as this site

Alternative news sites beware, Google is changing their algorithm to reduce your status to a spammer in an attempt to control the flow of information on the Internet.

Google has announced that it is fixing flaws in its algorithm that allows search results to be spammed, while also planning to weaken the search-ability of websites referred to as "content farms." Matt Cutts, head of Google's anti-spam team, writes:

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

The only clear reference from Google about problems occurring from "content farms" in regards to spamming search results is from China: "Last year Google faced a rash of webspam on Chinese domains in our index. Some spammers were purchasing large amounts of cheap .cn domains and stuffing them with misspellings and porn phrases." They claim this scheme led to "irrelevant" search results.

Yet, their goal seems to be to weaken what has been referred to as "news aggregating" websites as "one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content." This clearly describes many sites that present alternative news. However, plenty of alternative news sites and blogs have original material which they freely share, in part or in full, purely to support one another in disseminating the truth. This is of key importance to spread information in the absence of government or foundation funding, as enjoyed by much of the mainstream media. It is also a counter to censorship, so that a free market of ideas can flourish where people can investigate facts for themselves, rather than have opinions dictated from a limited number of sources.

According to a recent cheerleading article by TechCrunch, content farms indeed include websites that post any duplicate content word-for-word, "Now, finally, it sounds like they’re going to do more to take on sites that just repurpose content from other sites (hopefully including the countless sites that repost TechCrunch articles verbatim)."

What's odd is that everyone knows that original content already carries far more weight with Google algorithms than re-posted content. Additionally, backlinks from well-ranked relevant sites is also a huge factor in building a strong Google page rank, besides driving traffic to the source. Therefore, it would stand to reason that websites like TechCrunch should be overjoyed when other relevant sites post their content, as long as it is sourced with a hyperlink. Alexa ranks TechCrunch at 305 on the entire Internet, no doubt due to their 36,374 links that Alexa recognizes. Without allowing the sharing of their original content, this level of achievement would be impossible under the current Google algorithm.

For those who understand this concept, if they punish sites that re-post content such as news aggregators that link back to them, the source will surely lose traffic and overall ranking despite being heavy in original content. Which begs the question, what people have been asking for "stronger action against content farms?" Because gauging the rise in popularity of alternative media (i.e. news aggregators), it seems that Internet users themselves aren't the ones complaining.

It is obviously the entrenched dinosaur media that despises having to play on a level field, especially as it pertains to truthful reporting and analysis. Former executive editor of the Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr., addressed "old media vs. new media" in a September lecture where he excoriated so-called content farms as “parasites living off journalism produced by others.” He even claims re-posting of material, even if sourced, is "stealing" as reported by Politico:

'The aggregators fill their websites with news, opinion, features, photographs and video that they continuously collect – some would say steal – from other national and local news sites, along with mostly unpaid postings by bloggers who settle for exposure in lieu of money,' Downie said.

'Though they purport to be a new form of journalism, these aggregators are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others. They attract audiences by aggregating journalism about special interests and opinions reflecting a predictable point of view on the left or right of the political spectrum, along with titillating gossip and sex.

Revealing photos of and stories about entertainment and celebrities account for much of the highly touted web traffic to the Huffington Post site, for example.'

Downie rightly states that these sites attract an audience seeking a certain point of view, but ignores the fact that mainstream outlets do the same. Some would argue that the real strength behind news aggregators is the ability to expose the establishment's gross injustices and other inconvenient truths without all the "titillating" distractions. As the masses become more aware of establishment lies, they are flocking to alternative sites who cut through the BS and present a clear path to the truth.

Google's algorithm changes seem to be yet another tool being used to direct the flow of information away from the alternative media to selected mainstream news sources. It compounds actions already taken by Google in their involvement in upending net neutrality in favor of mega-media machines; the attempt by Congress to crack down on copyright infringement by blacklisting domain names; and copyright extortionist lawyers suing over wording in links.

It's obvious that the establishment will find a way to punish truth sites, either through technical penalization for re-posting material, reducing access speed, blogging taxes, lawsuits for copyright infringement, or by arbitrarily blacklisting the domain altogether.

At its core, this new Google algorithm seems to punish information sharing in favor of protectionist conglomerates with large writing staffs. We in the alternative media would do well to recognize that these actions being taken by the elite of the media world are just another sign of their weakened state. Now is the time for the alternative media to seek more writers and more cooperation.


German State bans burkas for government workers

The state of Hesse has banned the wearing of the burka – the Muslim dress that covers a woman’s face – by state employees during work hours, officials announced late Tuesday.

The decision was made by Interior Minister Boris Rhein in response to a worker at a local administrative office, or Bürgeramt, in Frankfurt who wanted to report for work wearing a burka.

The woman is just finishing a period of parental leave but has been given some extra time to reconsider her position. “We have allowed her a couple more days to think about the situation,” said Frankfurt city head of personnel Markus Frank. “We want to relieve the pressure somewhat.”

The 39-year-old woman had the option of returning to work without her burka. Before she went on parenting leave, she wore a headscarf only. But shortly before her scheduled return to work, she announced she wanted to wear a full burka on religious grounds. Daily Bild reported that there might be financial issues involved, as there had been discussion of a €40,000 settlement, though the woman’s lawyer had later talked of €18,000.

However Frank insisted the woman was not due for any kind of financial settlement. Nor is she being paid at the moment, because she is a part-time worker. “We will not pay a cent of taxpayers’ money for this,” Frank said.

The city was following the clear rule that workers in the public service must make their faces visible. Frank said he hoped that the woman would think the matter over and return to work without the burka. “We’re giving her another chance. Either she takes it or she doesn’t,” he said. “That is a clear limit that we are sticking to.”

Interior Minister Rhein said the state government was on safe legal ground because public service workers were obliged to be politically and religiously neutral. Veiled women conveyed the image that was not consistent with liberal and cosmopolitan values. “What’s more, the burka can be understood as a sign of an attitude contrary to the values of the western world,” said Rhein.

The environmentalist Greens members of Hesse’s state parliament backed the decision. “We regret the fact that it’s actually come to this debate because this abstruse interpretation of Islam by the city employee shows an image of Islam that has nothing to do with the views of almost all Muslims in Germany,” said Mürvet Öztürk, the integration policy spokesman for the party’s parliamentary group in the state.


Put Left-Wing Speech Control in the Cross Hairs

The most common left-wing objection to the right is that it wants to control others' lives. But, both in America and elsewhere, the threat to personal liberty has emanated far more from the left.

In the past generation, the left has controlled so much speech and behavior that these controls are now assumed to be a normal part of life.

Through the use of public opprobrium, laws and lawsuits, Americans today are less free than at any time since the abolition of slavery (with the obvious exception of blacks under Jim Crow).

Public opprobrium is known as political correctness, and it has suppressed saying anything -- no matter how true and no matter how innocent -- that offends left-wing sensibilities.

"Merry Christmas" offends leftist views on multiculturalism. So, it's largely gone. Honest discussion of male-female differences is also largely gone -- a lesson the former president of Harvard Larry Summers painfully learned when he simply asked if fewer women succeed in math and science because of innate differences between men and women.

Discussion of disproportionate rates of black violence is not allowed, no matter how well intentioned -- unless it is to "prove" how racist America is because of the high number of black men in prison.

In Europe -- and in all likelihood coming to America -- Christians who, citing the Bible, argue for a heterosexual ideal are arrested.

Thanks to the left, students at colleges get speech codes. They learn early in life that much speech is not permitted.

One may not favorably compare Western or American culture with that of any other. Led by Jesse Jackson, leftists chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go" at Stanford University. And away it went.

The left owns the language. Married women are not to be referred to as "Mrs." but as "Ms." And the words "lady," "feminine" and "masculine" have largely gone to their graves. High school and college teams with American Indian names must drop those names because by definition, according to the left, they offend American Indians.

(This last example has always perplexed me. Why does the name Florida State Seminoles offend Indians? One caller to my radio show once responded to that question by asking me how I would feel as a Jew if some team took the name "Jews." I told him that I would be thrilled. For nearly 4,000 years, Jews have been looking for fans.)

Back to leftist controls on speech: One can only speak of male-female differences if the difference shows the female as superior. Thus to say women are innately more intuitive is perfectly acceptable, but to say men are innately more likely to excel at math is "sexist."

A woman may reveal as much of her body as she wishes. But if a man is perceived by a woman as looking too long at what she reveals, or if he comments on what she reveals, he may be fired from his job and/or sued for "sexual harassment." A woman may wear a miniskirt and crop-top, but a man may not have a calendar of women wearing miniskirts and crop-tops on his desk at work. That constitutes sexual harassment and a "hostile work environment."

Graphic torture and frontal nudity may be shown on screen, but smoking cigars or cigarettes may not. A Churchill museum in London has removed the cigars from wartime Churchill photographs, FDR has had his ubiquitous cigarette holder removed from his photographs, and the cigarettes have been removed from the Beatles' hands in the famous photo of them crossing Abbey Road.

The list of forbidden words and behaviors due to Leftist activism is quite extensive. The latest example is the left's war on any words or imagery that come from the worlds of war or guns.

Already, "crusade" has been removed from Americans' vocabulary -- lest it offend Muslims. Overnight, the left effectively banned the use of a perfectly legitimate word that usually described an admirable preoccupation with doing good -- "that newspaper is on an anti-corruption crusade."

Now, the left has announced that words such as "target" and "cross hairs" are offensive -- on the idiotic pretense that such imagery causes people to murder. If I were the CEO of Target stores, I would be concerned -- will my company be sued because of its name and logo?

Will the word "war" be next? Perhaps "war on poverty" caused murder. And how about "war on cancer" -- only God knows how much killing that caused. Perhaps we should now say "project to eliminate cancer." But, then again, doesn't "eliminate" have genocidal overtones?

It was understandable but mistaken for Sarah Palin to take down her map of congressional districts in cross hairs. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that map. Only the totalitarian left argues that it caused the murders in Tucson or anywhere else.

So what's the answer? If you love liberty, you must target the left and put its totalitarian tendencies in your cross hairs. We must shoot down political correctness and wage a crusade for truth and liberty. All those ladies and gentlemen who cherish personal and societal freedom must fight like great Indian chiefs, braving secondhand smoke if need be, in affirming a masculinity that has been under relentless attack. And yes, we must even endure the taunts of our foes and, at the appropriate time of the year, wish fellow Americans a "Merry Christmas."

Then, and only then, will we be able to vanquish lies, defeat the foes of liberty, and once again be able to proudly sing a national anthem that affirms that "the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there." If we don't, that line in "The Star-Spangled Banner" will go the way of "Merry Christmas."


British prisons treated like a holiday camp

Prison have become too soft and young criminals treat them like a "holiday camp", the Government's knife-crime adviser has warned. Brooke Kinsella, the actress whose 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death three years ago, said it was time jails were turned back in to "places of punishment".

The former Eastenders star, who was personally backed by David Cameron in the election campaign, spoke out as she concluded her review in to tackling knife crime for the Home Secretary Theresa May.

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, has already faced criticism that his planned reform of sentencing and rehabilitation will see tens of thousands fewer criminals go to prison.

Following her six-month review, Miss Kinsella said: "Many young offenders said they actually become accustomed to life in a young offenders institution, with some describing it as 'a holiday camp' – three hot meals a day, a place to stay, ways of being educated or earning a wage and quite often the opportunity to make friends or hang out with people they already know.

"Just as the new Government is making it more beneficial to work than to be on benefits, so too must we turn prisons and institutions back into places of punishment, where people want to get out and ensure they don't go back."

Miss Kinsella also criticised head teachers for not doing enough to teach about the dangers of knife crime in the classroom. She accused many of being too "afraid" because they worry having such lessons will give the school a bad name. She called for lessons to now start for pupils as young as ten and warned more than 20 children a weekend up in hospital with a stab wound.

Mrs May repeated the Government's view that any adult caught with a knife should expect a prison term and announce more than £18 million funding to tackle crimes involving knives, guns and gangs over the next two years.

"Off the back of Brooke's recommendations, we will invest money into changing attitudes and behaviour, alongside being tough on those who persist in being involved in senseless crimes," she said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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