Ex-Google worker says bug may have exposed conservative blacklist

Google said it has fixed a “bug” that led to several conservative websites disappearing from its search results on Tuesday, but a former engineer for the tech giant said the glitch may have inadvertently exposed an internal list that targeted certain news outlets.

“It appears to have revealed the existence of another blacklist that disproportionately targets conservatives,” Mike Wacker said in a message to the website Mediaite.

“The glitch is that sites on this blacklist disappeared from Google search results, but the existence of the list is very much by design. And that raises a major question: Why was this blacklist created in the first place, and what else is it used for?” Wacker questioned.

For several hours Tuesday morning and early afternoon, users couldn’t access a number of websites on Google search, including Breitbart, the Drudge Report, the Bongino Report and the National Pulse.

Occupy Democrats, a left-wing populist website, also vanished, but the New York Times and the Washington Post did not appear to be affected.

“Today we became aware of an issue that impacted some navigational and site: operator searches. We investigated & have since fixed the bug,” Google said in a statement on Twitter.

“Contrary to some speculation, this did not target particular sites or political ideologies. Today’s issue affected sites representing a range of content and different viewpoints,” it continued. “Our ranking systems don’t index, rank or classify content based on political lean, as we’ve explained in our How Search Works site.”

But Dr. Robert Epstein, who has studied Google’s influence on elections, agreed with Wacker.

“It’s likely that a person or algorithm at Google added ‘breitbart.com’ and other URLs to one or more of the company’s blacklists,” Epstein told Mediaite. “Then, perhaps after some pushback, someone pulled those URLs off the blacklists.”

Wacker, who was fired by Google in June 2019 after he wrote an article claiming “outrage mobs and witch hunts dominate its culture,” said the sites on the blacklist “are being penalized.”

“And the glitch was that the penalty was accidentally set so high that these sites were effectively removed from Google search,” Wacker said. “I’ve found that a lot of people tend to conflate algorithms with AI since they’re both automated, but AI isn’t as objective and mechanical as algorithms are.”