Google and YouTube often give Chinese state propaganda outlets high rankings in searches on hot-button political issues — including denials of the abuse of Muslims in Xinjiang and conspiracy theories that the coronavirus originated in a US military lab, in accordance with a latest study.
Chinese state sources also rank highly on Microsoft Bing searches about controversial issues, in accordance with the report published Friday by the Brookings Institute and the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
“China has exploited search engine results on Xinjiang and COVID-19, two subjects which are geopolitically salient to Beijing,” the researchers said.
News searches on Google and Bing for “Xinjiang” — the Chinese region where China has locked up an estimated multiple million Uyghurs and other Muslims in what critics say amounts to a genocide — have included a Chinese state-backed source throughout the top 10 ends in 88% of searches, in accordance with the study.
On YouTube, a whopping 98% of Xinjiang searches showed a Chinese government-backed video in the highest 10 results, the study said. The researchers conducted the study by searching the terms over a 120-day period.
A whopping 98% of Xinjiang searches showed a Chinese government-backed video in the highest 10 results, the study said.REUTERS
“Google actively works to combat coordinated influence and censorship operations while also protecting access to information and free expression online,” a Google spokesperson said in an announcement to The Post. “Third party research shows that Google Search consistently returns top quality results, especially in comparison with other engines like google.”
Along with denying abusing Muslims in Xinjiang, Chinese state media outlets have also aggressively pushed unfounded theories that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a US military lab. Lots of these focus on a base in Maryland called Fort Detrick that previously hosted the US’ biological weapons program.
In searches for “Fort Detrick” on YouTube, a mean of 5 Chinese state-sponsored videos showed up throughout the top 10 results, the researchers said. News searches for “Unit 731,” one other term related to the speculation that the coronavirus leaked from a US lab, are also reportedly filled with Chinese state-sponsored results.
Google said that it gives users disclaimers on YouTube with context about sources of data, including telling users when media outlets are sponsored by governments.
While the researchers didn’t examine search results related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they argued that the web reach of Chinese state sources is troubling because they’re “channeling Kremlin talking points to audiences world wide.”
Microsoft didn’t reply to a request for comment, but told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the study, that it’s reviewing the study and is at all times searching for to enhance.
While Google search and YouTube are blocked in China, Microsoft operates a Chinese version of Bing that censors results at the federal government’s request. It also has 1000’s of corporate employees within the country.