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Elon Musk revealed through a series of published documents, dubbed #TwitterFiles, the extent to which previous Twitter ownership engaged in online censorship.
But he claims the social media service is just one of many platforms to deploy such practices. Specifically, he accused Google of manipulating search results.
“Google frequently makes links disappear,” Musk tweeted in response to journalist Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday.
Most people don’t appreciate the significance of the point Matt was making:— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 27, 2022
*Every* social media company is engaged in heavy censorship, with significant involvement of and, at times, explicit direction of the government.
Google frequently makes links disappear, for example.
Fellow journalist Matt Taibbi adds the government is also in frequent contact with Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Microsoft, Verizon, Reddit, and Pinterest.
It’s unclear to what extent the government has pressured the other tech platforms to rule in its favor. Twitter Files has thus far shown Twitter took direct orders from the Biden administration, Democratic National Committee and the FBI.
Another conspiracy turned reality.
And while Twitter has considerable influence over public discourse, its impact is only minuscule compared to Google’s.
The Google search engine holds a market share of more than 90%, according to Statista data. Competing engines — Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo — are alternatives with minimal activity.
Thereby the visibility of various links lies within the confines of Google results.
Moreover, its online video service, YouTube, has a monthly user count of 2.5 billion. The same measurement found an average of 436 million users on Twitter.
Across all Google platforms, the multi-media company amasses a user count of 4 billion. For context, there are an estimated 4.39 billion internet users in total.
“Twitter is not real life,” the saying goes. If true, the same cannot be said of Google.
Suffice it to say its search results dictate the flow of information.
With a search engine market share of 90%, Google has an unrivaled capability to swing an election, alter the distribution of public knowledge, and promulgate faulty narratives.
So deleting links, as Musk states, is no small claim.
Consider that Google need not even remove a link to dismantle one’s reach. A Search Engine Journal study in 2020 found that links ranked below sixth on the page have a click-through rate of 5% or lower.
The study says nearly 30% of users click on the first link atop their search:
For example, nearly all users searching “Elon Musk” will click the following links, all of which conveniently contain an overtly negative bent.
Google claims its results respond to a sophisticated search engine-optimized algorithm.
“To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors and signals, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings,” says Google.
However, Twitter also stated it didn’t limit the distribution of conservative accounts — known as shadowbanning — a claim that Twitter Files proved false.
Simply put, anonymous Google employees are manually burying, amplifying, and as Elon Musk says, deleting links. Of course, they are.
Twitter is not alone and is far from the most consequential online suppressor of information.