Google, Facebook Helped Anti-Islam Group During 2016 Election

The flaws in their business models keep on becoming more apparent:

If you saw ads on your Facebook feed showing an alternate reality where France and Germany were governed by Sharia law ahead of the 2016 elections, you’re not alone.

Facebook (FB, +0.89%) and Google (GOOGL, +0.18%) helped advertising company Harris Media run the campaigns for their client, Secure America Now—a conservative, nonprofit advocacy group whose campaign “included a mix of anti-Hillary Clinton and anti-Islam messages,” notes Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg’s account, Facebook and Google directly collaborated on the campaign, helping “target the ads to more efficiently reach the audiences.” Not only did the two tech giants compete for “millions in ad dollars,” but they also “worked closely” with the group on their ads throughout the 2016 election.

Voters in swing states saw a range of ads, including the faux tourism video that depicted French students being trained to fight for the caliphate, and the Mona Lisa covered in a burqa. Another ad linked Nevada Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto to terrorism, calling on viewers to “stop support of terrorism. Vote against Catherine Cortez Mastro,” and asking them to “vote to protect Nevada.”

Ads were optimized to target specific groups of people that they felt “could be swayed by the anti-refugee message.” And Facebook reportedly used its collaboration with Secure America Now as an opportunity to test new technology as well. Internal reports acquired by Bloomberg show that the ads were viewed millions of times on Facebook and Google.

This case distinguishes itself from that of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election in that Google and Facebook directly assisted Secure America Now in its targeting of audiences. Of course, the two companies have worked with political groups on their advertising strategies in the past, but the extent and secretive nature of their assistance in this case is uncommon. And the content of the ads themselves reportedly left some Harris employees feeling “uneasy.”

Google and Facebook were not immediately available for comment.

Source: Google, Facebook Helped Anti-Islam Group During 2016 Election

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To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws: Marie Henein

Great column by Henein on the Google/Damore controversy. Witty and pointed:

As debate rages about whether it was fair to fire Google employee James Damore for the now-infamous Google manifesto that explored women’s so-called limitations, I can’t help but think, why can’t everyone just leave my gender alone? Once again, we are being filleted, dissected, and discussed as though we barely exist. Yet another round of public debate began about how our under-representation in various fields and in leadership roles has nothing to do with hundreds of years of inequality but rather is attributable to insurmountable biological limitations. Writers in article after article actually went out of their way to justify Mr. Damore’s view of women. Was this seriously still happening?

A recent column explained that our biological differences, among other things, makes female lawyers better negotiators but worse litigators. Just as I was about to switch jobs, the author kindly pointed out that I was an outlier. I didn’t know whether to be flattered that I am some sort of unicorn, concerned that I am considered more male in my disposition (a comment I have been the recipient of since elementary school) or disappointed that I now had to break it to countless talented female litigators that they should probably give it up and limit themselves to negotiation or more gentle, womanly professions. I look forward to more enlightenment on what our biology allows us to do. Given that technology, science, leadership roles, or any jobs requiring assertiveness are clearly out, we better hurry up as scores of young girls are being grossly misled into thinking they can actually do what they wish.

Mr. Damore, in the course of his unscientific stream of consciousness, unequivocally makes the following point: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” (Note: the italics are mine; the asinine quote is his.) He then goes on to mansplain – which was nice given the female biological aversion to ideas – that it is highly unlikely we are going to resolve the problem ourselves. He points out that females do not succeed because they are more inclined toward feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women in general, he argues, have a stronger interest in people rather than things; our extroversion is expressed as gregariousness instead of assertiveness; we are agreeable, neurotic, and have a low stress tolerance. I get it. We feel more and think less. We are an emotional, under-thinking, overstressed gender. But it’s not all bad news: we have a hell of a lot of empathy and mushy feelings.

Golly gee, if only I could overcome my natural biological disposition toward feelings rather than ideas, maybe I could understand Mr. Damore’s point. Or just maybe his biological disposition skews toward feelings rather than well-articulated, grounded, scientific ideas. Who knows? Maybe I can find a man to explain it all to me.

Look, if you want to debate the pros and cons of diversity policies, knock yourself out. If you want to dispute a company that extends certain benefits or opportunities differentially, go right ahead. There are ways to meaningfully challenge an employer’s policies. But a manifesto explaining to a substantial portion of your colleagues that they are underperforming because they were made that way – that has very little to do with meaningful discussion.

Let me be clear, you can say whatever you wish. I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech and the expression of opinions, even offensive ones. Fragility of mind when faced with opposing thought and shouting people down does not in any way advance our pressing democratic goals. And there is no crime in being stupid, but if you are an employee you are fireable. Mr. Damore should have thought of that, but perhaps his biological male assertiveness got in the way.

So I have a proposal for the James Damores of the world: why don’t you focus on your own biological inadequacies, and stop thinking about ours. After all, you know them best. He and his compatriots can feel free to write as many manifestos explaining male deficiencies, of which my feeling, female self – with aggressive male undertones – is convinced there are many. This exercise would consume both time and thousands of pages, but please, please leave my gender alone. We do not need you to explain what you perceive to be our limitations, thank you very much. We do not need to be told that we will fail and not lead because we are “more compassionate” or our brains are wired differently. We’ve got this. Focus on yourself. If only Mr. Damore had spent 8 of his 10 pages setting out the flaws in his personality, he probably would still have a job. The only inferiority that Mr. Damore definitively demonstrated is his own.

Finally, a word of advice: Girls, do not bother to read the manifesto. It isn’t worth your time. Read about Marie Curie instead who said: “We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

She was a scientist, by the way. Mr. Damore didn’t mention her.

Source: To the James Damores of the world: Focus on your own flaws – The Globe and Mail

We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Of all the commentary written about Google’s firing of James Damore, this long read and assessment of the science and evidence appears to me the most comprehensive and convincing one given the range of studies cited.

Most of the op-ed type commentaries – Jon Kay’s The Google Manifesto contained truths that we can’t say, Debra Soh’s No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science, David Brooks’ somewhat hysterical Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O. – tend to be overly simplistic and selective in their presentation of the issues involved.

I am also less than convinced by free speech arguments, perhaps reflecting my time in government where it was clear that any public comment should not undermine, or appear to undermine, the government. While the rules may not be so ironclad in other organizations, employees in all organizations need to be mindful of the impact of their public commentary on the overall reputation, image and policies of their employer.

For the account of the Google board deliberations, see How CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision to fire James Damore was just as hard as Google’s all-hands meeting today will be which highlights the superficialiity of Brook’s piece in particular:

James Damore, 28, questioned the company’s diversity policies and claimed that scientific data backed up his assertions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace. Pichai noted that “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Damore argued that many men in the company agreed with his sentiments. That’s not surprising, since the idea that women just can’t hack it in math and science has been around for a very long time. It has been argued that women’s lack of a “math gene,” their brain structures, and their inherent psychological traits put most of them out of the game.

Some critics sided with Damore. For example, columnist Ross Douthat of The New York Times found his scientific arguments intriguing.

But are they? What are the real facts? We have been researching issues of gender and STEM (science, technology engineering and math) for more than 25 years. We can say flatly that there is no evidence that women’s biology makes them incapable of performing at the highest levels in any STEM fields.

Many reputable scientific authorities have weighed in on this question, including a major paper in the journal Science debunking the idea that the brains of males and females are so different that they should be educated in single-sex classrooms. The paper was written by eight prominent neuroscientists, headed by professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association. They argue that “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.”

They add, “Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’s brains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ brain growth, neither of which is known to relate to learning.”

Several major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences between the sexes. Lise Eliot, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, did an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from birth to adolescence. She concluded, in her book, “Pink Brain, Blue Brain,” that there is “surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist and professor at Barnard College, also rejects the notion that there are pink and blue brains, and that the differing organization of female and male brains is the key to behavior. In her book “Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences,” she says that this narrative misunderstands the complexities of biology and the dynamic nature of brain development.

And happily, the widely held belief that boys are naturally better than girls at math and science is unraveling among serious scientists. Evidence is mounting that girls are every bit as competent as boys in these areas. Psychology professor Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has strong U. S. data showing no meaningful differences in math performance among more than seven million boys and girls in grades 2 through 12.

Also, several large-scale international testing programs find girls closing the gender gap in math, and in some cases outscoring the boys. Clearly, this huge improvement over a fairly short time period argues against biological explanations.

Much of the data that Damore provides in his memo is suspect, outdated or has other problems.

In his July memo, titled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” Damore wrote that women on average have more “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.” And he stated that women are more inclined to have an interest in “people rather than things, relative to men.”

Damore cites the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, who argues in his widely reviewed book “The Essential Difference” that boys are biologically programmed to focus on objects, predisposing them to math and understanding systems, while girls are programmed to focus on people and feelings. The British psychologist claims that the male brain is the “systematizing brain” while the female brain is the “empathizing” brain.

This idea was based on a study of day-old babies, which found that the boys looked at mobiles longer and the girls looked at faces longer. Male brains, Baron-Cohen says, are ideally suited for leadership and power. They are hardwired for mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles.

The female brain, on he other hand, is specialized for making friends, mothering, gossip and “reading” a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others, he says, that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

But Baron-Cohen’s study had major problems. It was an “outlier” study. No one else has replicated these findings, including Baron-Cohen himself. It is so flawed as to be almost meaningless. Why?

The experiment lacked crucial controls against experimenter bias, and was badly designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent’s lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can’t hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

Source: We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Google just hired a diversity VP — just as it struggles with a sexist memo from an employee – Recode

Culture change is hard:

Google recently announced a new head of diversity, just as it has had to deal with a controversial 3,000-word internal memo sent across the company by an employee.

It contains a series of what I can only describe as sexist twaddle, wrapped in the undeserved protection of free speech. (Hey bros who don’t agree, that’s just my opinion, so you’ll have to take it because … First Amendment and all!)

Danielle Brown, who was previously at Intel, was named the search giant’s new VP of diversity, integrity and governance several months ago and arrived a month ago. But she now has her first big test and it has to do with Silicon Valley’s latest problem.

Which is: Some male techies don’t seem to like women around computers.

She did note that in her memo she just sent to the company, noting she would not link to the employee’s memo because, ‘it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”

The employee memo —which has been up for days without action by the company — went viral within Google this weekend with some decrying it and others not. Sources said execs have been struggling with how to deal with it and the fall-out, trying to decide if its troubling content crosses a line or should be allowed to be aired.

It’s not an easy line to walk. The employee — whom I am not naming since he seems to be the subject of threats online — penned a piece he sent across the company that said, among other things, that women just can’t do tech.

Titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” it begins promisingly enough:

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”

But then, in what is pretty much the main premise, he went on in detail: “I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

Also men like status and, apparently, ladies like me are too nice to code.

More to come, but here is a memo Brown just sent out about the other memo:

“Affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion—and healthy debate

Googlers,

I’m Danielle, Google’s brand new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. I started just a couple of weeks ago, and I had hoped to take another week or so to get the lay of the land before introducing myself to you all. But given the heated debate we’ve seen over the past few days, I feel compelled to say a few words.

Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google. And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.”

Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company wide OKR on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.

Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

I’ve been in the industry for a long time, and I can tell you that I’ve never worked at a company that has so many platforms for employees to express themselves — TGIF, Memegen, internal G+, thousands of discussion groups. I know this conversation doesn’t end with my email today. I look forward to continuing to hear your thoughts as I settle in and meet with Googlers across the company.

Thanks,

Danielle”

Source: Google just hired a diversity VP — just as it struggles with a sexist memo from an employee – Recode

Update: Google has apparently fired the employee who wrote the offending memo.

Google is funding a new software project that will automate writing local news – Recode

More white collar jobs at risk – other professions will likely face similar partial replacement (e.g., lawyers, accountants):

Google is awarding the Press Association, a large British news agency, $805,000 to build software to automate the writing of 30,000 local stories a month.

The money comes from a fund from Google, the Digital News Initiative, that the search giant started with a commitment to invest over $170 million to support digital innovation in newsrooms across Europe.

The Press Assocation received the funding in partnership with Urbs Media, an automation software startup specializing in combing through large open datasets. Together, the Press Assocation and Urbs Media will work on a software project dubbed Radar, which stands for Reporters And Data And Robots.

Radar aims to automate local reporting with large public databases from government agencies or local law enforcement — basically roboticizing the work of reporters. Stories from the data will be penned using Natural Language Generation, which converts information gleaned from the data into words.

The robotic reporters won’t be working alone. The grant includes funds allocated to hire five journalists to identify datasets, as well as curate and edit the news articles generated from Radar. The project also aims to create automated ways to add images and video to robot-made stories.

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process,” said Peter Clifton, the editor in chief of the Press Assocation in a statement. “But Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.”

The Associated Press, a major U.S. news agency, started using automation software to generate stories about corporate financial quarterly earnings in 2014. The AP now posts thousands of stories every quarter with the help of its robotic reporting tools.

But the AP generally automates the generation of stories that don’t require investigation. Quarterly earnings are essential to cover for business journalism, but it often amounts to essentially sharing and comparing new numbers from the company with past earnings reports. That requires crunching numbers quickly, which might make more sense to be done by a robot.

The Radar project, on the other hand, plans to cover issues of local importance, digging into government datasets to find stories that matter. That kind of news judgement takes a deep understanding of social, political and local contexts, which humans are better suited to determine than software. The team of journalists who work on the project will likely be key to making it a success.

Still, Clifton says that this type of automated reporting can go a long way at a time of extreme financial pressures on media outlets, helping to cover important local stories — albeit with fewer people involved in the process.

Source: Google is funding a new software project that will automate writing local news – Recode

Why Google’s newest AI team is setting up in Canada – Recode

The Canadian advantage includes immigration and related policies:

DeepMind, Google’s London-based artificial intelligence research branch, is launching a team at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Why there? Two reasons come to mind:

1. Canada has a history of AI research

DeepMind is launching a team at the university partly for proximity to the broader AI research community in Canada.

A number of leading AI researchers in Silicon Valley hail from Canada, where they plugged away at deep learning, a complex automated process of data analysis, during a period when that technology — now popular at major tech companies — was considered by the larger computer science community to be a dead end.

Plus, almost a dozen DeepMind staff came from the university, according to a blog post by DeepMind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis announcing the new lab. An Alberta PhD and a former post doc from the school played key roles in one of DeepMind’s hallmark accomplishments, getting its AlphaGo software to beat the human world champion at Chinese strategy game Go.

“Our hope is that this collaboration will help turbocharge Edmonton’s growth as a technology and research hub,” wrote Hassabis, “attracting even more world-class AI researchers to the region and helping to keep them there too.”

2. The Canadian government is friendlier to AI research than the U.S.

Political realities also make Canada a particularly attractive place for Google to expand its AI efforts.

The Canadian government has demonstrated a willingness to invest in artificial intelligence, committing about $100 million ($125 million in Canadian currency) in its 2017 budget to develop the AI industry in the country.

This is in contrast to the U.S., where President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request includes drastic cuts to medical and scientific research, including an 11 percent or $776 million cut to the National Science Foundation.

Another contrast to the U.S. is in immigration policies. Canada doesn’t have an equivalent of the U.S. travel ban, which restricts travel for immigrants and refugees from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In the U.S., the ban makes it more difficult for tech and academic talent to enter the country.

Something interesting: One of the three researchers leading the team, Dr. Patrick M. Pilarski, is part of the university’s Department of Medicine. Google won’t comment on whether Pilarski’s medical background will play a role in his machine learning work for DeepMind, but Google is working on ways to integrate AI for health care as part of its cloud offering.

Source: Why Google’s newest AI team is setting up in Canada – Recode

Google offers a glimpse into its fight against fake news

Challenge to know how much the issue is being addressed without any independent watchdogs:

In the waning months of 2016, two of the world’s biggest tech companies decided they would do their part to curb the spread of hoaxes and misinformation on their platforms — by this point, widely referred to under the umbrella of “fake news.”

Facebook and Google announced they would explicitly ban fake news publishers from using their advertising networks to make money, while Facebook later announced additional efforts to flag and fact-check suspicious news stories in users’ feeds.

How successful have these efforts been? Neither company will say much — but Google, at least, has offered a glimpse.

In a report released today, Google says that its advertising team reviewed 550 sites it suspected of serving misleading content from November to December last year.

Of those 550 sites, Google took action against 340 of them for violating its advertising policies.

“When we say ‘take action’ that basically means, this is a site that historically was working with Google and our Adsense products to show ads, and now we’re no longer allowing our ad systems to support that content,” said Scott Spencer, Google’s director of product management for sustainable ads in an interview.

Nearly 200 publishers — that is, the site operators themselves — were also removed from Google’s AdSense network permanently, the company said.

Not all of the offenders were caught violating the company’s new policy specifically addressing misrepresentation; some may have run afoul of other existing policies.

In total, Google says, it took down 1.7 billion ads in violation of its policies in 2016.

Questions remain

No additional information is contained within the report — an annual review of bad advertising practices that Google dealt with last year.

In both an interview and a followup email, Google declined to name any of the publishers that had violated its policies or been permanently removed from its network. Nor could Google say how much money it had withheld from publishers of fake news, or how much money some of its highest-grossing offenders made.

Some fake news site operators have boasted of making thousands of dollars a month in revenue from advertising displayed on their sites.

‘I always say the bad guys with algorithms are going to be one step ahead of the good guys with algorithms.’– Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester Research

The sites reviewed by Google also represent a very brief snapshot in time — the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election — and Spencer was unable to say how previous months in the year might have compared.

“There’s no way to know. We take action against sites when they’re identified and they violate our policies,” Spencer said. “It’s not like I can really extrapolate the number.”

A bigger issue

Companies such as Google are only part of the picture.

“It’s the advertisers’ dollars. It’s their responsibility to spend it wisely,” said Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester Research who recently co-wrote a report on fake news for marketers and advertisers.

That, however, is easier said than done. Often, advertisers don’t know all of the sites on which their ads run — making it difficult to weed out sites designed to serve misinformation. And even if they are able to maintain a partial list of offending sites, “there’s no blacklist that’s going to be able to keep up with fake news,” Bidel said, when publishers can quickly create new sites.

Source: Google offers a glimpse into its fight against fake news – Technology & Science – CBC News

The head of Google’s Brain team is more worried about the lack of diversity in artificial intelligence than an AI apocalypse – Recode

The next frontier of diversity?

As some would have it, robots are poised to take over the world in about 3 … 2 … 1 …

But one machine-learning expert — who is, after all, in a position to know — thinks that’s not the biggest issue facing artificial intelligence. In fact, it’s not an issue at all.

“I am personally not worried about an AI apocalypse, as I consider that a completely made-up fear,” Jeff Dean, a senior fellow at Google, wrote during a Reddit AMA on Aug. 11. “I am concerned about the lack of diversity in the AI research community and in computer science more generally.” (Emphasis his.)

Ding, ding, ding. The issue that the tech industry is trying to maneuver their way around, for better or worse, is the same issue that can stunt the progress of “humanistic thinking” in the development of artificial intelligence, according to Dean.

For the optimists in the audience, Google Brain wants to improve lives, Dean wrote. And how can you improve lives without people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds helping to build and develop the technology you hope will impact positive change? (Answer: You can’t.)

“One of the things I really like about our Brain Residency program is that the residents bring a wide range of backgrounds, areas of expertise (e.g. we have physicists, mathematicians, biologists, neuroscientists, electrical engineers, as well as computer scientists), and other kinds of diversity to our research efforts,” Dean wrote.

“In my experience, whenever you bring people together with different kinds of expertise, different perspectives, etc., you end up achieving things that none of you could do individually, because no one person has the entire skills and perspective necessary.”

Source: The head of Google’s Brain team is more worried about the lack of diversity in artificial intelligence than an AI apocalypse – Recode

Un-Googled: Trudeau government had Harper web pages removed from search results

While it appears to have been standard practice in previous transitions, there is a need for easy and transparent access to historical documents.

My experience with the Library and Archives site is mixed in this regard, either directly with LAC or through Google searches:

Dozens of government web pages related to former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s time in office have been removed from all Google search results at the new Liberal government’s request.

In fact, the requests on behalf of the Privy Council Office to remove sites such as Harper’s daily.pm.gc.ca site and the former PMO’s 24seven video website from search results began Nov. 4, 2015 – the day Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government was sworn into office.

A few days later, on Nov. 9, 2015, the government asked Google to clear the index for the prime ministerial website pm.gc.ca for any page published prior to Nov. 4, 2015. The request was unsuccessful, however, because Google did not offer that option, according to documents tabled by the government in the House of Commons.

On Jan. 27, 2016, the government asked Google to remove dozens of sites containing Harper’s news releases in English and in French from search results.

Cameron Ahmad, spokesman for Trudeau, insisted the prime minister’s office did not make the request to have the websites related to Harper removed from Google search results and was not aware it had happened.

Christiane Fox, assistant secretary for communications in the Privy Council, said the requests to Google were part of the Privy Council’s standard transition from the Harper government to Trudeau’s. She said the content of Harper’s prime ministerial website was transferred to Library and Archives Canada but did not know whether it was online and available to the public.

In total, the documents tabled in the House of Commons show the government made 51 requests to Google between November 4, 2015 and March 3, 2016 to remove the government record of Harper’s time in office from its search results.

Attempts to access those url’s produce error messages – regardless of whether you search using Google or a web browser like Safari. Googling “Prime Minister Stephen Harper” and “news releases” leads you to Trudeau’s news releases, which begin the day his government was sworn in.

While government departments generally make the previous government’s news releases available on their websites there is no pointer on the prime minister’s website to archived news releases from any of his predecessors.

A check of an Internet Archive version of Stephen Harper’s prime ministerial website after he took power in 2006 does not include press releases from his predecessors. It is not known if requests were made at the time to remove his predecessor’s web pages from Google search results.

Conservative MP Candice Bergen, who tabled the order paper question asking about government requests to have material removed from search results, said she was “shocked” to learn the government had removed the pages related to Harper’s time in office from Google search results.

“Regardless of what somebody might think of Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper served the Canadian public as a member of parliament and then as prime minister for over 10 years.”

Bergen described the move as “Orwellian” and “censorship”, adding it was “sneaky”, “petty” and “not transparent.”

Bergen said she wants to know who decided to request the Harper pages be removed from search results and whether there was political direction behind the move.

Fox could not explain why some of the requests to Google to remove Harper era websites from search results were made in November at the time of the transition and dozens of others were only made in January.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was critical of the decision to remove Harper’s web pages from search results.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate. There’s a new government and I think people who want to google things in our past should be able to google things in our past.”

Source: Un-Googled: Trudeau government had Harper web pages removed from search results

Antisemitism watchdog adds (((echo))) symbol to hate list after Jews targeted: The Guardian

Appropriate reaction by Google:

US antisemitism watchdog, the Anti-Defamation League, has added the “(((echo)))” symbol, used online by white supremacists to single out Jews, to its online database of hate symbols.

The group’s decision comes days after Google removed a Chrome extension that was being used by antisemites to add triple parentheses around the names of prominent Jewish public figures including Michael Bloomberg and New York Times journalist Jonathan Weisman.

“The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with antisemites graffiti or taunting someone verbally,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s chief executive. “We at ADL take this manifestation of online hate seriously, and that’s why we’re adding this symbol to our database and working with our partners in the tech industry to investigate this phenomenon more deeply.”

The intersection of old-fashioned white supremacy and antisemitism with tech-savvy online groups centred around websites such as 4chan and Reddit has given rise to a movement loosely termed the “alt-right”. The echo symbol is just the latest artefact of that group’s thinking to burst into the mainstream, thanks largely to an article in late May from the NYT’s Weisman highlighting its use.

Weisman linked the antisemitism on display with the professed political support of those abusing him: the Twitter user who referred to him as “((Weisman))” went by the handle @CyberTrump.

But the denigration of Jews online extends beyond the Trump supporters highlighted by Weisman. An investigation by Mic revealed how widespread the symbol’s use has become, largely below the radar of the mainstream.

“To the public, the symbol is not easily searchable on most sites and social networks; search engines strip punctuation from results,” wrote the publication’s reporters, Cooper Fleishman and Anthony Smith. “This means that trolls committed to uncovering, labelling and harassing Jewish users can do so in relative obscurity: No one can search those threats to find who’s sending them.”

The pair trace the origins of the symbol back to far right blog Right Stuff. “In Right Stuff propaganda, you’ll often read that Jewish names ‘echo’. According to the blog’s lexicon page, ‘all Jewish surnames echo throughout history’. In other words, the supposed damage caused by Jewish people reverberates from decade to decade.” The parentheses are used to imply that same echo textually.

While many antisemites simply write out Jewish names with the parentheses manually, using it as a deliberate taunt, there was also a popular Chromeextension that automated the function. Named “Coincidence Detector” – a sarcastic reflection of the anti-semitic conspiracy that Jews control the media – it automatically flagged up common Jewish surnames to anyone who installed it.

Google removed Coincidence Detector on Thursday, citing terms and conditions that prohibit “promotions of hate or incitement of violence”, shortly after Mic wrote about the extension.

Source: Antisemitism watchdog adds (((echo))) symbol to hate list after Jews targeted | Technology | The Guardian