UPDATE: Google has restored Natural News to its search listings after a period of removing its 140,000 pages from the Google index.
In contrast to the anti-vax medical-conspiracy site’s claims that it was blacklisted for its contentious content – even to claiming its proTrump stance had led to its delisting – Google confirmed the site was removed because of a webmaster guidelines violation.
The site was relisted at the end of February.
A Google statement said that: “We don’t comment on individual sites, but if we find that a site violates one or more of our Webmaster Guidelines we may take manual action against it. For webmasters who have questions about their own sites, our Webmaster team provides support through platforms such as the Webmaster Forums. Once a site has remedied the problem, the webmaster can submit the site for reconsideration.”
Natural News said that “Google sent no warning whatsoever to our ‘webmaster tools’ email address on file with them.”
However, website Search Engine Land points out that “Not all penalties will receive a notification via Google Search Console. More extreme and deceptive violations will not receive such notifications.”
Citing a Tweet from John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, Search Engine Land says Google did post a message about the penalty in Google Search Console.
Mueller also added a thread that the site was penalised due to sneaky mobile redirects: “We’re seeing a bit of confusion & incorrect stories circulating about what’s happening here, so just to be super clear — Natural News is using a sneaky mobile redirect, which is prohibited by our webmaster guidelines. These redirects aren’t always easy to reproduce, they’re sometimes in widgets or served by ad networks, and can target specific devices, browsers, or user locations. As soon as this is cleaned up, the site can submit a reconsideration request through Search Console, and once that’s reviewed things will return to normal. No action has been taken based on the editorial content of this site.”
The original blacklisting meant that, while the site still existed, Google searches would not bring up any Natural News pages, only those third party sites, such as Wikipedia, which reference the organisation. Google holds a market share of more than 80 per cent of search engine activity, so this action would have had a significant impact on Natural News’s ability to attract visitors.
David ‘Orac’ Gorski of ScienceBlogs has called Natural News “one of the most wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet”, and its founder, Mike Adams (pictured above, on the right), as the most “blatant purveyor of the worst kind of quackery and paranoid anti-physician and anti-medicine conspiracy theories anywhere on the Internet”.
Regularly awarded the “worst site on the internet” by many skeptics and others, it has been strongly criticised for its misinformation by such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, ABC News, The New York Times, ScienceBlogs, Discover Magazine, Quackwatch, The Daily Herald, Grist, CBS News, The Daily Telegraph, Mother Jones, the Austin Business Journal, and innumerable Internet blogs.
Sharon Hill of Doubtful News says that: “The negative responses to Natural News are not from people with a grudge, they are from journalists and writers who care about people’s health and a safe, reasonable society.”
Naturally, Adams saw it differently. In typical hyperbolic style, he said that “Silencing Natural News is all part of the globalist ‘script’ for the enslavement of a population kept ignorant of reality.
“The take down of Natural News … follows a pattern of censorship we’re seeing being levelled against other pro-Trump websites.
“You are witnessing a modern-day book burning by the internet Gestapo, that now decides what knowledge you’re never allowed to access … especially because much of that knowledge can help set humanity free.”
For a while, at least, humanity was free of Natural News.
As Hill pointed out before Google’s initial action: “If you read NN, which is possible because the damn thing is very popular, you are indulging in the wrongness; please go prepared for massive doses of nonsense and delusional commentary. If you share any of these stories as useful or true, you need an immediate intervention. Every time you share one of their links, even to make fun of it, you add to their Google search ranking. So don’t do that. Just don’t ever click on that site for anything.”
At the time of the original posting of this article, Bing, the search engine with the second highest market share (7.15 per cent), still listed Natural News’ site in its results.