Google, which is neither a governmental agency nor a health organization, is nonetheless acting as such in their latest push to provide “accurate and timely information on COVID-19 vaccines.”1 In a blog post published December 10, 2020, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, and Kristie Canegallo, the company’s vice president of trust and safety, detailed Google’s plans for COVID-19 vaccine promotion.
Since the start of the outbreak, Google has introduced more than 200 products and initiatives, including an exposure notification contact tracing system, which aims to alert individuals via their cellphones if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19;2 the potential privacy violations of this technology are immense, and it’s only one such example.
Now, Google notes,3 “As the world turns its focus to the deployment of vaccines, the type of information people need will evolve.” With communities being “vaccinated at an unprecedented pace and scale,” Google intends to share “information to educate the public, including addressing vaccine misperceptions and hesitance, and helping to surface official guidance to people on when, where and how to get vaccinated.”
Starting in the United Kingdom, with plans to roll out to other countries as more vaccines are authorized, Google will launch a new search feature so that whenever someone searches for information on COVID-19 vaccines, they’ll be given a list of authorized vaccines in their area along with information panels on each vaccine.
They’ve also teamed up with the Australian Science Media Centre (SMC) to spread more fact-checking propaganda as part of their COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub — a disturbing revelation considering SMC’s long history of corporate and government bias.
Google and Industry Front Group AusSMC Team Up
To help influence the media through its search engine, Google’s News Initiative gave $ 1.5 million toward the creation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub as well as to support fact-checking. According to Google:4
“Led by the Australian Science Media Centre, and with support from technology non-profit Meedan, the hub will be a resource for journalists, providing around-the-clock access to scientific expertise and research updates.
The initiative includes science media centers and public health experts from Latin America, Africa, Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, with content being made available in seven languages.”
Science Media Centres exist in a number of countries, including the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with a reported mission to provide “high-quality” scientific information to journalists. Their mission, as stated on their website, is:5
“To provide, for the benefit of the public and policymakers, accurate and evidence-based information about science and engineering through the media, particularly on controversial and headline news stories when most confusion and misinformation occurs.”
But SMC is not an independent news agency as it claims to be, as it counts among its biggest funders a number of high-level industry players with worldwide agendas, including the Wellcome Trust, GlaskoSmithKline, CropLife International, Sanofi and AstraZeneca.6 To put it simply, as reported by the U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) SMC promotes corporate views of science:7
“The Science Media Centre launched [in the U.K.] in 2002 in response to ‘media frenzies over MMR, GM crops and animal research’ to help news outlets better represent mainstream science, according to the SMC fact sheet. According to the group’s fact sheet. In its  founding report,8 the SMC was created to address:
• A growing ‘crisis of confidence’ in society’s views of science
• A collapse of respect for authority and expertise
• A risk-averse society and alarmist media coverage and
• The ‘apparently superior media strategies’ used by environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth”
SMC’s Power Over Media
Google’s partnership with SMC to provide COVID-19 vaccine information isn’t about real fact-finding and sharing the truth. It’s about parroting the company line and spreading propaganda to the masses — something they’ve been successful at in the past.
As noted by USRTK,9 “… The SMC model has been influential in shaping media coverage about science. A media analysis10 of U.K. papers in 2011 and 2012 found that a majority of reporters who used SMC services did not seek additional perspectives for their stories.” The analysis reviewed two of the services provided by SMC:
- “Roundups & rapid reactions,” which provide lists of “expert” statements in the relevant field directly to journalists
- “Briefings,” which provide expert opinions on scientific events for use by the media
The case study used for the analysis was a study of paralyzed rats that learned to walk again after the stimulation of neurons. The majority of news articles (60%) that covered SMC’s briefings did not use an independent non-SMC source.
Among news articles that used SMC’s expert reactions, 23% did not use an independent source, and of the rest that did, only 32% included external sources that offered an opposing view to the one provided by SMC.
The analysis concluded that there are “more journalists than there should be” that are relying solely on SMC information instead of consulting independent sources.11 Still, SMC claims it is objective and nonbiased because it caps donations from any one institution at 5% of annual income (the Wellcome Trust and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are exceptions, contributing over the 5% upper limit).12
But how much independence is truly retained when so much of the funding comes from different companies and front groups within the same industries? Their panel of “experts” represent the funding industries’ agendas and are not providing the media with objective academic feedback. In short, SMC has one agenda, and that is to infiltrate you with corporate propaganda.
SMC’s Political Clout
SMC’s political influence is also concerning. “In 2007,” USRTK reported, “SMC stopped a proposed ban on human/animal hybrid embryos with its media campaign to shift coverage from ethical concerns to the benefits of embryos as a research tool …”13 At the time, the U.K. government was planning to ban human/animal hybrid embryos after public consultations revealed ethical concerns, but SMC changed that. As Nature reported:14
“Perhaps the biggest criticism of [SMC director Fiona] Fox and the SMC is that they push science too aggressively — acting more as a PR agency than as a source of accurate science information. In December 2006, for example, the UK government indicated that it planned to ban scientists from creating hybrid embryos containing cells from humans and other animals.
… Researchers, funders and scientific societies organized a campaign to change the government’s mind. The SMC coordinated the media outreach, hosting five briefings at which scientists played down ethical qualms and said that hybrid embryos were a valuable research tool that might lead to disease treatments.
The resulting media coverage reflected those views, according to an analysis of the campaign’s effectiveness commissioned by the SMC and other campaign supporters.
More than 60% of the sources in stories written by science and health reporters — the ones targeted by the SMC — supported the research, and only one-quarter of sources opposed to it. By contrast, journalists who had not been targeted by the SMC spoke to fewer supportive scientists and more opponents.
The SMC was ‘largely responsible for turning the tide of coverage on human–animal hybrid embryos,’ says Andy Williams, a media researcher at the University of Cardiff, UK, who carried out the analysis … But Williams now worries that the SMC efforts led reporters to give too much deference to scientists, and that it stifled debate. It was a strategic triumph in media relations,’ he says.”
‘It’s a Really Dangerous Thing’
Google and SMC are pulling out all the stops to censor COVID-19 related information, especially that surrounding vaccines. In addition to the SMC-led COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub, Google states they’re conducting research to find out “what kinds of formats, headlines and sources are most effective in correcting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and whether fact checks that follow these best practices impact willingness to get vaccinated.”15
This blatant censorship under the guise of “fact checking” has been going on for months. For instance, Google’s June 2019 update effectively removed Mercola.com from Google search results. Our referenced content has been at the top of health search results for over 15 years, but now when entering a health-related search word into Google, you will no longer find Mercola.com articles in the search results.
The only way to locate Mercola articles is by adding “Mercola.com” to the search word(s) in question. If undesirable pages don’t vanish automatically in the new algorithm, Google’s quality raters will manually manipulate crowdsourced relevance to bury the page or pages. The same occurs in regard to COVID-19 vaccine information. Data that contradict or question the status quo are buried, while the official narrative is pushed to the top.
Now, with SMC further controlling the media by sending out talking points to journalists on COVID-19, it’s further limiting the type of real scientific debate that’s necessary to protect public health and health freedom. Ian Sample, The Guardian’s science editor, explained one such example to Nature.16
In 2013, he had a short deadline to report a story on a tornado that struck in Oklahoma. He received three emails from SMC that day, containing tornado facts and comments from 11 researchers, “many addressing the controversial link between extreme weather and global warming.” He was happy to have the “help,” working the information into the story in order to meet the deadline. “That information was really handy,” he said.17 However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Despite its convenience, relying on “facts” from an industry front group will skew real science. “It’s a really dangerous thing and an easy thing for journalists to start relying on SMC comments,” Sample said. “We should be picking who we’re talking to and picking which questions we’re asking.”
Connie St. Louis, director of the science journalism course at City University, London, agreed. As one of SMC’s noted critics, she told Nature18 that SMC was “fueling a culture of churnalism,” and since journalists began relying on SMC briefings instead of finding their own information “the quality of science reporting and the integrity of information available to the public have both suffered.”
Where Can You Find the Truth?
Efforts to shut down public discussions about health information are in full force. So what can you do? Knowledge truly is power, so look beyond fact-checkers’ labels and the top of Google’s canned search results — and the corporations behind them — in your search for truth. I also recommend boycotting Google by avoiding any and all Google products. Tips for achieving this follow:
- Stop using Google search engines. Alternatives include DuckDuckGo and Startpage
- Uninstall Google Chrome and use Brave or Opera browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices. From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Chrome and offers a free VPN service (virtual private network) to further preserve your privacy
- If you have a Gmail account, try a non-Google email service such as ProtonMail, an encrypted email service based in Switzerland
- Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives19
- If you’re a student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts