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Google removes over 5M reviews from Play Store to improve TikTok rating (indiatoday.in)
294 points by sdan 40 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 103 comments

This really hits on a lot of nerves of the general HN crowd (especially when these things are combined):

- Google

- "Censorship" (loosely defined)

- China (vs India vs a US company, which could really be its own point)

But if you read the article it seems to be a logical decision. Google (likely) did something similar for zoom: https://www.androidpolice.com/2020/03/24/zooms-android-app-r...

Assuming there's nothing left out by the author, I don't really think there's anything newsworthy here, just something that google did that aligns with its past actions (not to say it doesn't belong on HN)

I swear you could generate a 100% realistic comment thread from a Markov chain of those broad topics.

Wow, excerpt of my first attempt with this:

> I'm sure Google is planning to release a time machine which can manage the tracking of tasks that I just worked on last year.

> I can't tell if it's a "Google Timemachine" or a "Google Tracking App". If they release a "Time TimeMachine", this is a killer feature that will have a huge impact on how people interact with their time. I would be interested to know if this also means that you can just add a "Time TimeMachine" that will do some tracking on the number of meetings you have, or if I want to track your "time."

that is surprisingly good. I tried "world is ending in the next 2 weeks" and I'm not sure I would recognise them as fake.

there was no China Vs India. Just Tiktok vs Youtube - really Indian Youtube and Tiktok content creators dissing each other...

I just meant that Tiktok is a chinese owned company (and therefore state-owned). China has forced companies to do similar things before.

> chinese owned company (and therefore state-owned)

lol. It's almost as if the entire reason that China is not a backward stagnant economy is because they allowed people to own things, on their own. But here we'll just close our eyes and pretend that didn't happen.

Not really, we apparently accept that Chinese companies are privately owned, that's the stated legality.

That 'all large Chinese companies are controlled to a greater or lesser degree by the state' - is a matter of fact highly suppressed and obfuscated by the state for purposes of aggressie control and statecraft.

Nobody cares that much that there's a degree of 'central planning' to grow the Chinese economy.

People care a lot that Huawei states they are 99% employee-owned, but in reality we don't really know who actually holds the power and that it seems more likely that the state has deep levers of control.

It would be more transparent to just accept that Zoom and TikTok can and will be used as tools of the CCP.

As far as Google and reviews ... it's going to be important that they remain very transparent and above board in such issues given all of the relevant factors.

So all the success of all Chinese companies are led by the CCP, why don't the world (west) give up? They seem to be a perfect leader for world economy :)

That's not how it works. You've put up an argumentative strawman.

Right, by strong-arming businesses with the threat of not having access to the Chinese market - i.e. forcing Apple to move Chinese citizen cloud data to government-owned data centers.

Google doesn't even have access to China so there's no financial motivation.

In 2018 google demonstrated interest in re-entering the chinese market: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonfly_(search_engine)

It wouldn't be a stretch to assume there's something going on behind the scenes that China could use to force Google's hand. I'm not saying that's what happened but that is a possible response I was thinking about when writing my original comment.

And summarily pulled out after Google employees revolted, showing that the employees at Google care more about privacy than money than the employees at Apple.

Google still doesn't have access to China and even if they tried it again, the employees would leak and stop it again.

>“Upon review by our teams, we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and we are working to fix it as quickly as possible,” said a YouTube spokesperson.


Some of the critiques of TikTok definitely fell into nationalist bait, but then again cheap tribalism is as easy fodder for disses today as in any time in history.

> On Friday, BJP MP from Sultanpur and an animal activist, Maneka Gandhi, took to Twitter to slam the Head of TikTok for refusing to delete videos depicting animal cruelty and handing over details of such video creators to the concerned authorities.

> She also accused the Chinese app of increasing its users at the expense of violence against women, children, and animals, besides spreading fake news. “Are you working for India or China? This is not acceptable. I want a much better and firmer commitment immediately and I need to see it in action,” Maneka Gandhi concluded.


Pls don't quote opindia as a news source. They've been caught intentionally spreading fake news like a 100 times. Pls don't.

Edit: Adding a thread which gives just one example among the hundreds. https://twitter.com/free_thinker/status/1262108843464486914?...

says who, even bigger fake news spreaders are TheWire, quint etc. You are projecting your ideological biases here.

What do you mean bias??!! That's from a verified source

> Google (likely) did something similar for zoom

Zoom is a good example of terrible user experience. It won't even summarize the status of your connection and the meeting you are trying to join. If Skype fixed Multi-Party and made it free we would have roasted Microsoft for doing it as poorly as Zoom and Google would have filtered nothing.

What? Zoom is literally the only solution where I've send a link to people with almost no experience regarding computers and it just works.

They have to install software by default.

Meet and Whereby, on the other hand, require nothing but a modern browser.

While I like whereby, you cannot call someone. You can only meet when all parties know it is time to meet.

Good for calendar scheduled meetings, bad for casual chat.

Skype and zoom cover that part, I do bot know for meet.

and Jitsi

I will whole heartedly disagree. I set up a Meets for my whole family, no one had any issues connecting (and they used an array of devices from phones to laptops) just using the link in the calendar invite. I've used Blue jeans across several companies, not a single issue using just links.

Zoom has the worst UX of any of them. Here's what it looks like when I join a Zoom meeting:

Paste URL into browser (URL has company subdomain). Get redirected to a generic login page that asks how I want to log in, as if they have no way of knowing that my company has SSO enabled. Click SSO, get redirected to a new page asking me for my company's subdomain despite the fact that they already have it from the original URL. Get redirected to my company's SSO login and login. Redirected back, where they ask for my name, every time, even though it's on my profile. Finally, type in the meeting password and join.

It's literally awful. I can't think of a worse way to implement that flow. And I'm not installing their desktop app. Given their horrendous security track record, the fact that they shouldn't need a thick app to begin with, and that it has to run on my desktop because corporate VDI has terrible performance in video calls.

Bit OT but agree Zoom UX is weird awful. Still, the video works nearly all the time, which I guess is the most important thing.

What specific aspects of the UX would you say are awful? Because at the moment I’d strongly disagree, Zooms UX, along with how easy it is to join meetings, is one of the primary reasons it’s popularity has skyrocketed since the pandemic started. Users find it extremely simple and easy to use.

> Users find it extremely simple and easy to use.

Anecdotally, I'd disagree with this statement. It seems people pay for it because the video is more reliable than web apps and skype.

It's really rather basic stuff: "Schedule" is used as a noun but it can also be a verb, so bad choice of labels. To admit someone to a room I have to bring up the partipants chat. Wtf. When I'm in another application whilst awaiting people to join I have to keep checking, why not a notification and sound when they join? If I'm trying to join a meeting in similar situation, I can't work because there's a window blocking my screen (Mac). The constant suggestions of dial-in audio (wtf) are annoying and confusing. etcetera, ad infinitum. Additional complaints: there is a weird bug that causes audio quality to drop to "tinny phone" levels when using airpods. They fixed it. And now they broke it again. The white balance doesn't work and I can't adjust it...

Don't get me wrong, I use it because the video works with groups and doesn't stutter often. But the UX is awful.

afair it's also something steam does for games: after some time remove votes from the accumulated vote when they seem from reviewbombing. https://kotaku.com/valve-says-it-will-remove-off-topic-revie...

I think the motivation is legitimate as the votes do not reflect the actual app/game.

If Google want to remove all negative review at TikTok app then Google first ask personally to all reviewers. If reviewers are agree to remove their review then Google proceed.

If Google want to remove all negative review then Google also allow all fake reviewer for increasing any app rating.

>"Another reason was the enraged fans of famous Indian YouTuber Carry Minati flooding PlayStore with 1-star reviews.

Carry Minati had created a video titled YouTube Vs TikTok, part of an ongoing feud between YouTube and TikTok users. His video went viral and was taken down for violating YouTube’s terms of service. This happended because many TikTok users reported the video saying it was bullying in nature."

Seems reasonable enough to remove those because this is just brigarding and has nothing to do with authentic users of the app.

I happened to watch the video, which was a response to a Tiktok user badmouthing Youtube creators. I didn't really see any bullying, just funny retorts. I guess when it comes to Youtube, they just censor anything as long as enough people complain.

500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute; it's impossible to moderate all of that. "Lots of users reported it in a short timespan" is a reasonable heuristic to quickly remove ISIS beheading videos and whatnot.

It's not perfect, but nothing YouTube does at this kind of scale will be.

Right, but in addition, not providing any transparency to the content creator, or any ability to appeal the decision or re-instate the video in my opinion is unforgivable.

Yeah, the entire process of dealing with exceptions (or indeed, anything that involves human judgement) is atrocious at YouTube, and has been for many years.

jwz wrote about this years ago as well (and there are many more stories): https://www.jwz.org/blog/2014/10/youtubes-joke-of-a-fair-use...

That being said, I feel too many people fail to appreciate the problems YouTube is facing and are too quick to simply shout "censorship!"

That link calls me a brogrammer man child... My ego is hurt.

> 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute; it's impossible to moderate all of that.

Ironically, I hear about this fact every time Youtube makes the news for ... you know ... moderating all of that.

More accurately, they make the news for attempting and failing. Removing something benign is also a failure.

I don't think it's even brigading -- that implies that it's at least humans. The app gained somewhere on the order of tens of millions of one-star reviews over a short period of time. To me, that sounds more like someone's generating the one-star reviews.

CarryMinati has nearly 20 million subscribers[1], and he was just one of many... forces, behind the reviews storm. India has over a billion people with at least 500 million smartphone users[2], tens of millions isn't that out of the way.

[1] https://socialblade.com/youtube/c/addicteda1 [2] https://www.news18.com/news/tech/smartphone-users-in-india-c...

> India has over a billion people with at least 500 million smartphone users, tens of millions isn't that out of the way.

One out of every fifty or so people in a country the size of India getting involved enough in an Internet fight to download and rate an Android app is pretty hard to believe.

10M is a huge number, even for a big country like India.

Indians sure as heck don't need motivation to download TikTok; it was downloaded 323 million times in India over last year.


In principle I can see the argument that this is low quality content that doesn’t help YT at all, but more salient is how unbelievably easy YT’s moderation system is to abuse. For a company proud of their AI chops, their ability to detect astroturfing is pretty weak.

I posted in other comment, if I tell you that X restaurant sucks because they have rats everywhere, and you go to that restaurant and actually see the rats and rate it as 1 star on Yelp, are those not authentic users? Who counts as authentic user on TikTok, do the people who have viewed videos created on TikTok but shared on Twitter?

> f I tell you that X restaurant sucks because they have rats everywhere, and you go to that restaurant and actually see the rats and rate it as 1 star on Yelp, are those not authentic users?

Yes they are but that's not what's going on here. The barrage of downvotes in this case was the result of a platform feud between Youtube and TikTok content creators who told their userbases to go and vote the app down, and some sort of issue between India and China.

These people likely have not used the app at all, aren't actually evaluating the app itself, and the grievances they have are likely irrelevant to the vast majority of users who look at the rating.

That's not true, there are plenty of disturbing videos of men promoting rapes and assaulting them using chemicals. If those videos were restricted to TikTok, that would have been a different case but TikTok actively promotes sharing these videos on other networks and the viewers have authentic concerns.

I agree that PlayStore is doing it right by removing the reviews that are related to the service but not pertaining to the Android App itself, but then what counts as "using the app"? Seeing the videos created on TikTok counts as "using the app" or just the experience of the app itself? I would describe those reviews as "non-descriptive" than irrelevant, but yes they are very noisy. It's about the same as rating 4chan on trustpilot.

Also, if any country that has banned TikTok, like UAE or Indonesia, because of a different jurisdiction, then it's a valid criticism? If I go to a restaurant, and they only accept Chinese currency, then I would rate it as 1-star since I have only USD and the restaurant is not my preference.

I understand the need to remove "review bombs", but aren't review bombs reviews too?

Say a company that develops a product says or does something insensitive, in the earlier days, people would publicly boycott that product, related products or what have you. The company would either stand down and apologize, or put it's foot down and say it's right.

Now picture the same thing with Tik-Tok. There are innumerable instances where Tik-tok has been shown to be biased, censors specific content, etc etc.

Review bombing is as good as boycotting a company. Causing a company real consequences in response to their actions.

It's a form of rightful protest. I am not using the product. I am expressing my views about the product in a review system that is public and open. As long as there are no bots involves, Google is morally wrong, in my view.

The point of a reviews from an app store's perspective is to help users decide whether they would benefit from an app. That some subreddit or Twitter or whatever decides to brigade a particular app does not necessarily provide much signal about whether a generic user will want an app. An app marketplace is not generally going to be interested in facilitating boycotts on apps in the given marketplace. If it wants an app boycotted, it can ban it. Otherwise, the incentives are probably not aligned.

> aren't review bombs reviews too?

No? I mean, a review is supposed to be an informed opinion of another user of the software telling me whether it meets the expectations its store page sets. If reviews become generic forums for comments on corporate policies then they become useless.

I'm with Google here. They provide many forums for people to complain about TikTok already. They certainly shouldn't be forced to do so in app reviews.

Steam has an interesting approach to review bombs, it keeps the negative reviews visible but excludes them from the aggregated rating. The rating has a big asterisk with info that this game has had a "period of off-topic review activity detected", allowing you to see when this period was, the percentage of reviews excluded, and the "off-topic" reviews themselves.

As an example: Borderlands 2 [1], which got review bombed when Borderlands 3 was announced to launch exclusive to the Epic Game Store.

[1] https://store.steampowered.com/app/49520/Borderlands_2/#app_...

I aggree that "review bombs" are reviews too, but they intend to review something different from what is intended: the company creating the product instead of the product.

If you intend the reviews to be a help for deciding on the merits of the product, they are noise. Many people consider "didn't fit my purpose 1/5" or "amazon canceled the shipping on me 1/5" reviews as noise, even though they are not useless. I think, "review bombs" are similar.

Curious, how is India Today generally regarded in India? I ask because to me the style and tone of this article sounds like something that came out of an elementary school newspaper. E.g. "It was still the talk of the town but for all the wrong reasons", "could be the result of Google removing user reviews so that the app could get some balance." The hackneyed cliches and oddly stating a presumption as fact just strike me as extremely juvenile.

I'm in no way saying US news is better, and it is often times much worse, but it's usually not worse in the way this article is.

It's kind of the state of Indian news media of this generation. All outlets are crazy for making even mundane coverage as dramatic as possible to compete.

India today is the most widely circulated magazine in India and had a lot of prominent journalist associated with it.

Unfortunately in this day of freelance writers, publications care more about views and speed than quality and this has happened to almost all print media be it Forbes(1) or India today.

(1) https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

It's fine, not great.

People are discussing this as a China vs India thing.

It is not.

People recently found that TikTok is extremely lax in dealing with content that promotes violence.


Or Youtube takes an extreme viewpoint banning anything remotely close to content with weapons.

Tiktok too takes an extreme viewpoint banning anything remotely close to offending China.

Yeah, I remember a Tiktocker getting banned for pointing out that China has Muslims in concentration camps and it barely made the news cycle. Tiktok found something else she had also violated and used that as a banning offense...but we all know full well they would have never enforced that were it not for her CCP rant. Tiktok has a lot of creatives on it, but I worry that it's a bit of an infiltration.

The last time TikTok was proactive in removing violent content, it got blamed for censorship.

There was a girl who posted a video that included pictures of Bin Laden, so TikTok removed it. She then created alt accounts and continued posting. When TikTok removed the video again, the news media said it was because she mentioned Uighurs, when in reality it was because of the Bin Laden pictures.

I'd take a guess the real explanation is far simpler... Google let's anyone write a review, but if an end-of-week logs analysis shows that you never installed the app, or that the review was written via tor from an account created 30 seconds ago, then it's removed as spam.

Does it work like this for all apps?

I guess so

Were they real reviews, or Indian review-bombs generated as part of a nationalistic campaign to get back at China?

Review sections were weaponized long ago, first by companies, and now, increasingly, by nations.

Indian review-bombs, but for the other reasons entirely. The dumb ones as well.

You can judge for yourself. Currently if you sort by 'Most relevant', it looks like about 90% of the reviews are 1 star, by Indian users.

Indian review-bombs.

Google did this as part of review integrity. Doesn't have anything to do with censorship, as far as i can tell.

disclaimer: ex-google employee, who did not work in play.

Work in play, heh...

Silly puns aside though, I definitely agree with your viewpoint.

>to improve TikTok rating

The article gives no evidence of this. Sure the rating improved from 1.2/5 to 1.5/5, but that doesn't mean it's the purpose of the removal.

Posting from a throwaway account - This article barely scratches the surface. This was a very entertaining story that I followed to the minute and here’s some context:

Tiktok content, specifically in India, from the very start has been very[1] very[2] _cringy_ (weird hairstyles, weird things being said, weird ways of expressing friendship, love, etc). I don’t mean the cringe that you associate with western Tiktok content but for some reason majority of what the Indian kids were producing stood out as being beyond cringe to existing internet users (mainly Youtube / Instagram userbase). I suspect this has to do with the millions of first-time internet / smartphone users on Tiktok + the heavy influence of exaggerated emotional Bollywood drama now being done in 15 seconds on a smartphone.

Youtube on the other hand obviously had an existing audience that was used to consuming content of a certain level of quality / production. Apart from just pure cringe content, Tiktok obviously did not bother with copyright infringements much and in fact promoted the concept of people plagiarizing each other’s work. So the Youtube / IG communities started making memes and calling out the cringe and bad content of Tiktok.

At some point one of the big influencers on Tiktok (Amir Siddiqui referred to in this article) provoked one of the biggest Indian Youtuber, Carryminati who is known for roasting people. Amir made a video saying Tiktok videos require talent, hard work, and a lot more dedication than Youtube videos and basically asked Carry to roast him.

Carry then took on the challenge and released an 8-minute roast video that beautifully called out all the cringe that tiktok users make, things that Amir had done in the past, etc. That Youtube roast video set several records within hours. The roast was actually so effective, it was hilarious to browse through Tiktok for the next few days as the entire Tiktok community sort of agreed and started making fun of each other and that single video actually shook the entire Tiktok community.

About 5-6 days later, Youtube took down the video (which was now the highest liked video of India by far) without explanation probably after receiving thousands of flags from tiktok users. It’s worth mentioning that the roast included comparisons of Amir to being a eunuch multiple times among other questionable insults because of his past tiktok videos. In my opinion, the video was definitely not trying to be Politically Correct but it wasn’t bad enough to be taken down.

Once the video was taken down, the Youtube and Instagram(meme pages) community started a campaign to leave a 1-star rating for Tiktok on the playstore and basically destroyed their rating which was about 4.5 when this started.

In case you’re wondering, I am an avid HN reader, an accomplished software engineer but I do spend about 5% of my free time enjoying Indian cringe. In fact I curate a big list of my favorites and share with my friends but very few people actually enjoy the cringe.

Was it worth explaining all of this to one of the most intellectually stimulating forums on the internet? Probably not. But I had to admit to myself that I know a lot more about this story than I’m proud to admit and that it would make me happy that it gets saved in the HN archive.

A copy of the original video that was taken down by Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoZ241zUgbA

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciYohWR2Pio [2] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg9gjmcHgE8

A copy of the original video that was taken down by Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoZ241zUgbA

Well, that copy has also been removed, and now I’m curious to see it. Is there any other copy around?

Edit: OK, here it is as part of a “reaction” video, and includes English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqxs6S2sc30&t=2m10s

Yo this is fascinating, I appreciate you writing it up. I googled Faizal Siddique before I found your comment, but the majority of the results are those SEO bait listicles — "The 17 things are intern found out about Faizal after 10 seconds of research"/

This should have been top comment.

This is a really good case for network effects. If you go through the reviews, a lot of people are complaining that they are not getting any "views" for their content. As more and more people are bombing the reviews, uninstalling, it's discouraging people from creating more content because it's not being viewed enough.

Does anyone know if disabling views or delaying gratification of content will reduce the damaging effect on the TikTok network?

Also, vis-a-vis Yelp, why should review bombs be removed when I can go to a restaurant and review it as 1-rated if I am not treated well by them even if I don't complete any transaction?

The Google Play Store reviews are pretty much worthless and corrupted by ratings farms and app developers that steal the users google credentials to post fake 5 star reviews from within the app itself. There was a time where you didn’t have the option to only view negative reviews. At least that has improved to where users have options in a drop-down menu.

It has only a 1.4 star rating as of right now. It clearly didn't do anything to help the rating of the app.

Oh wow. Why such difference with iOS store where it’s over 4?

Edit: it’s all clearly spam on Google Store

It's even more obvious on the "lite" version of their app. Within the last month (probably even more recently), the total number of installs nearly doubled, and the rating dropped from a reasonably stable 4.0 to 1.1.


(Amusingly, the ratings of the other TikTok app, which looks like it might not be available in India, are unaffected: https://www.androidrank.org/application/tiktok/com.ss.androi...)

I have a very hard time believing that this represents organic user behavior. It seems far more likely that someone's scripted the process of installing and rating the apps.

The population segment involved in this whole tiktok vs youtube drama mostly uses Android. iOS is not as popular in India as Android mostly due to higher prices.

It could have been far worse had the negative reviews were not removed

The lowest rating is 1 star. 1.4 is almost as bad as you can get.

Seems like every major tech company bows in front of the Chinese government. This is really scary

I wonder if there's any signal to disambiguate whether Google decided to kill the reviews or algorithmically determined 5 million accounts were bots, and those bots also happened to have been used in a TikTok brigading campaign.

I thought review manipulation goes against google policy? Or this only applies for apps with a limited budget?

I just stumbled on a site that heavily leans on the “tech is censoring Trump” angle, namely this article about Google taking down a study on Hydroxycholoquine. I thought of posting it to front page, but instead I can just attach to this other timely thread of Google being evil/censors.

Genuinely curious about info people have around this, if it is legit or not. It seems like something you’d have expected to see here front page, but then again this site leans left.


It looks fake. Would a real medical researcher refer to SARS-CoV-2 as "coronavirus" in the title, as if they didn't know there were other common human coronaviruses? Why are they publishing on Google Drive instead of MedrXiv? Why is the last author a lawyer? Why does it say "Stanford PhD" in the byline? Dr. Broker (the first author) does seem to have been doing biomedical research at UAB last year (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336977942_Targeting... is a legitimate virology research paper he worked on, which doesn't make obvious errors like the above), but https://web.archive.org/web/20200403213718/https://www.uab.e... suggests he was gone by April 3. https://www.peakprosperity.com/forum-topic/chloroquine-hoax/ says he was born in 1944, so he'd be 76?

Hmm, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8143845/Malaria-cur... says, "Professor Thomas Broker, who was named in the 'white paper' before it was removed from Google, asked for his name to be disassociated with it, while the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he works, said a claim that Nobel Prize winner Dr. Louise Chow's laboratory was involved was also false."

"…the university's public relations manager Bob Shepard added that Dr. Chow, a Nobel-prize winner mentioned in the acknowledgments, was no part of the study.

"'No one at UAB has any connection to this paper,' Shepard said.

"Shepard said that Broker 'had previously done research into chloroquine as a possible therapy for human papillomavirus' which is more commonly known as HPV.

"Shepard said: 'He had some contact with one of the authors of that paper at that time. He had no involvement with the work on coronavirus and is not affiliated with that research in any way.'"

Now, I don't want to depend on the Daily Mail, but it seems like they may happen to have been correct in this case.

Yea would like to see source outside DailyMail.

Also to people downvoting, why? I’m not backing the source, I’m just curious.

Likely because you posted a comment asking if a source is true on a completely unrelated post.

Google and censorship, not related?

Is antispam censorship? You tell me.

Haha that’s a really great way of putting it.

All the worst censorship is framed as anti-spam/hate/misinformation, absolutely.

It's still possible to have personal judgement if a claim is true.

I assume many people would aggree that preventing bots from spamming a forum is not a form of censorship, even though it might be "technically true" in a sense that muddies the seriousnes of what we usually mean with censorship.

So having dissenting accounts deleted and the company claiming they are cleared as anti-spam does not mean anti-spam suddenly falls within the narrow definition of censorship some people use. It means the company is lying.

Yea in many cases anti spam isn’t censorship.

But in a few very nefarious cases, censorship is framed as anti-spam, or anti-hate, etc.

Google is on the frontlines of this. They banned InfoWars for example, any other “hateful” sites. They regularly change rankings for the sake of clearing spam, but almost always nerf a few legit sites that then are screwed under the weight of the machine.

Just because they do legit anti-spam doesn’t mean the also don’t do a variety of pretty evil things. Their search results are very liberal leaning, for example. Is that “censorship”? If you think the truth is liberal you may not agree, so it’s easy to see how people can justify almost any censorship as legit (oh it’s just spam/the truth/hate).

To me, Google is the most dangerous company in the world, with a proven track record of bias and a lack of taste.

Okay, but it's immediately clear that nobody who wrote this paper is knowledgeable about virology or the norms of academic publishing — but they were trying to fake it. Yet the first author is claimed to be a real person who is in fact a virologist with lots of academic publications.

How about Wired? https://www.wired.com/story/an-old-malaria-drug-may-fight-co...

> Except for that video, which hadn’t come out yet, Rigano put all that together and got in touch with Todaro. “I essentially wrote the publication based on my interface with various Stanford researchers and others, and we developed this body of evidence and hardcore science,” Rigano says. “James, Dr. Todaro, was doing the best job, I thought, of anyone in the media, any doctor, any news outlet, anyone on Twitter, of covering coronavirus. I’d been following his research on other items, like decentralized computing, for several years.”

> Todaro, who got an MD from Columbia and is now a bitcoin investor, was interested enough to collaborate on the document. “I added stuff that pertained more to the medical side of things, and gave a more, I guess, clinical feel to it,” Todaro says. “Something that Big Pharma is not going to like—it’s widely available, it’s pretty cheap, and it’s something that at least a million people are already on. It’s really got a lot of the aspects of something that can be rolled out quickly if the right clinical data is there.”

> Todaro and Rigano together started talking to Raoult about the small study he was then preparing, and they also called a retired biochemist named Tom Broker. He was originally listed as the first author of the Google doc, his name followed by “(Stanford).” That’s where Broker got his PhD, in 1972, but Broker has been, for years, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His area of research is adenovirus and human papillomavirus, which have DNA as their genetic material, as opposed to the RNA inside coronaviruses. They’re pretty different.

> Broker says he wasn’t involved in producing the Google doc and would never advocate the use of a drug without formal trials. Todaro and Rigano have since removed his name from it, at Broker’s request. “I neither contributed to, wrote any part of, nor had knowledge of this google.com document. I have never conducted research on RNA virus pathogens … I have no professional credentials or authority to suggest or recommend clinical trials or practices,” Broker wrote in an email. “Apparently I was inserted as a ‘gratuitous’ author, a practice that I have always avoided over my 53-year career. Moreover, I have never engaged any part of social media, privately or professionally. All of my scientific publications are processed through peer review. I suggest that you communicate with one of the actual authors.”

> Asked about Broker’s statement, Todaro says that Broker just didn’t want to engage with the attention the idea and document were getting “I don’t personally know Tom Broker. My correspondence has been with Mr. Rigano,” Todaro says. “When we started getting inquiries from the press, my impression was, Mr. Broker got very overwhelmed by that.”

So, according to Wired, the "paper"'s first author says that its real authors put his name on the paper without his knowledge or consent, which is dishonest (it goes far beyond the usual questionable practice of "gratuitous author" insertion, which places your sponsor as the last author), and that he disagrees with what it says. The "paper" is obviously not the kind of thing a real professor would produce. The real authors say he's lying.

It seems clear to me who's lying here. Wired caught them lying about a lot of other things, too.

In general, even having a sponsor as an author, the sponsor should still consent to being on there in some form.

Are you talking about morality or common practice? Morally you shouldn't claim someone is an author when they're just giving you money. Common practice in biomedical research is to do so without even telling them about the paper. But as last author, not first.

I was naively thinking they had that in their grant agreements. As a computer scientist I know that people end up on the paper that didn't write it. But I haven't had the case where people didn't know they were on it.

Thanks for the insight!

Thanks! That’s what I was looking for.

YouTube and TikTok are cavalcades of human stupidity.

Things aren't getting better.

Entertainment is not inherently stupid and videos on both platforms are not inherently entertainment or stupid. They mostly seem like a cross section of overall internet content (minus porn), which represents a large part of society as a whole.

For some reason people seem compelled to declare popular things they dislike as stupid, but that seems very unnecessary.

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