From Beijing, the Chinese regime, Chinese Communistic Party (CCP), have influenced Google, to further their oppression of human rights and cultural identity.
Google search results for the Shen Yun Performing Arts company selectively inputs pro-CCP propaganda, which shows top results associated with the CCP aligned or in support of the Chinese regime. Other search engines do not manipulate and input selective data for their search results. It isn’t clear if Google is trying to target Shen Yun by actively supporting the CCP. The search engine may be coerced and compromised in some way.
Since the company was created, the CCP has opposed it for two main reasons, the revival of traditional Chinese culture and the portrayal of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong, which goes against the ideologies and corruption of human rights abuses and crimes by the Chinese regime. Shen Yun, being started in 2006 as a dance and music company in upper New York, is performances showing the revival of China arts and culture through its 5,000-year history. Its amazing performances, with critics praising the artistic mastery of their dancers, have become special events on stages from the Lincoln Center in New York to the Palais des Congres in Paris. Most of the performance pieces covered are historical culture and arts, but some of it also reveals the religious persecution still happening in China today; this part has been a thorn in the side of the CCP.
The regime has used far-reaching products, people, and technology to cause trouble through strategies such as manipulating the internet; one example is the propaganda featured in Google products by search results. It has lead to some confusion by the company because there are many positive critics of Shen Yun by featured artists, art critics, and celebrities complimenting Shen Yun. On the other hand, Google’s search engine, in displaying search results favor a handful of articles and websites, including ones produced by the CCP, are spreading false claims about the Shen Yun company.
“No matter how many thousands of positive reviews [there are] … still, at the very top of the Google ranking are these negative articles,” Leeshai Lemish, who is one of the emcees with the company, said. For instance, typing in “Shen Yun” in the Google search engine produces a top result of the search term with “shen yen cult”. This comes from direct association with the CCP.
Shen Yun artists proclaim that their values come from a meditation practice called Falun Gong, whose practitioners have been persecuted by the CCP in China for more than 20 years. Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a spiritual meditation practice based on moral teachings composed of three principles, truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It was banned in 1999 due to its popularity by the Chinese regime; at the time, the number of practitioners was among 70-100 million people practicing. Falun Gong is a hard topic for the CCP to talk about it since one of its most oppressive specialities is making money by killing religious minorities and selling their organs.
Earlier this year, an expert tribunal found that the regime had been killing its own people and selling their organs for transplant “on a significant scale,” and that the majority of victims were people arrested and imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong. Other victims include Christians, who don’t accept the censored version of Christianity by the regime, and members of the Muslim Uyghur minority. Information about the CCP’s crimes against religious groups such as these mentioned has reached the public through independent media outlets, including the Epoch Times. They have gone a long way to dismantling the superficial facade of Beijing pretending to be a modern, legal, and responsible world power. One of the regime’s primary tactic has been to label Falun Gong as a “cult”.
During the beginning of the persecution against Falun Gong, the CCP blamed every wrongdoing on them. Murder news were propelled by state-run media and Falun Gong was blamed. If negative news became public, the media would accuse Falun Gong of spreading rumors. Even the 1995 sarin gas attack in a Tokyo Subway, by the Aum Shinrikyo Cult, was blamed on Falun Gong. Musician, Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, even headlined an ironic jab at the regime, with “Blame it on the Falun Gong,” in his 2008 song, “Chinese Democracy.
In 2001, the CCP staged an incident, where a few people set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing while blaming Falun Gong. A documentary exposed the staging incident and from the CCP’s own footage, one of the victims was actually struck in the head with an object; after that, the regime cut out parts of the actual footage and released it again as propaganda as noted by political commentator, Heng He in a 2009 op-ed piece on Epoch Times.
To the present day, Chinese tourists are shocked to see practitioners freely practice at parks, abroad, due to the fact that their country has run false propaganda, claiming that the practice was illegal all around the world. The most illuminating circumstance is probably the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese picking up the practice without all the evils attributed by the media in mainland China. The regime has also impacted and been included in the Western press. The New York Times and The Washington Post have included advertising inserts that are actually the CCP propaganda. Sometimes, the actual reports by Western media included the propaganda, of which it’s not clear if it was a direct influence of the regime or editorial carelessness.
Featuring prominently in Google search results, are Beijing’s propaganda against Shen Yun than the many positive and genuine responses to Shen Yun. Sometimes, even the Shen Yun-related terms results display Beijing’s propaganda above the results of Shen Yun’s official pages. A result smearing Shen Yun on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Washington pops up as a top 15 result on Google, but it is pretty difficult to find that on other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
Shen Yun promotes traditional Chinese culture and this is a threat to Beijing. From the early beginnings of the CCP, it has continuously tried to destroy traditional Chinese culture. During 1960-1970’s, historical texts and monuments were destroyed and scholars and religious leaders were jailed and killed. These traditional beliefs have been replaced by what is termed “Party Culture”-a mixture of historical revisionism, atheism, and materialism with an approval and submission of pursuit in power and profit, obeying the Chinese regime.
Even the traditional culture has been revised to serve the regime. Loyalty, as an example, is one of the five cardinal virtues of Confucianism. Originally, it was criticism of superiors to help them improve their shortcomings, but the Party Culture meaning is blind obedience to the regime. Shen Yun opposes Party Culture, and stands up for its true principles, in revival and conserving Chinese culture. According to a Chinese commentator, Zhang Tianliang, it dissipates the CCP’s base. “When the beliefs of traditional culture and moral values revive, the conscience of the people will also awaken. The disintegration of the Party Culture is inevitable. When that happens, the CCP, an evil political system, will lose the environment on which it relies for survival,” he wrote in Epoch Times 2008. A Chinese dissident, Wei Jingsheng responded after attending a 2013 Shen Yun performance: “Shen Yun has posed the greatest challenge to the CCP. Chinese have awakened to the beauty of their own traditional culture. The Chinese people see that what Shen Yun presents is their true culture and that what the CCP presents is wrong. In this sense, Shen Yun is very important to the Chinese people.”
The manipulation of the Google search results in sabotaging Shen Yun is the regime’s propaganda; Shen Yun has discovered plenty of examples. A common tactic by the CCP is to use local Chinese embassies to stop any venues for allowing Shen Yun to perform; most have failed and Shen Yun met with success. Growing steadily, Shen Yun has seven touring companies and perform for approximately 1 million people a year. Another strategy by the regime is to stop politicians from attending the performances; it has primarily backfired and resulted in protests against China stifling freedom of expression overseas.
They have also tried to pressure the media; in 2008, a tv station in Czech Republic invited Shen Yun performers for interview, showcasing a letter from a Chinese embassy urging them not to be involved in Shen Yun’s Prague performance. One of the Czech TV hosts stated that they have the freedom to do whatever they want and it’s different in China.
It’s not clear if Google purposely messed with Shen Yun search results, if the results had been compromised indirectly, and/or even if the Chinese regime played a part in manipulating it. The result is the same; it matters on a very significant scale. Google has a huge amount of power and influence since it controls 90 percent of global internet searches. Robert Epstein, a research psychologist, did proven experiments where peoples’ opinions were swayed by simply pushing search engine results up or down. He has also proven valid points where Google has helped factored in the U.S. elections and its millions of voters. He said, “The methods that they’re using are invisible. They’re subliminal. They’re more powerful than most any effects I’ve ever seen in behavioral science, and I’ve been in behavioral sciences for almost 40 years,” to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing in July.
Google didn’t respond to a request for further questions, but their representatives have repetitiously told Congress that the don’t manually manipulate any search results. However, Google also admits that their search algorithms partially come from data made by individual manual reviews of certain websites. They employ workers called “raters,” who determine the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness by scoring websites. It’s up to the raters to use and interpret data as how they see fit to make judgments; so, if it is incomplete, false, or biased the search algorithms may produce the same incomplete, false, and biased results.
Furthermore, there have been several leaks, undercover recordings, and whistleblowers showing that Google intentionally manipulated and skewed search engine algorithms-its results as called by the company as a worldview, “machine learning fairness”. These exposures of Google demonstrates that it pushes the quasi-Marxist intersectional theory and doesn’t support Google’s claims to be politically neutral. According to Michael Rectenwald, a formal liberal studied professor at New York University, Google’s corporate interests align with leftist politics impacted largely by intersectionality. He continues further, stating that the beliefs and structures of digital giants such as Google and Facebook are examples of “corporate leftism” and is similar to “socialism with Chinese characteristics” practiced by the CCP in China. Yet, Google doesn’t intentionally promote Chinese propaganda.
Google algorithms also react to any signal that is being manipulated. The ranking of a webpage gets a boost if other pages link up to it, says Alexander Kehoe, a search engine expert and a founder of Caveni Digital Solutions, an SEO and digital marketing company. Furthermore, the Chinese regime is in advantageous position to boost certain information in search results. Kehoe told the Epoch Times that fraudulent websites could be created to appear authoritative to link and promote others.
It’s very true the Chinese regime has a massive online operation to propel its propaganda. A 2017 study by the American Political Science Review published its discoveries, which included the CCP hiring as many as 2 million internet trolls, who have posted approximately 488 million messages of false and misleading data each year. By an analysis of The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese regime has manufactured online campaigns to deceive and sway the public’s opinion on Hong Kong protests. This tactic was also used in 2018 to influence elections, claimed by a man who was a defecting Chinese spy.
Lemish believes the CCP uses their troll army to create and falsify data for boosting links to propaganda pages against Shen Yun. He says, “ It’s making us work a lot harder because just the normal way that people discover things these days [is] by Googling them and by hearing about them…on social media. They’re really making a strong effort to not allow us to use those channels, and then create negative impressions on people to make it harder for us to sell tickets.” The trolls are easy to spot sometimes because of their broken English. Google is aware of this problem.
Recently this year, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, owned by Google suspended hundreds of accounts linked to the CCP defaming the Hong Kong protests. With the next presidential election coming up next year, a hot topic would be foreign political influence and their operations.
Image: Shen Yun website