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OPINION

There's Something Interesting About How Google Flagged Townhall's Coverage of the COVID Lab Leak

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Ng Han Guan

When the Biden administration — specifically the Department of Energy — updated its conclusion on the origins of COVID-19, Townhall reported the news, just like we've done with every revelation and hypothesis about the virus that sent the world spiraling some three years ago. 

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And, as is often the case these days, Google tried to punish us for going against the left's preferred narrative. In the same manner that Google deemed a Townhall column Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote about the hazards of gain-of-function research to be "unreliable and harmful," our report on the Energy Department's conclusion that COVID "most likely" came from a lab leak was flagged, and our ability to monetize the article was stripped away. 

Never mind that Townhall's report quoted the Biden administration — it was deemed "unreliable and harmful" anyway. 

As Townhall reported when Google flagged Senator Paul's column, the Big Tech company claimed the op-ed was labeled as unreliable and harmful "in error." Google also said that publishers like Townhall "always have the option to appeal" flags we feel were wrongly placed on our articles. 

Once an appeal is filed, Google is supposed to have a real person review the content to determine whether the flag was applied in error or if the flag was justified. 

Well, Townhall appealed the flag on our story about the Department of Energy's updated conclusion on the origins of COVID-19…and Google "rejected" the appeal. That is, Google's judgment that Townhall's straightforward reporting on what the Biden administration said is "unreliable and harmful" was reaffirmed by the Big Tech company. 

Perhaps, you might say, it's just that Google hasn't caught up with the Approved Narrative™ as those in the mainstream media and Big Tech suddenly (and unapologetically) change their tune on the likelihood that COVID came from a lab leak. Those who dared to mention the existence of the lab leak hypothesis were labeled "conspiracy theorists" and treated as such, up until this week. 

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But no. Coverage of the Energy Department's updated conclusion that a lab leak was the most likely origin of COVID-19 on other sites appears alongside Google-served advertisements. 

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story about the Energy Department's lab leak conclusion, still has Google ads appearing alongside its article. CNN's report on the conclusion also features Google ads. Same for The New York Times, NBC News, The Guardian, CBS News, and various other outlets. 

So why did Google prevent ads from appearing on Townhall's report quoting the same information as those corporate outlets? And then reaffirm its "unreliable and harmful" rating for the story when we appealed to ensure Google hadn't labeled the story "in error," as the company said was the case when they flagged Senator Paul's column on gain-of-function research?

Why, it almost seems as though Google treats conservative outlets like Townhall differently than larger mainstream outlets — and rarely corrects such disparate treatment unless it is publicly called out by Townhall, as happened last time. 

We reached out to Google to seek an explanation after following the process the company had outlined to us before. Their response did not address Townhall's questions about why our coverage was treated differently than mainstream outlets, only reiterated that the company has "strict publisher policies" and a claim that "discussing the origins of COVID-19 is not a violation" of Google's policies. 

The company's statement continued, claiming some stories "were labeled in error and these decisions have been overturned," while others remain flagged for violating Google's prohibition on "dangerous and derogatory" content and "harmful health claims." Again, Google said publishers such as Townhall are "encouraged" to "appeal decisions" we believe were wrong.

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Then, lo and behold, Google quietly lifted the flag on Townhall's story on the Department of Energy's conclusion — but only after we reached out for comment for this column and after Google had flagged the story and rejected our appeal.

That is, in back-to-back situations, Google flagged Townhall's content and only removed the flags when we worked to expose the disparate treatment. A bit fishy, no?

What's more, other stories on Townhall and our sister sites on the topic still have demerit flags from Google:

Currently flagged for "dangerous and derogatory content":

Biden National Security Advisor Downplays Bombshell Report: No ‘Definitive Answer’ On COVID Lab Leak

Currently flagged for "unreliable and harmful claims":

Why the Media Was So Hysterical About the Possibility of a Lab Leak to Explain COVID Origins

The Number of Times the Lab Leak Theory Was 'Fact Checked' Is Astonishing

Currently flagged for both "dangerous and derogatory content" and "unreliable and harmful claims":

We Told You the Truth About the Wuhan Lab Leak From the Beginning and Were Punished For It

One thing is clear: Townhall hasn't and cannot expect a fair shake or to be treated on a level playing field with mainstream media outlets, even though Townhall has been reporting the whole story about COVID and hypotheses about the virus' origins since early 2020. 

For our truth-seeking reporting, Townhall gets punished while the rest of the media skates by after telling the American people it was impossible for COVID to have come from a lab leak for years. 

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In order to continue our reporting that has outpaced the mainstream media on COVID and so many other stories, Townhall relies on the direct support provided by our loyal VIP members. By joining our team as a VIP member, you can help make sure the truth continues to be told on our site and show Big Tech they can't control the flow of information.

To our current members, thank you for supporting us. Your partnership means you, too, can pat yourself on the back for being right about another supposed "conspiracy theory" that the Biden administration was forced to confirm. 

If you're not already a VIP member, join our team today and use promo code CENSORSHIP to save 50 percent off your first year.

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