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Tue Apr 13, 2021, 02:41 PM

Meet the Censored: The U.S. Right to Know

This story is about how, after a Google algorithm update, the website of U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) experienced a 60% drop in traffic--for no discernable reason--and how they were left scrambling to try to guess the reason. Was it due to the controversial nature of their content? Or was it just typical search engine optimization (SEO) issues?


USRTK, whose reporting is mostly based on public document searches, is an organization that inspires strong opinions. They inhabit a corner of the media universe focusing on who pays for what kind of research, and to what result, around topics like food additives and Genetically Modified Organisms. The material can get very personal, and thanks to headlines like “The misleading and deceitful ways of Dr. Kevin Folta,” they’re not generally in the friend-making business.

Moreover, agencies like USRTK are particularly vulnerable in the age of algorithmic moderation, as computers don’t easily distinguish between conspiracy theory and legitimate reporting that runs counter to present accepted narratives. Any organization that swims in those waters and isn’t attached to a big name now has to keep looking over its shoulder. If such an organization does end up suspended, deleted, or de-ranked, as USRTK later would be, it has to wonder: was it something we wrote?


U.S. Right to Know is basically ad-free. It doesn’t aggregate, but instead publishes original reporting based mainly on public documents. It’s the opposite of a click-chasing SEO-oriented site that is “attempting to guess what might rank well.” It doesn’t have shocking or sensational headlines — in fact, it barely had an engagement strategy. Its work is referenced by peer-reviewed medical journals and established outlets like the New York Times.

More at link above.

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