I have several posts coming. But first a word on: Big Tech suppression.
It is something I have commented on before, in passing, but have never dealt with directly. I now find occasion or inspiration to do so after the latest egregious example: a full-on suppression against the “Ancestry of Ron DeSantis” post, burying it in the digital sands.
This website is under major censorship via de-listing, shadow-banning, and other tactics which prevent most visitors from reaching here.
Google results are the king of website traffic, and simply tactically blocking some results or sending one down from spot-3 to spot-30 can crush traffic. The well-known concept of “shadow-banning” as practiced on Twitter is an example of what Google (and others) have done to Hail To You. The total level of manipulation is comprehensive.
While new posts occasionally produce small spikes of visits after publication, there is also a certain steady “baseline” traffic, representing people finding previous posts back to 2011 via keyword searches, image searches, or links.
Since 2017, I have seen evidence of targeted Big Tech suppression via abrupt and sustained drops in the baseline visits on either specific posts or the website entirely. I can identify cases of this suppression in 2017, 2020, and 2021, and now in September 2022, the latter being a targeted hit on my DeSantis ancestry post.
I shall tell all these stories here. I don’t know “their” side and can only reconstruct what likely happened based on my access to (anonymized) visitor data by month, week, and day.
Suppression of the Ron DeSantis article at Hail To You, 2022
The most recent case of Big Tech suppression is with a post titled “The ancestry of Ron DeSantis: son of Florida, grandson of industrial Ohio, great-grandson of Italy” (Hail To You, Sept. 2021) (10,000 words). It was generating much interest, getting excellent traffic, and had even attracted media interest as of mid-2022. Major interest continued week after week, month after month — until late August 2022. As of September 2022, the “Ancestry of Ron DeSantis” post is now getting little attention, and little new traffic.
Here is what happened:
On August 26, 2022, visits to the Ron DeSantis post suddenly fell below the long-term baseline. Overnight, the rate dropped to half the previous baseline rate of visits (-50%). This lower level sustained for about about a week.
Then, in early September 2022, immediately after President Biden’s strange, disturbing, and ill-advised “Republicans are a threat to democracy!” blood-red-background speech, visits to the DeSantis post crashed yet again. After September 1, there was overnight drop of another nearly -30% from the long-run (pre-Aug. 26th, 2022) baseline. That signals a suppression, unless within a two-week window interest in DeSantis would have cratered, once immediately after the “Republicans are semi-fascist” speech. And it matches the pattern I have seen before (on which more below, 2017 and 2020 cases).
In the two weeks so far elapsed of September 2022, visits to the DeSantis research essay are at 20% the previous long-run “baseline” rate (-80% of the rate holding for most of 2022). Four-fifths of the traffic has mysteriously vanished, dried up, gone. Has four-fifths of interest in DeSantis evaporated since August 25th?
The full transition (-80%) happened within about ten days’ time. Comparing the first two weeks of September to the peak period in summer 2022, the loss is as high as 90%.
Similar suppressions exist against other specific posts (some of which are not findable on Google, none of which are findable on Bing and DuckDuckGo as of the early 2020s), and against the site as a whole, but given the high and sustained traffic the DeSantis post was getting, it is stark and noticeable in a way more-gracefully-done suppressions against other posts are not.
Furthermore, over time posts like that which generate sustained interest tend to accumulate more interest, not less, as long as the topic or person remains in the public eye. Therefore the spring-summer 2022 “baseline” if we peg it to 100, might be expected to go up to 150 or more by fall 2022, obviously not down to 20 (as has happened), which means the actual degree of suppression may be closer to 90% and not 80%.
These kinds of suppressions are rather devastating for a small-time operation like Hail To You. But, unfortunately, this is not the first suppression, and Hail To You has existed within a digital cordon sanitaire to varying degrees since 2017. I proceed by reviewing the suppressions of 2017, 2020, and 2021, for which I have data evidence in traffic totals. The worst of them show the same kind of magnitude as the recent suppression of the Ron DeSantis post.
Big Tech suppressions of Hail To You in 2017 and 2020
This website has been around for eleven years (2011-). In the early years, there was never an apparent problem with what we would now call Big Tech censorship or suppression. The first case I have evidence for was in 2017 . I have been aware of the actual or potential for Big Tech censorship since then, but do not know of a solution or recourse. There have been several further apparent cases of this hidden hand of black-listing, the big ones I can identify being in 2017 and 2020, the first I presume tied to the anti-Trump-ism and a general purge after Charlottesville, and the second the part of the wave of crackdowns on and censorship against Covid-deniers.
The first of these, in 2017, came likely because left-wing researchers in the 2011-2013 period had listed Hail To You as one of the important blogs of the day within an ecosystem of similar blogs causing concern on the Left:
By the end of the 2010s, many of the blogs in that network (constructed by a researcher ca.2013) became defunct or inactive, and in the interval much attention had shifted to the perilous and ever-shifting sands of social media, especially Twitter and Youtube, both heavily censored, resulting in a wide scattering of people to niche “platforms” with catchily short names but often somewhat “walled off,” a strategic retreat from the more-open intellectual plain of the 2000s an early 2010s.
In any case, first noticed a curious and abrupt drop in traffic in about late 2017 or early 2018. On review at the time, I found evidence that this website was put on a black-list in mid-2017, the first time I have definite evidence of this happening.
July 2017 first suppression
Traffic dropped 40% from the previous stable total, to reach a monthly low previously not seen since 2015 and not seen in a sustained way since the early days of Hail To You in early 2012!
The July 2017 drop (-40%) realigned total traffic to a permanently lower baseline total. They did not resort to the full-on censorship of deleting the website (that would be a WordPress action, not Google), but they did have tools to blunt the impact of visits.
Inevitably this must have to do with the anti-Trump attitudes of the time. This is this website’s part in the Big Tech censorship narrative of the late 2010s, something that if presented to a man of twenty years earlier would have been rather in the realm of science-fiction.
I note that this first abrupt drop-off happened before the Charlottesville “Alt-Right” protest (mid-August 2017).
September 2017 suppression digs in and becomes permanent
Traffic again abruptly dropped, losing another 20% or more below the previously stable total “baseline” traffic, a few weeks after “Charlottesville.” That is, the new baseline was as low as 35% of the previously baseline for traffic (i.e., -65% below previous long-run baseline). Over six-in-ten :baseline”-visitors were never making it here.
This looks to me like a death-blow to the long-term influence of Hail To You, but was of course concurrent with the general move to social media and away from blogs. People did still visit websites plenty, via Google text searches, Google image searches, and links. But after September 2017, entire posts would no longer show up at all in search indexes, nor would many images.
After September 2017, when new posts came up or when some major link came to Hail To You, weekly or monthly visitor traffic could recover to the previous baseline levels but would never sustain thereafter.
By 2018, this apparent Big Tech suppression was apparent enough that I decided further efforts were not a good use of time or energy, and I began posting as a regular commenter (in effect, as a group-blogger) at Steve Sailer blog, of which I had been a relatively regular for years, and a reader back to the 2000s.
2020 and 2021 “Corona-Panic”-related suppressions
In the months before April 2020, traffic coming into Hail To You stood at about 30-35% of the “2012 to July 2017” baseline (i.e., -65% to -70%), which was the “new normal” as just described, and as a small-time operation there was not much I could do about it.
The Corona-Panic of spring 2020 inspired a new wave of posts which brought great attention, some weeks in spring and summer 2020 among the highest-ever for total traffic. But after initial interest faded, baseline traffic did not realign towards some higher level. Despite enormous interest, based on previous experience with Hail To You suppression and general Corona-Panic-era suppression of Covid-deniers, skeptics, dissidents, and Anti-Panic voices, I expect that even the high totals reached in 2020 (as with “Is ‘Corona’ a religious cult? An anthropological study” [May 2020]) were considerably lower than their natural rate would have been.
In September 2020, traffic coming into Hail To You dropped to half the level it had been in the April to August 2020 period, and except for brief bounces after new posts, baseline traffic returned to a low level. Another downward-adjustment by the Big Tech traffic gods came in August 2021, that month dropping Hail To You to its lowest traffic ever seen, interestingly, since the first months of this website’s existence in 2011! In terms of comparison to the pre-August-2017 baseline rate (previously mentioned as the benchmark), the August 2021 traffic was -85%, nearly seven-in-eight visitors never making it.
This second suppression, August 2021, especially aligned with a ramp-up of the Corona-Panic of the time, and tied in with the more-or-less open and organized campaign to crush vaccine-deniers (though Hail To You never made a particular point of vilifying the vaccines; the vaccines were clearly a bad idea for the vast majority who took them, often under duress outright, and always influenced heavily by the Panic).
The 2020-21 suppressions continued the informational cordon-sanitaire actions by Big Tech and while the suppression of September 2021 faded in time, traffic still remains artificially low.
This September 2022 case of an abrupt, 80%-suppression of the Ron DeSantis post is one more for the list.
What to do?