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Frackers train sights on ‘fake news,’ try to get Google on board

Author: Dan Njegomir - May 9, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017


Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics alerts us to a new foray by a Texas-based, gas-industry-backed group that seeks to take its fight against fracking’s foes to the Supreme Court of the Internet, aka Google. There’s probably grist here for both sides in Colorado’s perennial fracking debate in the wake of last month’s deadly explosion at home in Firestone.

The FrackFeed campaign wrote an “open letter” to Google this week taking it up on its headline-making pledge to lower the search rankings of “content on the web [that] has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.” By the lights of FrackFeed, that applies to propaganda ginned up and churned out by anti-fracking groups.

The lengthy and extensively footnoted letter asserts:

We believe many of the most prominent anti-fracking websites have content that is misleading, false, or offensive — if not all three. As a result, we urge you to consider purging or demoting these websites from your algorithm, which in turn will encourage a more honest public discussion about hydraulic fracturing, and oil and natural gas development in general.

FrackFeed’s Exhibit A:

For example, Sierra Club, one of America’s oldest and largest environmentalist organizations, declares on its website: “Fracking has contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans.” … The group provides no evidence to support this, likely because numerous peer-reviewed studies have concluded the exact opposite. … Experts from the the U.S. Government Accountability Office met with regulatory officials in eight of the largest oil and gas producing states in the country, and concluded “the hydraulic fracturing process has not been identified as a cause of groundwater contamination within their states.” …

It probably goes without saying that there’s no word yet from Google on whether it will agree to sentence the likes of the Sierra Club to Internet Purgatory; we’ll just assume that’s not about to happen. The letter acknowledges as much in its conclusion:

Claims made by the radical environmentalist campaign against hydraulic fracturing are protected by the First Amendment. Groups that wish to peddle misleading information about oil and natural gas are fully within their rights to do so. Many of the groups engaging in anti-fracking advocacy have devoted significant resources to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and as a result they receive significant web traffic.

But that is no reason for Google to reward such misinformation with its powerful search engine. We urge you consider adding these groups’ websites to your review of fake news and the kinds of content that you do not wish to promote.

Then again, the real intended recipient of such “open letters” is the political world. So, here you go. And here’s the link again to the full letter.


Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.