“Natural News” is one of the largest pseudoscientific and anti-medicine websites on the Internet. Over the years, they have published materials denying that HIV causes AIDS, rejected the germ theory of diseases, promoted conspiracy theories about Zika virus, medical doctors or the Sandy Hook school shooting. The website opposes climate science, vaccines and GMOs and has pushed hundreds of fake cures for serious diseases (even selling some of these substances themselves), from homeopathy and turmeric to amygdalin and bleach.
They are also heavily into fearmongering about various chemical substances, ranting about “dangerous toxins” in common household products. Ironically, some of the products they sell in their store contain the very same substances that they claim are incredibly harmful on their website.
In sum, “Natural News” is one of the strongest fortresses of dangerous nonsense in the world. It has millions of unique visitors every month, year after year. The person behind “Natural News” is Mike Adams and he has multiple other websites that deal with similar topics, but Natural News is by far the largest website.
Why did “Natural News” mysteriously disappear from Google search results?
If one visits Google and performs a search for “Natural News” or the title of any individual story featured on the “Natural News” website, the website (naturalnews.com) does not appear at all (and searching using the “cache:” syntax produces a 404 error message). Before, search results from “Natural News” would be at the very top.
The narrative that is being pushed by Mike Adams is that Google blacklisted the entire “Natural News” domain, so that no articles posted on “Natural News” can appear in any Google search results. His rage-filled tantrum can be read here.
Adams claims that this is part of an organized campaign against Trump supporters, trying to connect this alleged event to the downfall of Milo Yiannopoulos and alleged ad revenue loss for InfoWars. He claims that 140 000 pages were affected and are now inaccessible from a Google search. He considers this is an act of censorship taken by a human individual and not an algorithm. He compares this event to book-burning and being targeted by Gestapo, before launching into his usual conspiracy theories about “globalists” supposedly “enslaving populations”, the “establishment” waging “war on humanity and so on.
The “Natural News” Facebook page has a post about this issue with a lot of supporters commentating that they cannot get any “Natural News” search results from Google. Some have already bought into the narrative that Adams has weaved together.
So what really happened? Well, it is hypothetically possible that Google did indeed blacklist “Natural News”. Google has the ability to remove any website from their search engine index:
Note that Google can enforce quality guidelines on content and with the recent surge of fake news and many companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter promising to take steps to combat it, it is perhaps not entirely implausible that Google could have blacklisted Natural News.
Another possibility could be that their Google Webmasters account got compromised and some attacker intentionally removing the website from Google. This is perhaps a less plausible explanation, because it would probably send an email alerting them to a someone signing into their account from somewhere completely different or trigger other safety protocols like that. It is also not realistic to suppose that an attacker could bypass two-factor authentication in a simple manner. It is also not that realistic to believe that “Natural News” would be a primary target if the two-factor authentication system had a vulnerability. Attackers would probably aim to exploit financial institutions or governments. Of course, it might be possible that “Natural News” did not use two-factor authentication, but considering how concerned Mike Adams is about the “globalists”, the “establishment” and their “enslavement of populations” and “war against humanity” it seems likely that he would use such a security feature.
A third possibility could be that Mike Adams is doing this himself just to get attention and more money from his supporters. Because Adams has done so many outrageous things over the years, it is not entirely incompatible with his past behavior. However, an argument against this idea might be that his rage post seem comparable to many other similar posts, indicating that there it is written by someone who genuinely believes what is written.
The bottom line is that the only thing we know with some degree of confidence is that “Natural News” have been removed from the Google search results. All the above about possible reasons for it is pure speculation at this point.
What are the likely consequences for “Natural News”?
If we assume, for the sake of argument, that Google has blacklisted “Natural News”, what can we expect to happen?
Generally speaking, there will be a considerable drop in traffic from the Google search engine. This means that it is possible that tens of thousands of people per year could be saved from becoming harmed or dying from following the recommendations given by them. There will also likely be a drop in ad revenue for the website since they will get much less traffic. “Natural News” might be able to counter this by increased social media activity, but it all depends on the ratio between visitors from search engines and social media visitors. Finally, “Natural News” is just one of the websites owned by Mike Adams (and he has probably made a fortune of “Natural News” already), so he might just be able to go on like nothing happened. Start even more websites, copy over content from backups and be running at full capacity within a relatively short time.
If it was due to a compromised Google Webmasters account, that can be fixed rapidly by taking back control over it and changing the settings back. If it is something that Mike Adams has done intentionally, he might keep up appearances for a few days or maybe a week, collect money and sympathy from followers and then toggle it back to allow indexing by Google (perhaps stating that he won against Google, appealed the decision, that it was merely a technical glitch or some similar explanation).
This article will be updated as new information becomes available on this breaking news event.
Information that became available after this article was posted.
Note: Respectful Insolence has published a post on this issue called Google delists Mike Adams. His hilarious tantrum about the conspiracy behind it is epic, as is my schadenfreude. A fourth possible hypothesis is proposed, namely that Google might have removed Natural News if the website had engaged in manipulative search engine optimization strategies to artificially boost its page rank (note added 20170223 13:54 UTC+1).
Note: This has been discussed in some detail on the SEO website Telapost (note added 20170223 14:00 UTC+1).
Note: Edzard Ernst have written a post about this event at NATURAL NEWS demonstrate that natural remedies are useless for treating their paranoia (note added 20170223 14:03 UTC+1).
Note: Steven Novella discusses the potential ways in which Google could have removed “Natural News” from its search results and some arguments for and against search engines delisting websites (note added 20170223 14:24 UTC+1).
Note: Shane has also written about this event over at Rbutr (note added 20170223 14:30 UTC+1).
Breaking: We now have independent support that the Natural News website is very likely violating Google terms of service because their mobile site performs shady redirects (note added 20170224 00:10 UTC+1).
Breaking: There is no more independent support for the conclusion that Natural News committed a serious Google Terms of Service violation that led them to being removed form Google search results. Because Mike Adams says that he did not get any notifications from Google Webmasters, this indicates that he (or whoever manages the account) were guilty of “more extreme and deceptive violations” (note added 20170224 13:32 UTC+1).
Breaking: it is now confirmed by Google that Natural News was removed due to using “sneaky mobile redirects” that are not allowed under the Google Webmasters terms of service (note added 20170225 01:19 UTC+1).