- Google’s Medic Update wreaked havoc across the alternative health industry
- It forced Baseline Nutritionals to shut down its website, streamline its operations, and temporarily move its products to Amazon.
- What was behind the Google Medic Update.
- What Google’s censorship from the Medic Update means to you.
- What is the Alternative Health Community doing to fight back?
- What can you do about the Google Medic Update?
- Will Google pay a price for implementing the Medic Update?
- What the Google Medic Update means to the Baseline of Health Foundation moving forward.
Last week, Baseline Nutritionals, one of the world’s most respected supplement companies, announced that it would be shutting down sales on its website and moving its products to Amazon–at least until mid-October. Since the reasons behind Baseline Nutritionals’ reinvention also directly relate to the Baseline of Health Foundation, not to mention that the Foundation’s funding comes from Baseline Nutritionals, it seemed like a good idea to address it in some detail.
Google Killed the Baseline of Health Foundation’s Website–a Quick Overview
In 2018, Google released a change to their search engine algorithm in what is known as the Google Medic Update. This update was specifically designed and created to censor alternative health websites and clobber their rankings. It began to hit full bore in January of this year with a second punch in June. Both the Baseline of Health Foundation and its sister site, Baseline Nutritionals, were affected. Rankings for most alternative health sites fell off a cliff.1 “Alternative Health Websites Censored by Search Engines.” NatCove. (Accessed 26 Jul 2019.) https://natcove.com/alternative-health-websites-censored/ Unique visitors to the jonbarron.org, which was formerly one of the most visited alternative health sites in the world, dropped from 250,000 unique visitors a month to 4,000 a month. That’s a 98% drop in a matter of weeks. Dr. Mercola experienced a similar drop.2 Joseph Mercola. “Google buries Mercola in their latest search engine update, Part 1 of 2 Analysis.” Mercola. June 24, 2019. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/06/24/google-latest-algorithm-update-buries-mercola.aspx In fact, most alternative health sites experienced the same thing. How did this happen? The first thing to understand is that Google doesn’t control URLs and can’t make a site “go away.” Anyone already familiar with a site can type in its name and get there without a problem. What Google can do, however, is make a site invisible to searchers who don’t know the name of a particular site but are looking for the best site to provide the information they are looking for. For example, if you are already familiar with the Baseline of Health Foundation and type in our URL, jonbarron.org, the site comes right up. It’s still there. If you search Google using an undeniably unique identifier such as “Baseline of Health Foundation,” it comes up, top of the list. But what if you don’t know who we are and you’re searching Google for information about “colon detoxing,” for example. Keep in mind that:
- Jonbarron.org has been on the internet for over 16 years
- We are one of the most respected alternative health sites on the net
- Our subscribers include scientists, doctors, medical researchers, and foreign health ministers
- My book, Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, is in several medical school and hospital libraries
- The articles on our site are not just opinion, but are well researched and documented
- Most of my technical newsletters contain anywhere from 40 to as many as 80 citations
- Our information on detoxing, including “colon detoxing,” is the most extensive on the internet
Bottom line is that jonbarron.org is one of the most established and vetted sites on the net–especially as it pertains to colon detoxing. All of this to say that if you searched Google for information on “colon detoxing,” before the Google Medic Update, not surprisingly, we came up number “one” or “two” in every Google search. Now, since the algorithm took effect, we don’t even appear until page 5, well past where anyone looks–making us virtually invisible to anyone looking for information about colon detoxing. Who replaced us? Your results will vary depending on how Google has tracked your previous searches, but in general, your search results will be dominated by sites that have a medical affiliation or whose articles are overseen by people who have a medical affiliation, sites that tend to have a dubious attitude (at best) towards colon detoxing, and sites that offer generic guidelines to detoxing, if they offer any at all. In other words, Google decided to censor the alternative health point of view and force feed you the medical point of view. Now, repeat that scenario for every other topic and every other website relevant to alternative health, and you can see how the number of visitors to alternative health sites has plummeted. In case you’re interested and don’t mind getting a bit angry, rankings for the major drug-oriented sites climbed as a result of the algorithm changes. For a moment, during the spring, it looked like things might be recovering a bit, but Google dropped a second algorithm hammer in June that instantly re-crushed visits yet again on top of the losses already seen.
For the same reasons, our sister site, Baseline Nutritionals saw a corresponding drop in “new” visitors. And since Baseline Nutritionals previously sold all its products on its website, that kind of drop in numbers was fatal. The bottom line is that, thanks primarily to Google, Baseline Nutritionals was forced to reinvent how it did business. For more information, check out their recent newsletter.
Some Detail on What Was Behind the Google Medic Update
Okay, now let’s take a more detailed look at the Google Medic Update. In simple terms, as we’ve already seen, it was a deliberate act of censorship. But let’s see how we got there. The first thing you need to understand is that Google prioritizes searches in two ways. First, they publish the Google Search Quality Rater Guideline, both as an internal guide for how their programmers should write code that evaluates sites on the internet and so that the providers of internet content can understand how Google is prioritizing their search results. Theoretically, this allows websites to “upgrade” their content to match Google’s standards and thus rank higher in their search engine results. A win-win scenario…theoretically. So, let’s look at the relevant parts of the Guidelines.
Google Search Quality Guidelines
There are three relevant sections. The first is 2.3, the section that defines “Your Money or Your Life Pages.” These are pages that Google pays special attention to in their rankings. As you will see, alternative health sites fall under the Medical Information Pages definition. Here are the relevant sections of 2.3.
2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL pages:
- Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
Obviously, Google has determined that alternative health sites fall under the rubric of Medical Information Pages. Considering the topics we deal with, I have no problem with that classification. The second section is 3.2, the section that defines Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
3.2 Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Remember that the first step of PQ [page quality] rating is to understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating. For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
- The expertise of the creator of the MC [main content].
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
So, what does this mean? Well, for 15 years it meant that most legitimate alternative health websites were deemed to be high E-A-T. This site, jonbarron.org, certainly had a place among those at the top of the list, with its content written in a professional style, properly edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis. Keeping in mind that the websites for Dr. Mercola and Dr. Axe also took major hits from the algorithm update, it appears that medical expertise and accreditation only count if they follow medical orthodoxy. And as for the requirement that content needs to be updated regularly, I understand the principle: medical knowledge keeps changing so it needs to be regularly updated. But alternative health knowledge tends to be more stable. Take for example our page on the healthiest oils for cooking based on smoke points. Over the years, this has been one of our most visited and shared pages, although, over time, it had dropped in rankings because it hadn’t changed in several years. But let’s get real here. Why should it change? The smoke point for virgin olive oil is going to stay the same no matter how many years go by. Nevertheless, in April of this year, we were forced to spend time making cosmetic changes to the page so that it “looked” different to the Google search engine in an attempt to rebuild its rankings. And we have hundreds of pages analyzing different medical studies. Why would you need to update those pages? The original study hasn’t changed, so its analysis is going to remain unchanged. The bottom line is that editing each of the several thousand pages onsite to make cosmetic changes that satisfy an arbitrary search engine requirement is simply not possible. When you think about it, Google’s update requirement gives smaller sites with only a few pages of information that can be easily modified on a regular basis a huge ranking advantage over older sites that have a huge database of established alternative health wisdom that isn’t constantly changing. Or to put it another way, Google has determined that the CliffsNotes version of alternative health ranks higher than the War and Peace version. But which do you think is going to provide information you need to save your life? Which brings us to the third relevant section: Reputation.
2.6.1 Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
Use reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website. Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website. … Reputation research is necessary for all websites you encounter. Do not just assume websites you personally use have a good reputation. Please do research! You might be surprised at what you find.
As for reputation, the Baseline of Health Foundation certainly has a solid reputation, which is the reason so many medical doctors, foreign health ministers, scientists, and news services are active subscribers. It has even won awards over the years for the quality of its content. It also should be noted, as I mentioned earlier, that our articles provide copious references from reputable research institutes–more than will be found on most health websites. But that apparently was not enough for Google’s new algorithm because it didn’t adhere to medical orthodoxy when it explored health topics. Which brings us to the algorithm part of the equation.
The Google Medic Update
Google’s “algorithms,” which it uses to rank sites when listing responses to your searches are both proprietary and secret. How Google uses these algorithms to implement their “guidelines” can change without notice and only be discovered after the fact–for example, after search results for alternative health sites suddenly drop off the map. It was only then that people first learned about changes to the algorithm. And that’s what happened in 2018 when Google implemented the Google Medic Update changes to their search engine algorithm to reflect a new interpretation of the guidelines. For example:
Only medical doctors or their representatives are now apparently deemed to have enough expertise to produce the main content for medical information pages–or are at least required to review that content. This is a very curious decision since medical doctors have very limited expertise when it comes to supplements, alternative health protocols, and chiropractic treatments, for example. Consider that the average doctor spends a total of eight hours studying nutrition in medical school–not eight hours a week for a semester, but eight hours in total. Anyone who reads two good books on nutrition knows more about the subject than 95% of all doctors. And yet doctors are now deemed by Google to be the only ones with the expertise to produce and/or edit the main content on alternative health subjects.
- Likewise, only doctors are now deemed to have the authoritativeness to comment on alternative health issues, despite the fact they frequently know nothing about the subject–and have a financial incentive to disapprove of it. That’s right. Patients who find relief using alternative health methods don’t need to pay those same doctors for their more expensive drugs and protocols. They are no longer paying patients. This presents a clear-cut conflict of interest. Yet Google now supports that conflict of interest.
- A medical doctor with not the slightest expertise in chiropractic, for example–merely an opinion–is now deemed more trustworthy by the Google algorithm to comment on chiropractic treatments than a fully trained, certified, and licensed chiropractor with years of experience in her field.
The net result is the censorship of true alternative health information for those who do not already know where to look for that information. And it puts people with little knowledge of–or sympathy for–that information in charge of it. What could possibly go wrong?
One question that everyone who knows about the algorithm change has been asking is “Why Now?” Why did Google suddenly reverse years of policy vis-à-vis alternative health websites and secretly begin censoring them? And the consensus seems to be that it was the antivaxxer movement’s high level of–but not necessarily universal–support in the alternative health community. Quite simply, the anti-vaccination movement overestimated its clout and pushed too hard against the medical establishment, which used the recent measles outbreak as ammo to take down the movement. Google simply decided that with the cover of the establishment, this was a good place to take a stand and show that they were good citizens and crush the entire alternative health movement regardless of where any particular site stood on anti-vaccination. Unfortunately, I predicted this exact result (except for the Google part) four years ago. To quote from that newsletter:
“So once again, this article is not an endorsement of vaccination. It is an endorsement of reasoned discussion–with both sides backing off from fear mongering and hyperbole. Unfortunately, based on the initial response to this article, I am more convinced than ever that’s not going to happen anytime soon. And without reasoned discussion, the anti-vaccination movement is out-gunned, out-moneyed, and out-politically-resourced. Unless the movement changes tactics, it will lose across the board– and is, in fact, already losing. And that should be of concern to everyone.”
Let’s be clear here. The anti-vaccination movement was wrong about some key issues.
- Thimerosal and autism. In truth, any evidence of a connection is sketchy at best.
- Herd immunity. Despite many websites claiming herd immunity is not a real thing, it is. It’s based on simple math. The more openings a pathogen has to establish itself in a community, the more likely it is to do so.
- Vaccines don’t work. This really is an example of “Are you going to believe what you see with your own eyes, or what someone tells you?” The argument that diseases like smallpox and polio came and went as some form of natural ebb and flow of the disease rather than the use of vaccinations or is based on the manipulation of statistical data simply is unsupported by the facts on the ground.
- Vaccines have killed millions of people and may even be a plot to control third world populations. If you believe that, then you probably should be reading a different newsletter.
But let’s be clear here: when it comes to vaccination, the medical establishment and the mainstream media have told their share of whoppers as well.
- Thimerosal is perfectly safe. No, it’s not. The argument that thimerosal contains ethylmercury, which clears the bloodstream quickly vs methylmercury means that it’s safe is false. No, just because blood levels of mercury drop quickly does not mean that the mercury has been excreted from the body — only that it has left the bloodstream. Those are two very different conclusions. In fact, research indicates that ethylmercury binds with cellular tissue–especially brain tissue–and locks into the body far faster than methylmercury. The ethylmercury in thimerosal may be clearing your bloodstream, but only because a substantial portion of it is taking up residence in your tissues. In other words, just because the thimerosal/autism connection is dubious doesn’t mean that the “thimerosal is safe to use in vaccines” argument is valid–especially children’s vaccines. And yes, thimerosal has now been removed from most children’s vaccines–a fact now touted by the medical community–but not from flu vaccines, which are heavily promoted for use in children.
- Herd immunity may be a real thing, but being vaccinated doesn’t “guarantee” protection from a disease, which means pathogens can enter the “herd” even if it is fully vaccinated. Yes, the more people that are vaccinated, the better the odds. But it’s not a guarantee.3 James M. Steckelberg, M.D. “Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I’ve already been vaccinated?” Mayo Clinic. July 11, 2018. (Accessed 26 Jul 2019.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/measles/expert-answers/getting-measles-after-vaccination/faq-20125397
- The claim that vaccines are incredibly effective is simply not true, at least as is often stated. Effectiveness, and the duration of that effectiveness, varies from vaccine to vaccine. Some, like the smallpox vaccine, are incredibly effective and long-lasting. But others, such as the flu vaccine range in effectiveness in any given year from 30-50%–sometimes dropping as low as 10% effective. And it’s only effective for one year, which is why people need to get an annual flu shot.
- Vaccines are perfectly safe. No, they’re not. They may not kill hundreds of thousands as claimed by the antivaxxers, but they can indeed be harmful to a very small percentage of people, especially children. The problem is when you take that small percentage and apply it across millions of people, you can end up with some very serious damage.
In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that vaccine manufacturers cannot be sued for any harm caused by their product. The only recourse families have is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Now keep in mind that according to the government’s own estimate, only about 1% of all vaccine injuries are reported. And of those reported and submitted, the odds of getting a claim approved by the NVICP are about the same as obtaining a not-guilty verdict from the Spanish Inquisition. Nevertheless, even with these odds stacked against any payout and only 1% of all injuries being reported, by the end of 2018, the vaccine compensation program had paid out over $4 billion dollars in damages. That’s the very definition of NOT perfectly safe.
The bottom line here is that I would have to ask Google why the medical community gets a free pass for their lies and distortions when it comes to vaccines, whereas the ENTIRE alternative health community is punished because you didn’t like the content coming from the anti-vaccination movement–especially considering that it was you and Facebook that allowed Russian trolls to play to both sides of the issue and work the American public into a frenzy?4 David A. Broniatowski, Amelia M. Jamison, SiHua Qi, et al. “Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate.” Am J Public Health. 2018 October; 108(10): 1378–1384. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137759/ Blocking all dissenting voices simply eliminates the possibility of any reasoned discussion. And when you think about it, aren’t you really punishing the alternative health community for your own failure to control Russian trolls? Going forward, Google now takes moral, ethical, and, as we will see, probably legal responsibility as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program marches towards $5 billion in payouts.
What Google’s Censorship Means to You
Yes, you can still come to sites like jonbarron.org whenever you want to read our articles for information about health topics that interest you–if you already know who we are, that is, and where to find us. But what if you aren’t familiar with the better alternative sites and you’re searching for information about a health topic from ground zero? The odds of your finding anything other than the medically endorsed point of view by searching for the condition on Google are now close to non-existent. In other words, for those who don’t already know about the major alternative health sites, they’re just plain out of luck. They will be stuck with the medical POV and no alternative. Curiously–and I use that term with great sarcasm–Google has decided that the anonymous writers on Wikipedia check all the right boxes on the E-A-T scale. Wikipedia still comes up high on the list when you search for medical issues. Just saying.
What is the Alternative Health Community Doing to Fight Back?
There are several legal issues the Community could use to fight back. Restraint of trade under the Sherman/Clayton Acts comes to mind. Google’s new guidelines, which have been arbitrarily implemented (think Wikipedia) have crushed an entire industry (the alternative health industry) in favor of another (the pharmaceutical/medical industry) from which Google benefits through increased advertising revenues. Also, by censoring the “alternative” voice to medicine, Google’s Medic Update creates an effective monopoly for the pharmaceutical/medical industry, interfering with the free and competitive nature of the health industry. The change was implemented without warning and reverses two decades of precedent and is largely a result of Google’s failure to control Russian trolls’ false narratives on both sides of the vaccination question. Again, Google has chosen to punish the alternative health community for Google’s own failure in controlling Russian trolls fomenting the anti-vaccination debate. (Note: the Russians purpose wasn’t to help one side or the other but to raise the levels of anger and distrust between the sides.) So, what about suing Google? The problem is that Google has a huge legal war chest and an army of lawyers on staff to defend itself against any claims. No one company has the resources to take them on. A class action lawsuit might work, as the amount of damages if multiple companies were involved might be enough for a team of lawyers to take on Google for a contingency fee. My guess is that Google would want to quietly settle out of court considering the comments about Google’s monopoly currently being voiced in both the US Congress and the European courts. Several hundred million dollars and a rewriting of the algorithm to settle across the board would be chump change for Google VS the negative publicity such a case would draw. So, is that likely to happen? Not really. Based on over four decades of experience working in this industry, I can tell you that everybody in the alternative health industry likes to march to their own drummer. Getting people in the industry to work together is, well, like herding cats.
In fact, I put out feelers to several other leaders in the industry looking to see if there was any interest in a unified response. Not one responded. Again, what can I say? We are cats!
What Can You Do About It?
Not a lot. I’d recommend writing to your US representatives and senators, but I know from experience that not enough of you will do that to make a difference. But if you are so inclined, it’s a good idea to do so. In the meantime, you can use other search engines that are not censoring information. Unfortunately, some of the better-known alternatives have chosen to censor alternative sites as well. But DuckDuckGoseems clean. It doesn’t use the Google index or algorithm. Another nice benefit of DuckDuckGo is that they don’t take ads, so you don’t have to deal with that nonsense when looking at your search results. On the other hand, there’s a reason that over 90% of searches on the internet are run through Google’s platforms. First, its index of the totality of webpages available on the net is far, far bigger and more comprehensive than any of its competition. And second, their algorithm filters out many hoaxes and conspiracy theories. And most people would consider that a good thing–until it filters out the conspiracy they’re attached to and want to see. Which brings us to the next section: what happens when Google’s censoring algorithm mistakenly censors valuable information.
Does Google Get Away Scot Free?
Google doesn’t understand this yet, but they are backing a very flawed horse that is making them vulnerable for HUGE penalties–penalties potentially high enough to make even Google wince. I’m guessing that Google really believes that promoting the medical POV and censoring the alternative POV is in the public interest and keeps them safe from recrimination and legal jeopardy. But they are very wrong. Look, I am not denying the massive amount of good that doctors do, nor the things they do that no alternative healer can do. (If you’re involved in a major car accident, you want a surgeon and not an herbalist treating you.) And I have said as much multiple times before on this site, much to the consternation of many of my readers. But make no mistake: the medical community has been on the wrong side of a whole host of health issues, taking positions promoting drugs, foods, and protocols that have killed millions of people–perhaps into the billions when taken worldwide. So, what am I talking about? What have doctors done?
It’s important to understand that, historically, the medical community has been on the wrong side of some major health issues for decades at a time, issues that have cost millions of people their lives. And oftentimes, they haven’t just been on the wrong side; they’ve been active cheerleaders, promoters, and advertisers for that side. In some cases, they have even made vast amounts of money while killing untold numbers of people. And, as you will see in a moment, that’s not an exaggeration. Let’s take a stroll down medical history lane.
As I discussed previously, in one of our now “hidden” newsletters, for almost a half-century from the early 1900’s well into the 1940’s, the alternative health community vehemently argued that the “modern” diet was creating “outpouchings” or “herniations” of the colon. The medical community’s equally vehement response was that this was utter nonsense. After all, they argued, “We perform numerous autopsies and never see any evidence of it.” And they called alternative health practitioners quacks. Nevertheless, starting in the 50’s, they began to take possession of the problem (stealing it, if you will, from the alternative health community) and named it diverticulosis. And as is typical, they gave no acknowledgment to the members of the alternative health community such as John Harvey Kellogg, who identified the disease almost a half century before they did. Nor was there any acknowledgment that they had missed identifying the condition throughout almost a half century of autopsies — something worth keeping in mind the next time you hear the medical community say that today’s autopsies never provide any evidence of people retaining large amounts of old fecal matter in their colons. But more notably, there is now a strong and proven connection between lack of fiber and colon cancer.5 Yu Ma, Mingyue Hu, Lingna Zhou, et al. “Dietary fiber intake and risks of proximal and distal colon cancers: A meta-analysis.” Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Sep; 97(36): e11678. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6133424/ For years, colon cancer was the single most common cancer in men and women combined. (It’s now number two.) How many people died unnecessarily from colon cancer as a result of the medical community’s willful ignorance over 50 years?
In case you’re too young to remember, the Journal of the American Medical Association ran ads for cigarettes from 1933-1953 and published position papers promoting the virtues of cigarette smoking. Yes, they really did that.6 THE ADVERTISING OF CIGARETTES.” JAMA. 1948;138(9):652-653. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/302011 Needless to say, the alternative health community at the time railed against the nasty habit. How many people started smoking because the medical community assured them it was safe? How many deaths from cancer, emphysema, and heart disease (all related to cigarette smoking) is the medical community responsible for?
And here’s a fascinating tidbit. Those cigarette ad pages from JAMA (originals only), no joke, are now being sold as collectibles on eBay.7 https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/five-1943-doctor-chesterfield-cigarette-ads
Seventy years ago, the medical community informed (or more accurately terrified) the country that a diet which included large amounts of butter, lard, eggs, and beef would lead to coronary heart disease. Instead, they recommended substituting high-trans-fat margarine for butter. Now, they sing a different tune and are actively trying to remove trans fats from our diet–never mentioning that they were the ones who forced them on the American public, and the world, in the first place. And, of course, they give no acknowledgment to the alternative health community for once again being out in front of this issue by several decades. And let’s not forget that it is largely because of these same experts that Google is now relying on that so many restaurants and manufacturers turned to hydrogenated oils. (They were told it was the healthy alternative by these same experts.) Just think about it for a moment. The restaurants and manufacturers listened to the pleadings of the medical community 30 years ago and followed their suggestions to abandon butter and lard and shift to high trans fatty acid margarines and shortenings. Twenty years ago, in the first edition of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, I stated, and I quote:
“Hydrogenated (and partially hydrogenated) oils are absolutely unnecessary and have no place in your diet or in any of the foods you eat. The number one dietary prescription from this chapter is to totally eliminate all hydrogenated oils from your diet.” And I was hardly the first from the alternative health community to say that. And what was the medical community doing at that time. Why, they were running ads in the Journal of the American Medical Association promoting the health benefits of trans fat margarine. Millions of people died unnecessarily of heart disease as a result. Imagine how many more would have died if Google had been able to censor the alternative health community back in the day. At least those who listened to us back then were able to avoid an early death from doctor-inflicted heart disease. If Google-like censorship of the alternative health community had been in place back then, how many more people would now be dead?
Let us not forget, that even as the mainstream media paints the pharmaceutical companies as the sole villain in this story, that’s a false narrative. The medical community was totally onboard with opioids for years–prescribing them like candy to unsuspecting patients (“Trust me. I’m a doctor”)–prescribing over 11 billion pills, in fact.8 “42,000 Americans die each year of opioid overdose. Government looks the other way.” Drug Watcher. April 22, 2018. (Accessed 23 Jul 2019.) https://www.drugwatcher.org/opioid-epidemic/ The alternative health community warned of their dangers–but not your friendly neighborhood physician. Remember, pharmaceutical companies can only manufacture drugs. Without physicians prescribing them, no one can use them. Quite simply, the medical community was instrumental in creating the largest addiction crisis in the history of the United States–a crisis that is now killing 48,000 people a year.9 “Understand the Epidemic.” CDC. December 19, 2018. (Accessed 23 Jul 2019.) https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html The economic burden of prescription opioid misuse is estimated to now be $78.5 billion per year, including health care costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.10 Florence CS, Zhou C, Luo F, Xu L. “The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013.” Med Care. 2016;54(10):901-906. https://journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/Abstract/2016/10000/The_Economic_Burden_of_Prescription_Opioid.2.aspx And once again, let me remind you that the same medical community that Google has now determined is the sole arbiter for all health information is fully complicit in, and fully culpable for, this epidemic. In addition, I would suggest the terrifying numbers I just cited would be far, far higher and the crisis far, far worse–as hard as that may be to imagine–if the alternative health community hadn’t been telling its followers to avoid opioids like the plague–just saying. Going forward, thanks to Google, that information source will no longer be available.
Google Could Be Part of a Current Class Action
All the examples I’ve cited so far are historical, and alternative health sites had free rein “back then” to warn people about the flaws in medical opinion and ultimately save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives. But what major issues are ongoing, for which Google’s current censorship of alternative sites denies people adequate access to points of view that challenge erroneous medical orthodoxy? What current issues involving millions of people could ultimately be settled in a class action lawsuit in which Google would be included as a defendant for denying people access to lifesaving information? Well, two come to mind.
The medical community has touted the virtues of low-dose aspirin for years, even as the alternative health community has railed against it. Lately, some members of the medical community have begun to echo the alternative health community’s concerns, citing recent studies that show little benefit and the potential for significant harm from the daily use of low-dose aspirin. Unfortunately, most doctors haven’t got the message and are still recommending it to their patients. Currently, as the result of the medical community’s misguided but all-in, multi-year endorsement of low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease, nearly 30 million Americans older than 40 currently take aspirin daily to prevent cardiovascular disease.11 Colin W. O’Brien, Stephen P. Juraschek, Christina C. Wee. “Prevalence of Aspirin Use for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in the United States: Results From the 2017 National Health Interview Survey.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2019. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2738925/prevalence-aspirin-use-primary-prevention-cardiovascular-disease-united-states-results More than 6 million of those Americans take aspirin daily without a physician’s recommendation just because they’ve heard doctors recommend it. Nearly half of Americans more than 70 years of age without cardiovascular disease, an estimate of nearly 10 million people, take aspirin daily — despite current guidelines warning against this practice.12 Colin W. O’Brien, Stephen P. Juraschek, Christina C. Wee. “Prevalence of Aspirin Use for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in the United States: Results From the 2017 National Health Interview Survey.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2019. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2738925/prevalence-aspirin-use-primary-prevention-cardiovascular-disease-united-states-results The medical community has spent years building such a strong case for the use of low-dose aspirin that word of their change of heart is not reaching their troops in the field, let alone the public at large. If Google chooses to keep censoring alternative health websites that speak out against low-dose aspirin, it becomes an easy claim that many of the plaintiffs in a class action suit would have made a different choice and avoided serious harm, or even death, if they had not been denied access to that information.
Guidelines proposed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology in 2013 pushed to have 87 percent of all men between the ages of 60-75 on statins, and 53 percent of all women in the same age group.13 Neil J. Stone, Jennifer G. Robinson, Alice H. Lichtenstein, et al. “2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults.” Circulation. June 24, 2014 – Volume 129, Issue 25_suppl_2. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/01.cir.0000437738.63853.7a Given the extraordinary profits such enrollment would net for the pharmaceutical industry, one might at least raise an eyebrow. Anyway, as a result, statin use among adults keeps increasing, even though studies show that statins for those who have never had a heart attack don’t add a single day to your life expectancy. In fact, a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the harmful outcomes when you use statins for primary prevention of a first heart attack outweigh the benefits. In other words, right now, anywhere from 50 to 200 people who don’t have CVD must take a statin to prevent just 1 heart attack over 5 years. Meanwhile, many of these patients will develop muscle pains, and they are also at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.14 Yebyo HG, Aschmann HE, Puhan MA. “Finding the Balance Between Benefits and Harms When Using Statins for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Modeling Study.” Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 4 December 2018]170:1–10. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2717730/finding-balance-between-benefits-harms-when-using-statins-primary-prevention And let’s not ignore last year’s study published in Drug Safety that found that statin drugs increase the risk of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).15 Beatrice A. Golomb, Abril Verden, Alexis K. Messner, Hayley J. Koslik, Keith B. Hoffman. “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Associated with Statin Use: A Disproportionality Analysis of the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System.” Drug Safety. April 2018, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 403–413. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40264-017-0620-4 But still, the mainstream medical community (despite dissenting voices) marches on, prescribing ever more statin drugs to an ever-expanding market. In fact, and not surprisingly, statin drugs are now the all-time best-selling pharmaceutical products, starting with Lipitor. And now, Google has decided to censor the primary dissenting voices in the world today–alternative health websites. Once again, this leaves them fair game to be included in any class action lawsuit that includes people who used statin drugs and developed ALS or diabetes or chronic muscle pain or whatever else is discovered to be caused by statin use.
Look, kudos to the medical community for all they do well and all the lives they save. And yes, the alternative health community has made bad calls over the years. And yes, some so-called alternative health sites are merely selling bogus supplements under the pretense of curing major diseases. But let’s be clear. We’re talking about maybe hundreds of deaths that might be laid at the feet of alternative health websites over the last quarter century. And let’s factor in the anti-vaxxer movement, which may be responsible for the recent spike in measles cases, but deaths?? No. There have been only 11 measles deaths total in the United States since 2000, and not all of those can be blamed on the anti-vaccination movement. Yes, that low number is because so many other citizens did get vaccinated, which helped protect the unvaccinated members of the herd. (It should be noted that worldwide, some 110,000 people–mostly children and mostly unvaccinated–died from measles in 2017.)16 “Measles.” WHO. 9 May 2019. (Accessed 2 Aug 2019.) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles. Nevertheless, compare those 11 deaths to the millions of deaths that can be laid at the feet of the medical community as a result of their bad advice on:
- Trans fats
- Statin drugs
- Note: I ran out time to talk about hormone replacement therapy and drugs such as Vioxx and countless other examples.
- By the way, speaking of Vioxx, not only was it responsible for anywhere from 27,000 to 60,000 deaths (depending on whose numbers you believe), but the studies used to attest to its safety and get it approved were not written by researchers, but by ghostwriters hired by Merck.17 Janice Hopkins Tanne. “Merck used ghostwriters and selective data in Vioxx publications, JAMA says.” BMJ 2008;336:849. https://www.bmj.com/content/336/7649/849.1 So, once again, I have to ask, “Hey Google, really? These are the people that you say rank high on the E-A-T scale VS alternative health websites? Really?”
Anyway, these are all just a sampling of the issues that the medical community got wrong at the cost of millions of lives–issues that the alternative health community got right long before the medical community changed course, thus saving countless lives. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the alternative health community has probably saved millions of lives–while waiting for doctors to get their act together–when you consider just cigarettes and trans fats alone. The bottom line is that Google’s decision to censor alternative health websites is not only wrongheaded but is likely to result in a further huge loss of human life. And it puts Google in a severely vulnerable legal position moving forward.
And How Would this Vulnerability Play Out?
So, let’s now talk a bit about how Google’s Medic Update might make them legally vulnerable and, ultimately, culpable. Quite simply, Google’s culpability would be in actively suppressing information that could allow people to make decisions that, although they might run counter to orthodox medical advice, would nevertheless save their lives. Again, remember how many lives have already been lost from misguided advice from the medical community. Make no mistake: there is huge culpability. But can a private company be sued for this sort of thing? And the answer is: yes. And keep in mind that Google is no longer a private company in the traditional sense. In fact, it is a private company, running a public utility as a monopoly. Wait a second! Am I saying Google is a utility company like water, electricity, or telephone companies? Well, yes! Consider the definition of a public utility. It’s defined as a private business organization, subject to governmental regulation, that provides an essential commodity or service, such as water, electricity, transportation, or communication, to the public. Originally, all these services were provided by purely private companies like Google that ran their businesses in a totally private, predatory manner until the government deemed that they were essential services and stepped in to regulate and oversee them. Can anyone now say, in the information age, that search engines on the internet are not essential to life? It’s not even a close call. Just think how many times a day you search something out on the internet and rely on that information to determine what you want to buy, what doctor you intend to go to, what plumber you hire–and more to the point, how you intend to deal with an illness that you or a loved one may have. The official designation of search engines as a public utility is only a matter of time, and not very much of it. And let’s be clear, when we’re talking about search engines, we’re talking about Google. According to Visual Capitalist, over 90% of all searches on the net are now conducted via Google platforms (Google, Google Images, YouTube). That’s the textbook definition of a monopoly.
Oh, and I probably should mention the fact that according to Statista, Google earned $136 billion in 2018–and growing.18 “Google’s revenue worldwide from 2002 to 2018 (in billion U.S. dollars).” Statista. 2019. (Accessed 23 Jul 2019.) https://www.statista.com/statistics/266206/googles-annual-global-revenue/ As a comparison, consider that Purdue Pharma, the primary pharmaceutical culprit in the opioid crisis earned a mere 500 million dollars in 2018.19 “PURDUE PHARMA Revenue, Growth & Competitor Profile.” Inc Fact. July 15, 2019. (Accessed 23 Jul 2019.) https://incfact.com/company/purduepharma-stamford-ct/ Their reserves, of course, (at least those not already siphoned off to the owners) are likely to be substantially higher based on their glory years selling opioids by the truckload. But even with those reserves AND assuming you might be able to tap into some of the owners’ personal fortunes as well, you’re still talking only about $10-15 billion at most. Considering how huge the crisis and how much harm it’s caused, that’s hardly a deep well for lawyers to draw from. Now, spread that out over all the states, agencies, and families affected by the crisis, and the amount per affected individual is very little. And as I mentioned earlier, you can’t really include individual doctors who prescribed opioids like candy in a class action suit. They simply don’t have enough money individually to make it worthwhile. But a $136 billion dollar a year company with cash reserves of over $100 billion makes for an unsympathetic villain, especially when the lawyers point out to a jury that Google kept their clients from accessing information that could have kept them from irreparable harm or even saved their lives? That, as they say, is a no-brainer for a jury. And when you’re talking about millions of people dying or suffering severe injury from bad medical advice, we’re talking many, many billions of dollars in damages. Even a small award per person, when extrapolated out to several million people is billions of dollars. And when you’re talking death, addiction, cancer, internal bleeding, etc. those awards will not be small. At several hundred thousand dollars per person times several million people, even Google would feel the pain. So, that’s Google’s vulnerability going forward, now that they’ve censored the only voice that balances out the hubristic excesses of the medical community. Good luck with that. All I know is that if I were Google’s in-house lawyers, I’d be having a serious sit-down with my client right about now.
Pass it on
One problem with Google’s censorship is that the only people who will get to read this newsletter are those of you on our subscriber list who were notified by email–and those people you share it with. Thanks to Google, we’re pretty much guaranteed, that unlike in the past when several hundred thousand people would find this report by searching on the net, that number will now be close to zero. That means, if you think there’s anything in this newsletter worth sharing with others, you’ll have to do the heavy lifting and mail out the link to everyone you know who you think might be interested–and we would hope, a number of them do the same. Thanks to Google, if you don’t actively pass it on, it will die with you.
What it Means to the Baseline of Health Foundation Moving Forward
On a different note, for those of you interested as to how the changes at Baseline Nutritionals affect us here at the Foundation–good question, especially considering that Baseline Nutritionals has provided the entirety of our funding. Quite simply, the changes at Baseline mean they will no longer be able to fund our operations. Fortunately, the Baseline of Health Foundation is a passion project for me, which is why I’ve spent most of my time working here without pay. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of money every year to run this site, and that money is now no longer available. Nevertheless, it is my intention to keep the Foundation going, but according to the following timeframe..
- Around January or February, I will put jonbarron.org in a state of suspended animation. In other words, we’re going to reduce staff to a bare minimum, and new content will be much more occasional. And we won’t be doing many mailings to those of you on our subscriber list–for a while.
- I’m going to take a couple of months off to regroup. I’m kind of worn down after 16 years of 12-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. Amusingly, I got an email addressed to me at the Foundation back in July that read, “Good Lord, still going strong? You should retire, taste the carefree life. Trevor, long-time admirer of your work.” Well, Trevor, come January, I’m going to take your advice–for a couple of months anyway.
- After that, I will return to the final rewrite of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors–codenamed The Digital Reference Edition. As a digital edition, I will not be restricted by costs associated with printing, which limit the length of the book (the new edition will be twice the size of the last edition) and the amount of illustrations that can be used. Also, as a digital edition, the book will contain hundreds of live citation links to all the studies that support the information in the book (eat that Google), as well as being totally searchable. And the cost of the book will be less than the printed edition.
I’m guessing that with no distractions it will take about three months for me to finish putting it together. Then another three months to clean it up with an editor and get it fully illustrated and converted to e-book format for both Amazon and Apple. Anyway, the bottom line is that I look to release the edition before the end of the year 2020–unless I just enjoy my time off too much.
PS: and for any of you interested, Baseline Nutritionals is temporarily moving all their inventory over to Amazon–at least until mid-October. They are, however, working to streamline their operations and recover their ability to once again sell directly to their customers, as well as once again service their overseas customers. Keep in mind, that not all products will be available on Amazon, and not all products will be continued once they sell out. So, if you have any favorites, you might want to stock up ASAP.
PPS: for more information, check out their new website at baselinenutritionals.com.