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Like other search engines (including Microsoft's Bing), we also use exception lists when specific algorithms inadvertently impact websites, and when we believe an exception list will significantly improve search quality. We don't keep a master list protecting certain sites from all changes to our algorithms.
The most common manual exceptions we make are for sites that get caught by SafeSearch - a tool that gives people a way to filter adult content from their results. For example, "essex.edu" was incorrectly flagged by our SafeSearch algorithms because it contains the word "sex." On the rare occasions we make manual exceptions, we go to great lengths to apply our quality standards and guidelines fairly to all websites.
Mr. Wall has a good piece on this topic - the screen shots are there for anyone to see.
If the guys who wrote the algo were just down the hall,the boys that wrote the algo own thee company and I highly doubt any single department has full access to it. I am sure the departments are split up each as a small portion or department they work. nobody can get the whole code except maybe like 3 people if that many. It would be a very stupid mistake on Googles' part and I know they are much to bright to allow this to happen. Surps being fixed I don't belive at all but sites that are major players in their field yes I have a strong feeling they are helped. But there again we have seen were major players violated certian parts of Google's policy and were filtered.
I have long believed a whitelist exists that includes a number of major publications. One reason I think so is because a number of such websites are not "penalized" for duplicate content (unlike lesser mortals like us) from sources like Reuters, AP,etc. (which is carried by a number of these big publications).
It's pretty clear Google tweaks the "algorithm" to prefer certain sites / characteristics;
That's what makes em a search engine and not a random jumble of results, isn't it?
Yea sorry on reflection that sentence isn't the most sensible thing I've ever written.
...if someone doesn't see the difference between an exception list and a whitelist...
And yet - to be blunt - if someone doesn't see the difference between an exception list and a whitelist, then they're going to be crippled as they try to analyze Google results.
Sometimes I think people begin by being upset with Google - and then they look for ideas that justify their feeling. That, however, is not analysis and it generates terrible SEO. You might as well throw chicken bones.
But what most people seem to be taking umbrage with is the idea of "a list"