If you made a Google search for "presidential candidates" this morning, you would have found an unusual result. As of this morning, the top bar of results displayed Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein — with Donald Trump and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson left off the top bar entirely. (Below the top section, both candidates still appeared in a number of Google News results.) By 9AM ET today, Google had pushed a fix that restored Trump and Johnson, but not before some outlets seized on the finding as evidence of "the tech giant’s left-wing bias."
According to Google, the omissions were the result of a "technical bug" in the Knowledge Graph, the massive information-mapping system that provides the top results bar under many fact-based searches. "Only the presidential candidates participating in an active primary election were appearing in a Knowledge Graph result," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "Because the Republican and Libertarian primaries have ended, those candidates did not appear. This bug was resolved early this morning."
Google’s Search function has drawn a number of accusations of political manipulation this election cycle, many of which have proven inaccurate. In June, a video from the Sourcefed YouTube channel accused Google of hiding negative autocorrect suggestions for Hillary Clinton, without taking similar measures for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Google denied the allegation, and further testing showed that the apparent differences were a result of varying questions and Google’s blanket ban on offensive or disparaging autocomplete results. While the system refused to autocomplete "Hillary Clinton crimes," it also refused to autocomplete "crimes" after the name of other candidates, and "indictment" was easily autocompleted for all three examples.