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Trump claims Google is suppressing positive news about him and ‘will be addressed’

Trump claims Google is suppressing positive news about him and ‘will be addressed’


The president said that Google had ‘rigged’ its search results to suppress positive coverage

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President Trump And First Lady Host Dinner With Evangelical Leadership
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The perceived left-wing bias of big tech companies has become a major talking point for conservatives. This morning on Twitter, President Trump escalated their claims.

Trump suggested that not only was there a tendency for tech companies to suppress right-wing voices, but that Google “rigged” its search results to only show negative reporting about him. The president said that the search giant and others were “hiding information and news that is good,” and that this was a “very serious situation” that “will be addressed.”

In a press statement, Google denied the president’s accusations, saying it never biases its results “toward any political ideology.” The White House is following up on the president’s claims, though, with economic adviser Larry Kudlow even telling reporters this morning that the administration is “taking a look” at the possibility of government regulation.

In his tweets this morning, Trump included a dubious statistic: that 96 percent of search results for the term “Trump News” came from “National Left-Wing Media.” This claim seems to have originated on the right-wing site PJ Media before spreading to other outlets, including Fox News. It’s the analysis of a reporter who Googled the term “Trump” a number of times “using different computers.” She then tallied up the perceived bias of the outlets appearing in the first 100 results. (The political alignment of the outlets was assigned based on a chart by journalist Sharyl Attkisson, a former CNN reporter who appeared on Fox News last year claiming that the media is feeding the public an “artificial reality.”)

As ever with Trump’s tweets there’s a lot to unpack. First, the president has a habit of making promises he never follows up on, so it’s not clear what he means by saying that the situation “will be addressed.” Could be something, could be nothing. Similarly, Trump’s use of the term “fake news” is pretty meaningless here (and has been for a long time), as the president has a habit of dismissing any coverage critical of him as false.

It’s also difficult to analyze the idea of bias in Google’s algorithms. The company uses a number of measures to weight its search rankings, and while the exact formula is not known, factors like an outlet’s longevity, its reputation, and its ability to fill stories with relevant keywords all play a part. The rankings also differ from market to market, making objective analysis difficult (especially when it’s based on a few Google search results).

Google said as much in its response to Trump’s comments. Here’s the company’s full statement:

“When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

However, it’s clear that these latest messages from the president feed into the perception of many of his supporters that the media is the “enemy of the people” and biased against Trump’s agenda. In recent years, conservatives have used this claim to attack sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now it seems Google is in the firing line, too.

Update August 28th, 10:30AM ET: The story has been updated with responses from Google and from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.