It’s no secret that Big Tech swings to the Left and that many in the industry were devastated that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. But at Google, some engineers debated whether the company should suppress conservative news websites — The Daily Caller and Breitbart were specifically mentioned — to keep President Donald Trump from winning in 2020, according to internal documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).
“This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google, sadly, had a hand in it,” engineer Scott Byer wrote on Nov. 9, 2016, according to the documents.
“How many times did you see the Election now card with items from opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations? That’s something that can and should be fixed,” he also wrote.
Further, Byer suggested Google had “a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources – because not doing so hides real information under loud noises,” and suggested “teaching critical thinking” before writing that the company makes sure “we reverse things in four years – demographics will be on our side.”
Other employees were not so keen to censor, believing the move could backfire and lead to “conspiracy theories,” according to the documents.
“Thinking that Breitbart, Drudge, etc. are not ‘legitimate news sources’ is contrary to the beliefs of a major portion of our user base is partially what got us to this mess. MSNBC is not more legit than Drudge just because Rachel Maddow may be more educated / less deplorable / closer to our views, than, say Sean Hannity,” Google engineer Uri Dekel, a Clinton supporter, wrote in response to Byer.
“I follow a lot of right wing folks on social networks you could tell something was brewing. We laughed off Drudge’s Instant Polls and all that stuff, but in the end, people go to those sources because they believe that the media doesn’t do it’s [sic] job. I’m a Hillary supporter and let’s admit it, the media avoided dealing with the hard questions and issues, which didn’t pay off. By ranking ‘legitimacy’ you’ll just introduce more conspiracy theories,” he added.
Byer pushed back, according to the DCNF, writing that “Too many times, Breitbart is just echoing a demonstrably made up story.” He added that MSNBC was guilty of this, too, and insisted he didn’t “want a political judgement.”
“The desire is to break the myth feedback loop, the false equivalency, instead of the current amplification of it,” he wrote.
Mike Brauwerman, another Google engineer, suggested giving users a fuller picture of a story.
“What I believe we can do, technically, that avoids the accusations of conspiracy or bias from people who ultimately have a right and obligation to decide what they want to believe, is to get better at displaying the ‘ripples’ and copy-pasta, to trace information to its source, to link to critiques of those sources, and let people decide what sources they believe,” Brauwerman suggested.
“Give people a comprehensive but effectively summarized view of the information, not context-free rage-inducing sound-bytes,” he wrote.
The leaks of these documents is the latest hit to the corporation. In October, a video of a Google presentation titled “The Good Censor” leaked to Breitbart News and revealed the tech company believed free speech had “gone awry.”
In January 2018, Google was caught incorrectly fact-checking conservative news websites while leaving left-leaning outlets untouched. The company quickly ended its “fact-checking” process.