President Trump vowed to take action against Google early Tuesday morning in response to a report suggesting that the search engine’s algorithm was suppressing conservative outlets’ coverage of Trump. “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media,” Trump tweeted. “In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD.”
“Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous,” he continued. “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”
Google has since responded, insisting in a statement to Gizmodo that its algorithms have no political bias and the company would “never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”
Trump’s early morning tweets were inspired by a report published over the weekend by PJ Media in which writer Paula Bolyard detailed the eye-opening results of her attempts to search for articles on Trump using Google’s news category. “I expected to see some skewing of the results based on my extensive experience with Google, but I was not prepared for the blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets,” she wrote of her multiple attempts using computers registered to different users.
“Not a single right-leaning site appeared on the first page of search results,” she wrote of her results. “But it got much, much worse when I analyzed the first 100 items that Google returned in a search for news on ‘Trump.’ CNN, by a wide margin, appeared most frequently, with nearly twice as many results returned as the second-place finisher, The Washington Post. Other left-leaning outlets also fared well, including NBC, CNBC, The Atlantic, and Politico. The only right-leaning sites to appear in the top 100 were The Wall Street Journal and Fox News with 3 and 2 results respectively.”
While Bolyard stressed that her own study was not scientific, she pointed to a recent study produced by search engine optimization company “Can I Rank,” which found a consistent, significant leftward bias in Google when searching for political topics. Here’s an excerpt from the study:
In order to assess how fairly search engine results portray political candidates and controversial issues, we collected over 1,200 URLs ranking highly in Google.com for politically-charged keywords such as “gun control”, “abortion”, “TPP”, and “Black Lives Matter”. Each URL was then assessed for political slant by politically active individuals from both the left and right. Finally, we used CanIRank’s SEO software to analyze how each URL compared in dozens of different ranking factors to determine whether Google’s algorithm treated websites similarly regardless of their political slant.
Among our key findings were that top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a “Left” or “Far Left” slant than they were pages from the right. Moreover, 16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results.