Trump's Google Search Bias Claims ‘Highly Unlikely': Expert

The year was 2009.

A politician carried out a Google search of his own name and the results that returned were personally critical of him.

His authoritarian communist regime’s state-run media began accusing Google of a political agenda.

Google consistently refused to remove the link, citing its own anti-censorship principles, and eventually they left China’s mainland.

Fast-forward a decade.

In a series of pre-dawn Tweets, U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google of suppressing positive news about him and pushing negative news stories about his presidency to the top of search engine results as part of a political bias.

Trump said on Twitter that searches for the words “Trump news” were returning results to him that were primarily from liberal media outlets. He declared it a “very serious situation,” and vowed it “will be addressed.”

He also said: “Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. 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?”

And 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.”

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Google said its search results aren’t biased toward a particular political ideology. “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment,” the spokeswoman said.

NBC 7 reached out to Dr. Steven Andrés, who teaches management information systems at the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University, for more information on how Google search works.

Andrés said one misunderstanding people tend to have about Google’s search engine is they think about it like an index when really Google’s algorithms are trying to tailor their search results to make them most relevant to you, specifically.  

“If you type ‘Trump News’ in from your computer at a certain time of day from a certain IP address, you’re going to get a completely different output; different search results than the reporter sitting right next to you gets, because the results are tailored to be relevant to you,” Andrés said. “We’re all going to get different outputs.”

Andrés said limiting those outputs by political ideology could reduce relevancy and therefore profits for the search engine giant.

"While we can't know exactly how Google Search algorithm works, it's highly unlikely they would consider political leaning in their search results simply because they would have to hire millions of people to review and categorize sites along the political spectrum -- and that still wouldn't improve search result relevancy," Andrés said.

Trump’s accusations come amid a number of other concerns being voiced by policy makers about Google’s practices, including whether or not they are endangering consumers’ privacy and shutting out competition in the market.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence plans to hear from top executives from Google about election interference on September 5.

Trump’s tweets were not just a way to call attention to a legislative issue. Conservative attacks on the perceived tech bias against Republicans have intensified ahead of the 2018 mid-terms. Trump’s campaign cited his early morning attack on Google in a text message later Tuesday asking supporters to donate ahead of a fundraising deadline, according to the Washington Post.  

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