Google, the tech giant at the centre of a tax controversy in the UK, has “categorically” rubbished “conspiracy theories” suggesting the search engine’s autocomplete function censors results relating to the Conservative Party.
Users of Google’s search engine noticed anomalies in the way the autocomplete function operates when searching for British political parties. More suspicious users suspected the kinder treatment given to the Conservative Party had something to do with the company’s recent UK tax deal, reports The Guardian.
Autocomplete provides suggested searches which are generated algorithmically from previous searches for the same topic. Major political parties tend to produce predictably negative results. For example if you type in “Labour are” Google produces a series of suggested terms to complete the search which are almost universally pejorative.
Most recently this suggests “Labour are” are: “…finished”, “…a joke”, or “…scum”.
The search “Lib Dems are” offers: “… finished”, “… pointless”, “… traitors”, or “left wing”.
For the Scottish National Party, “SNP are” gives: “…liars”, “…a joke”, “…Nazis”, or “right wing”.
On the other hand, those typing “Conservatives are” or “Tories are” are offered no search autocomplete suggestions at all. As such, outraged Labour Party activists took to social media suggesting that explained in part how the multinational technology company brokered its recent UK tax deal.
Still think the Tories play fair? Looks like they are asking Google to censor. Actually amazed it works, too. pic.twitter.com/Kir3N58waW
— Christopher Bramley (@christopbramley) February 2, 2016
A Google spokesman said the company “can categorically state that tax is not remotely connected to this, nor are their ‘conspiracy theories’ founded in any way”. A possible explanation of the results is that the company does remove offensive or inappropriate content from autocomplete predictions, and outraged Tories are over-represented among those reporting such content to Google’s dedicated web page.
Similar zero returns are generated when the searches “Christians are” or “Jews are” are entered, although “Muslims are” does offer the response “not terrorists”.
In 2015, Google’s spin chief for the UK – Tory backer Rachel Whetstone – was replaced by former BBC man Peter Barron. Mr. Barron has previously worked for the left-wing Channel 4, BBC, and with the Edinburgh International TV Festival. The very left-wing festival hosted as its guest speaker in 2011, Google’s Dr. Eric Schmidt.
When “Conservative Party is” or “Tory Party is” are entered, both requests autocomplete to the same response: