A recent report claims that Google employees internally discussed burying search results for conservative media outlets like Breitbart News and The Daily Caller. One Google engineer made his intentions clear by commenting, “let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years.”
A recent report from The Daily Caller claims that employees at tech giant Google discussed burying conservative media, including Breitbart and the Daily Caller, within the company’s search results. The article claims that employees referred to both news outlets as “opinion blogs” and discussed de-ranking the websites within Google’s search results in an attempt to “make sure that we reverse things in four years.”
The Daily Caller alleges that according to leaked internal emails, Google employees expressed their dismay at Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential elections and discussed ways to prevent President Trump winning a second term. Google engineer Scott Byer wrote in an email correspondence dated Nov. 9, 2016: “This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google, sadly, had a hand in it.”
Byers further referred to both Breitbart News and The Daily Caller stating: “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 continued stating: “I think we have a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources – because not doing so hides real information under loud noises.”
Byers stated: “Beyond that, let’s concentrate on teaching critical thinking. A little bit of that would go a long way. Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years – demographics will be on our side.” Some of Byers colleagues reportedly expressed issues with manipulating search results so blatantly and offered alternative solutions, one engineer named Uri Dekel admitted that he was a Clinton supporter but still did not agree with manually altering search results.
“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,” Dekel wrote.
Dekel further stated that despite being a Hillary supporter, the media went easy on the Democratic candidate which hurt her election chances in the end: “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 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,” Dekel stated.
Byers then accused Breitbart News of publishing fake news but, of course, provided no evidence for this claim: “Too many times, Breitbart is just echoing a demonstrably made up story,” Byer stated. “That happens at MSNBC, too. I don’t want a political judgment. The desire is to break the myth feedback loop, the false equivalency, instead of the current amplification of it.”
David Besbris, the vice president of engineering at Google, commented on the exchange stating: “We’re working on providing users with context around stories so that they can know the bigger picture. We can play a role in providing the full story and educate them about all sides. This doesn’t have to be filtering and can be useful to everyone.”
A Google spokesperson assured The Daily Caller that this conversation did not lead to Google actively manipulating search results, stating: “This post shows that far from suppressing Breitbart and Daily Caller, we surfaced these sites regularly in our products. Furthermore, it shows that we value providing people with the full view on stories from a variety of sources. Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology. Our processes and policies do not allow for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies.”
This chain of emails discussing the practice of suppressing certain websites does add credence to previous claims that Google manipulated search results for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, a topic that Breitbart News has covered extensively.
A report from Dr. Robert Epstein published in 2016 showed that Google appeared to favor positive autocomplete search results relating to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, even when search terms critical of Clinton were actually more popular at the time. Epstein’s report revealed that Google manipulated search results related to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election that had the potential to “shift as many as 3 million votes” according to Epstein.
Epstein along with his colleagues at the American Institute for Behavioral Research (AIBRT) became interested in a video published by Matt Lieberman of Sourcefed which claimed that Google searches suppressed negative information about Hillary Clinton while other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo showed accurate results.
Epstein and AIBRT tested hundreds of different search terms related to the 2016 election, using Yahoo and Bing search as a control. Epstein’s report stated:
It is somewhat difficult to get the Google search bar to suggest negative searches related to Mrs. Clinton or to make any Clinton-related suggestions when one types a negative search term. Bing and Yahoo, on the other hand, often show a number of negative suggestions in response to the same search terms. Bing and Yahoo seem to be showing us what people are actually searching for; Google is showing us something else — but what, and for what purpose?
As for Google Trends, as Lieberman reported, Google indeed withholds negative search terms for Mrs. Clinton even when such terms show high popularity in Trends. We have also found that Google often suggests positive search terms for Mrs. Clinton even when such terms are nearly invisible in Trends. The widely held belief, reinforced by Google’s own documentation, that Google’s search suggestions are based on “what other people are searching for” seems to be untrue in many instances.
Google tries to explain away such findings by saying its search bar is programmed to avoid suggesting searches that portray people in a negative light. As far as we can tell, this claim is false; Google suppresses negative suggestions selectively, not across the board. It is easy to get autocomplete to suggest negative searches related to prominent people, one of whom happens to be Mrs. Clinton’s opponent.
Epstein then hypothesized that Google directly altered search results in an attempt to influence the 2016 election:
Without whistleblowers or warrants, no one can prove Google executives are using digital shenanigans to influence elections, but I don’t see how we can rule out that possibility. There is nothing illegal about manipulating people using search suggestions and search rankings — quite the contrary, in fact — and it makes good financial sense for a company to use every legal means at its disposal to support its preferred candidates.
President Trump himself speculated in September that Google and Facebook are working to affect election outcomes. When asked if he felt that there was a possibility social media companies may influence elections, the President stated: “I think they already have. I mean the true interference in the last election was that — if you look at all, virtually all of those companies are super liberal companies in favor of Hillary Clinton,” he added.
President Trump continued to state: “Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter and I’m good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side.” Google has been linked to Hillary Clinton on multiple occasions in the past, Breitbart News summarized the politician’s connection to the tech giant here.