Google: Is search rigged against Trump?
Trump is wrong about Google, said Shira Ovide in Bloomberg.com. The search giant and other tech companies aren’t tilted against conservative media—actually they’re so worried about accusations of bias that they’re too slow to crack down on “hoaxes” and “hatred.” President Trump’s edict, delivered before dawn one morning last week, that Google News search results were “RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” underlines the peril tech companies face. Charges of bias and “largely disingenuous complaints that Google and other U.S. internet companies are stifling conservative viewpoints” are now common currency among the president’s base. With 65 percent of conservatives already believing social media platforms suppress conservative views, said Mike Allen in Axios.com, Trump has done to internet companies what he previously did to mainstream media: convince a large swathe of Americans they’re “biased—and fake.”
The facts don’t matter to Trump anyway, said Brian Barrett in Wired.com. This presidential feud, like many others, is about “a roiling stew of personal animus,” not about making Google better. Most of the stories on a Trump search are negative for the simple reason that there’s been plenty of bad news in Trumpworld lately. Nonetheless, Trump’s base is convinced that every major outlet except Fox News and The Wall Street Journal is part of the Left. If you look at how Google ranks sources, said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic.com, it’s no surprise that The Washington Post and The New York Times—which have thousands of journalists—rank higher in Google searches than The Weekly Standard or Breitbart.com. Google optimizes for answers with “relevance” and “quality,” looking at depth, sourcing, and timeliness. Those are not evenly distributed. Many right-wing outlets have a small staff and few reporting resources. Guess what? Small, left-leaning sites like Salon.com and DailyKos.com don’t do well with Google, either. “Of course the mainstream organizations—with larger staffs, generally better-trained journalists, and deeper roots in the field—would rank higher.”
But even if Google isn’t rigging results for partisan reasons, said Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times, we should still worry about its “biases and power.” U.S. web users rely on it for roughly 8 in 10 web searches. It dominates global internet advertising and “shapes the market for digital news.” Google’s algorithms frequently mess up: When users have searched for “black women,” for instance, Google has turned up porn. The algorithms are designed “by humans who have preferences, opinions, and blind spots,” working at a company with “clear financial and political goals.” It’s time to reconsider just “how in thrall we are to this single company.” ■