Google employees debated manipulating search results to suppress conservatives: report
November 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Engineers at internet powerhouse Google privately discussed manipulating search results to bury content from conservative websites following the 2016 election, according to internal communications obtained by the Daily Caller.
On Thursday, the Caller reported that it has obtained communications beginning November 9, 2016, the day after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, in which employees of the world’s most influential search engine not only lamented the outcome, but discussed doing something about it.
“This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google, sadly, had a hand in it,” engineer Scott Byer wrote. He expressed a desire to “fix” the phenomenon of the site’s election card highlighting stories from the Caller and Breitbart, which he complained elevated “opinion blogs” to be on par with “legitimate news organizations.”
“I think we have a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources – because not doing so hides real information under loud noises,” Byer said. “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.”
His colleague Uri Dekel disagreed, positing that delegitimizing conservative news outlets “is partially what got us to this mess.”
“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 [sic] job,” Dekel continued. “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.”
Byer responded by claiming he doesn’t want a “political judgement” but merely to “break the myth feedback loop, the false equivalency,” insisting that Breitbart is “just echoing a demonstrably made up story” on “many” occasions. He admitted the same thing “happens at MSNBC, too.”
Engineer Mike Brauwerman chimed in to suggest Google could avoid “accusations of conspiracy or bias from people who ultimately have a right and obligation to decide what they want to believe” by “get[ting] better at displaying the ‘ripples’ and copy-pasta, to trace information to its source, to link to critiques of those sources, and let people decide what sources they believe.”
This may be referencing what eventually became Google’s “Reviewed Claims” feature, which conservatives criticized for falsely attributing erroneous claims to conservative websites while failing to fact-check liberal ones. The company discontinued the function in January.
A Google spokeswoman downplayed the significance of the exchange in a response to the Daily Caller, insisting the employees’ talk never translated to discriminating against conservative websites.
“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,” she claimed. “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.”
But this isn’t the first instance of Google insiders privately discussing how to affect political outcomes, nor is it true that such desires have never manifested in their products.
Over the past few months, multiple private communications leaked revealing that the company took part in Hispanic voter turnout efforts in hopes of benefitting Democrat Hillary Clinton, that top executives vowed to ensure 2016 was no more than a “blip” or “hiccup” in a “moral arc of history bend[ing] towards progress,” and that the company commissioned research into how it could be a “good censor” to strike a balance between an “unmediated ‘marketplace of ideas,’” and “well-ordered spaces for safety and civility.”
In September, PJ Media’s Paula Bolyard found evidence Google does manipulate search results. She performed a News search for “trump” on Google, then organized the results based on a chart of news outlets’ political leanings created by Emmy-winning investigative journalist and media bias critic Sharyl Attkisson.
“Looking at the first page of search results, I discovered that CNN was the big winner, scoring two of the first ten results,” Bolyard wrote. “Other left-leaning sites that appeared on the first page were CBS, The Atlantic, CNBC, The New Yorker, Politico, Reuters, and USA Today (the last two outlets on this list could arguably be considered more centrist than the others).”
21 results were from CNN, 11 from the Washington Post, and 11 from NBC. The only right-of-center news outlets to break the top 100 were the Wall Street Journal with three results, and Fox News Channel with two. She concluded that “left-leaning sites comprised 96 percent of the total results,” as Trump highlighted.