WASHINGTON, August 28, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of suppressing conservative news stories and other “fair” news stories about him, repeating a discredited claim first made in a debunked Russian propaganda article.
“Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New 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?” the president wrote.
A short time later, he added: “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”
Google reacts to Trump statement
In a statement on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson flatly denied the president's claims, citing the company's goal of making sure users "receive the most relevant answers" to their queries "in a matter of seconds."
"Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."
Frequent criticism of big tech and social media giants
Mr. Trump and other Republicans have frequently accused Google, Facebook, Twitter and other large technology companies of deliberately acting to censor or suppress content targeted at conservatives. Such accusations are beginning to become more common in conservative media.
In July, he accused Twitter of “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives. After Facebook and other platforms banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump tweeted that “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”
Republican members of Congress have also frequently complained about so-called "censorship" by social media companies, usually in the form of banning or suspending users for content that violates their terms of service.
Diamond and Silk weigh in on alleged censorship on Facebook
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about Russian interference in the 2016 election before the House and Senate earlier this year, many Republicans in both chambers used the opportunity to question him about claims by Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, YouTube personalities better known as Diamond and Silk.
Hardaway and Richardson claimed Facebook employees had censored their Facebook page for being "unsafe to the community," but the duo has never produced any documentary evidence to support that claim.
Another frequent target for these attacks has been Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is expected to face similar accusations to Zuckerberg when he appears before Congress next month.
Trump accused Google of favoring Clinton during the 2016 campaign
Tuesday’s twitter eruption was not the first time Trump has accused Google of manipulating search results to his detriment. At a September 2016 campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he alleged that Google’s search results were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Trump told rally attendees that "Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton."
That claim appears to be based on a widely-debunked story published by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet. Although the Russian government says Sputnik is no different from Voice of America, Al Jazeera or other state-owned news organizations, American intelligence officials found the outlet played a major role in Russia's campaign to influence the 2016 election.
The story cited a video which accused Google of manipulating its autocomplete function to suggest positive search queries about Mrs. Clinton and negative ones about Mr. Trump. However, the choices presented in Google’s auto-complete function are based on the most popular searches made by users and not on any input from the company.
Trump administration apparently considering action against Google
Regardless of whether Trump’s claims of censorship are without merit, it appears he has ordered action to be taken against Google. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the Trump administration is looking into the search giant.
“We’ll let you know, we’re taking a look at it,” Kudlow said Tuesday while speaking near the White House’s North Lawn.
“We’re just going to do some investigation and analysis,” he added later when asked to clarify what “taking a look at it” meant.
Asked whether he was aware that Trump’s accusations appeared to be rooted in a discredited Russian propaganda story, Kudlow said that particular issue “is above [his] pay grade.”