Donald Trump has claimed that Google is suppressing bad news about Hillary Clinton. He’s not entirely wrong, but perhaps not for the reasons he thinks.
While discussing polling numbers at a rally in Wisconsin, Mr Trump said that Google had been manipulating its search results to avoid showing bad news about his opponent, Ms Clinton.
“The Google poll has us leading Hillary by two points nationwide,” said Trump. “And that’s despite the fact that Google’s search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton, how about that? How about that?”
Mr Trump didn’t say exactly what news had been hidden, or how he might know that Google was hiding it. But he might have intentionally or unintentionally flagged up a truth about how Google runs its search.
The site does indeed hide negative results in its autocomplete suggestions. Numerous people have pointed out that while typing something into the search, Ms Clinton’s name seems to mostly have positive suggestions even when more natural, negative ones might be expected.
Writing “Hillary Clinton crim”, for instance, might be expected to bring up a suggestion that someone searches for crimes. And typing her name next to “indic” might be expected to bring up indictment. But neither of those actually does happen.
The same thing, however, happens for Trump. Searching for various negative things actually brings up unexpectedly good ones, next to Mr Trump’s name.
And that all appears to be because Google intentionally stops its algorithm from suggesting negative things next to a person’s name. The decision was presumably taken to ensure that disparaging things are left out, avoiding needless negativity and potential PR and legal problems.
In June, a video went viral that claimed Google was manipulating its search results. It gained enough traction that the site was forced to respond, and try and debunk the claims.
“Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause,” it told The Washington Times. “Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works.”
At the moment, the Google results for Ms Clinton do appear to have more positive results than those for Mr Trump. But that is largely because he has been criticised for attacking Google itself, and those articles are showing up in the search.
Google Trends suggested that more people were in fact looking up Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, in all of the 50 states of the US. Searches for Mr Trump’s name had led in the majority of the states before the debate.
Users tended to look up information about both candidates’ position on immigration, abortion and guns most during the debate.
Google also said that people tended to fact check the claims of each candidate during the debate. The most searched for fact check for Mr Trump was what he had actually said about the Iraq War before it happened, and the biggest for Ms Clinton was whether it was true as she said that stop-and-frisk by the police had been ruled unconstitutional.
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