More Fake News? Or Fake News About Fake News?
Earlier today, August 28th, President Donald Trump accused Google Inc. of “Rigging” their search results in such a way that searches of him or of republican items of interest would disproportionately bring up sites or sources that portrayed Republicans in a negative light. He said that the search results had been “rigged” to show far more information from liberal/democratic sources and far fewer right-leaning sources.
The Tweet, sent via Trump’s official Twitter account at 5:42 AM, shared the following message:
“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? 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!”
Later, reporters questioned Trump for further comments on this accusation outside of the White House, where he responded by accusing Google of “really taking advantage of a lot of people”. The president continued to say that Google had “better be careful” about what they are doing, citing the recent actions taken against Twitter’s discrete efforts to “shadow ban” accounts with conflicting conservative viewpoints.
Although Trump did not state the source from which he received his information, there are a few likely suspects: A Fox Business News segment aired on Monday and focused on Google’s use of search algorithms to hurt conservative viewpoints.
This segment used data collected from an article on PJ Media, a conservative blogging website.
In the study conducted by the site, Paula Bolyard, the site’s supervising editor, used two different computers logged into different user profiles (profiles that will affect search results) as well as one computer in incognito mode (which clears user preferences) to search “Trump”. Bolyard wrote that the first 100 search results received contained 21 results from left-leaning site CNN and 11 posts from the left-leaning site The Washington Post while featuring only three posts from the right-leaning site The Wall Street Journal and two posts from Fox News.
However, rebuttals have already begun to emerge in response to Trump’s brave claims. An analysis piece by CNN writer/editor Chris Cillizza titled “Debunking Donald Trump’s Latest Conspiracy Theory on Google”
Cillizza’s article pulls no punches and claims that the president’s latest accusation is more of his “tried and true formula” of posting vague claims on Twitter to distract from what’s going on all around him. He continues to attack the claims made by Trump in a variety of ways, one of which is an investigation of the PJ Media article that the Fox News segment pulled its information from.
He cites a specific quote from Bolyard’s investigation on Google’s bias:
“I performed the search a multiple times using different computers (registered to different users) and Google returned similar results,” she writes. “While not scientific, the results suggest a pattern of bias against right-leaning content.”
“While Not Scientific.”
Cillizza’s piece uses this admission that Bolyard’s investigation was not operating under any kind of scientific principal to state that Bolyard’s piece would be more aptly named as an opinion piece, and not anything that others should treat as factual evidence.
Cillizza states that since Bolyard has no expertise or trained insight on the inner workings of the Google search engine, his discovery of this pattern holds no more weight than “saying, “I’m not a doctor and have no medical training, but I am pretty sure you are going to die in the next week.” Thanks for your opinion but, like, it’s just an opinion.”