Dreading a repeat of President Donald Trump's victory over his Democratic challenger for the White House in 2020, Google employees were exposed through internal documents debating whether they should bury conservative news outlets when Internet users utilized the company’s search engine.
Two prominent right-leaning news sources specifically discussed in the conversations included The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, as seen through an internal thread written by an engineer.
“Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years,” the engineer wrote two years ago after the presidential election in a thread that included a Google vice president, according to The Daily Caller.
Devastated over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss to Trump, internal Google discussions reveal that employees were so upset over the defeat that they discussed devising schemes to sabotage the conservative president’s chances of repeating his victory in 2020 for a second term.
On November 9, 2016, Google engineer Scott Byer falsely labeled The Daily Caller and Breitbart News as “opinion blogs” before persuading his coworkers to diminish their visibility in search results.
“This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google – sadly – had a hand in it,” Byer asserted in an internal post obtained by The Daily Caller. “How many times did you see the Election now card with items from opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations? That’s something that can and should be fixed.”
He justified his calling to silence right-wing media outlets by trying to discredit their reporting as fake news.
“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 expressed to his fellow associates at Google. “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.”
Not so fast …
However, not everyone at Google had a clear conscience about spinning searches in Democrats’ favor, as a number of colleagues indicated that they were worried that the plan could backfire on them, so some offered different ways they could help the Democratic Party defeat Trump over the next two years.
Even though Uri Dekel – another Google engineer – declared himself to be a Clinton supporter, he advised against spinning search results away from conservative news outlets – contending that it was simply a bad idea.
“Thinking that Breitbart, Drudge, etc. are not ‘legitimate news sources’ is contrary to the beliefs of a major portion of our user base is partially what got us to this mess,” Dekel responded to Byer’s suggestion of manipulating search results. “MSNBC is not more legit than Drudge just because Rachel Maddow may be more educated / less deplorable / closer to our views, than, say Sean Hannity.”
Dekel shared his reasoning for abstaining from Byers’ suggestion, conceding that both sides of the political spectrum in the news have their faults.
“I follow a lot of right-wing folks on social networks you could tell something was brewing,” Dekel continued. “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 its job. 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 then kept the conversation going.
“Too many times, Breitbart is just echoing a demonstrably made up story,” Byer argued without citing a single example. “That happens at MSNBC, too. I don’t want a political judgement. The desire is to break the myth feedback loop – the false equivalency – instead of the current amplification of it.”
A suggestion was then ventured by Mike Brauwerman – another engineer at Google.
“What I believe we can do – technically – that avoids the accusations of conspiracy or bias from people who ultimately have a right and obligation to decide what they want to believe, is to get 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,” Brauwerman posed. “Give people a comprehensive but effectively summarized view of the information – not context-free rage-inducing sound-bytes.”
Google Vice President of Engineering David Besbris also put in his two cents about Byer’s underhanded idea.
“We’re working on providing users with context around stories so that they can know the bigger picture,” Besbris insisted. “We can play a role in providing the full story and educate them about all sides. This doesn’t have to be filtering and can be useful to everyone.”
Is Google really leading Internet users away from the right?
Previous suspicions about Google’s left-slanted searches are being corroborated by the latest discovery.
“This chain of emails discussing the practice of suppressing certain websites does add credence to previous claims that Google manipulated search results for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election – a topic that Breitbart News has covered extensively,” Breitbart News reported. “A report from Dr. Robert Epstein published in 2016 showed that Google appeared to favor positive autocomplete search results relating to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election – even when search terms critical of Clinton were actually more popular at the time. Epstein’s report revealed that Google manipulated search results related to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election that had the potential to ‘shift as many as 3 million votes,’ according to Epstein.”
Not only did Google lead users away from conservative news – it diverted users from being directed to news that was not favorable to Trump’s left-leaning competitor for the White House.
“Epstein – along with his colleagues at the American Institute for Behavioral Research (AIBRT) – became interested in a video published by Matt Lieberman of Sourcefed, which claimed that Google searches suppressed negative information about Hillary Clinton, while other search engines – such as Bing and Yahoo – showed accurate results,” Breitbart’s Lucas Nolan pointed out. “Epstein and AIBRT tested hundreds of different search terms related to the 2016 election, using Yahoo and Bing search as a control.”
Epstein’s report was very revealing …
“It is somewhat difficult to get the Google search bar to suggest negative searches related to Mrs. Clinton or to make any Clinton-related suggestions when one types a negative search term,” Epstein informed. “Bing and Yahoo – on the other hand – often show a number of negative suggestions in response to the same search terms. Bing and Yahoo seem to be showing us what people are actually searching for; Google is showing us something else – but what, and for what purpose?”
Providing a cover for the numerous scandals and controversies in which Clinton found herself, Google led users to only get a taste of the favorable things that were being reported about the Democratic frontrunner.
“As for Google Trends, as Lieberman reported, Google indeed withholds negative search terms for Mrs. Clinton – even when such terms show high popularity in Trends,” Nolan noted. “We have also found that Google often suggests positive search terms for Mrs. Clinton – even when such terms are nearly invisible in Trends. The widely held belief – reinforced by Google’s own documentation – that Google’s search suggestions are based on ‘what other people are searching for’ seems to be untrue in many instances.”
But Google was not without excuses.
“Google tries to explain away such findings by saying its search bar is programmed to avoid suggesting searches that portray people in a negative light,” Nolan asserted. “As far as we can tell, this claim is false; Google suppresses negative suggestions selectively – not across the board. It is easy to get autocomplete to suggest negative searches related to prominent people – one of whom happens to be Mrs. Clinton’s opponent.”
In fact, a spokeswoman for Google discounted the conversations about employees manipulating searches by saying such practices never actually took place to lead users to the left.
“This post shows that far from suppressing Breitbart and Daily Caller, we surfaced these sites regularly in our products.” The spokeswoman told the Daily Caller. “Furthermore, it shows that we value providing people with the full view on stories from a variety of sources. 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.”
Enough is enough
With the latest news about the world’s biggest search engine weighing searches to the left, WND CEO Joseph Farah called Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and other tech giants the “Speech Code Cartel.”
“Has anyone seriously considered what the tyranny of these monopoly companies is doing to the ability of our citizens to govern themselves, protect their privacy and sustain institutions like free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion?” Farah posed in a WND report. “Backed into a corner, last January I went very public with how the cartel was attempting to exterminate the alternative independent media that sprung up in WND’s wake in the last 20 years. They are still determined to snuff us out, I believe, before the next presidential election year of 2020.”
Writing to WND’s conservative readership, Farah stressed how important it is for Internet users to be able to get objective news that is not filtered by those promoting a leftist agenda.
“And most of all, you recognized why it was necessary that this exercise in truth-seeking without fear or favor not be knocked off by a club of spoiled, soulless, pompous, greedy, presumptuous super-billionaires who sought to commit bloodless barbarism never imagined by the most diabolical totalitarian governments in history,” Farah added. “I realize now the phrase ‘Speech Code Cartel’ doesn’t even come close to capturing the imminent danger this cabal poses to freedom. While the so-called ‘progressives’ carry on about their delusion of Russian intervention in the 2016 election, what’s really happening behind the curtain is the theft of our culture of independence, self-governance, individualism, liberty, privacy, sovereignty, Judeo-Christian morality and, yes, free elections.”