After somewhat avoiding the issue in the past, The Donald has come out and said it plainly: he thinks Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL)‘s Google search engine was suppressing bad news about Hillary Clinton, ostensibly in an effort to see her defeat Trump in the approaching Presidential election.
“The Google poll has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide,” Trump triumphantly stated during a rally in Wisconsin yesterday, adding, “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?”
The “Google poll” in question appears to be a poll conducted for Independent Journal Review using the Google Consumer Surveys platform. The results showed that Trump has a 1.7 percentage point lead over Hillary among the poll’s 1,304 respondents, despite 52% of those voters declaring that Hillary won their recent debate.
The drama over whether or not Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s Google was showing biased search results for Hillary started in June when a SourceFed video dubbed ‘Did Google Manipulate Search for Hillary?’ claimed to show proof that Google was manipulating its search engine’s autocomplete function to show less damaging queries about Hillary rather than the most popular ones. At the time, Trump only said that if the accusations were true, it would be “a disgrace that Google would do that,” though he also seemed to implicate Hillary despite not claiming the allegations were true, telling U.S.A Today that “They should let it (the news) float and allow people to see how crooked she really is.”
Alphabet for its part immediately disputed the video’s claims, chalking them up to a misunderstanding of how its autocomplete search function works. Whereas search engines like Bing and Yahoo may largely default to the most popular queries, Alphabet claimed its own function is based on popularity, but also refrains from pairing disparaging or offensive queries with any person’s name. Just as autocomplete wouldn’t finish “Hillary Clinton crimes”, as was stressed in the video, it also wouldn’t complete “Donald Trump crimes”.
Furthermore, the former head of Google’s spam team, Matt Cutts, took issue with the video, pointing out on Twitter that Google searches that simply used Hillary and not her full name, did indeed show some of the more damaging search queries at the very top.
More on some of Google’s other search transgressions on the next page.
Google again came under fire for being anti-Trump in late-July, when its search results for “presidential candidates” omitted both Trump and Gary Johnson from being displayed along a graphic bar along the top of the page. Google blamed the omissions on a technical snafu related to the candidates’ primaries having ended.
While Google is unlikely to face any real backlash from the current dustup with Trump, it is facing several antitrust challenges in Europe, where it’s been accused of using its 90% market share there to favor its own services in search results, among other charges. Google was also recently hit with a 438 million rubles ($6.75 million) fine in Russia for violations of Russian antitrust laws, though the charges weren’t related to its search results.
Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is not the only tech giant that has faced such criticisms; Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was accused of having a liberal bias earlier this year, with claims that it was suppressing conservative-slanted news from hitting its trending topics feed. An internal investigation launched by the social media behemoth found no evidence of such a bias, though Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) did announce that changes would be made in how trending topics were validated.
Given their immense potential to influence the global narrative through massive userbases, as evidenced by the fears of their alleged misuses of that power, it’s unsurprising that shares of each of the two companies were owned by more of the hedge funds in our database at the end of June than any other company. 187 different institutional investors in our database were long Alphabet’s Class A or Class C shares (or both) at the end of June, owning $23.55 billion worth of those shares, while 148 funds were shareholders of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), owning $15.24 billion worth of its shares.