This morning, the president got mad about something he saw on TV again. Last night, Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs highlighted a report from PJ Media that says that 96 percent of news results returned when you Google the president are from “National Left-Wing media.”
“Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” he wrote. “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?”
“Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good,” he continued. He promised to address the “very serious situation.”
There is a slight kernel of truth in the president’s rage-posting, the idea that Google is “controlling what we can & cannot see.” More than four out of five web searches run through Google, and getting highly ranked within Google can make or break businesses.
But the rest of what Trump is parroting from the PJ Media report is ridiculous. Here is the very scientific test that PJ Media correspondent Paula Bolyard conducted, in her own words:
To test the premise, I performed a Google search for “Trump” using the search engine’s “News” tab and analyzed the results using Sharyl Attkisson’s media bias chart.
That media-bias chart, to put things in perspective, features conspiracy theorists and lunatic fringe outlets like Infowars and Gateway Pundit, who are less likely to be listed in Google News. It also says the New York Times is more left-leaning than BuzzFeed and literally features Google as one of its media outlets (also on the left). Perhaps the problem with Bolyard’s experiment is using Attkisson’s flawed chart as a baseline.
Other things to note: Bolyard used Google’s News tool, which is separate from its search engine and not subject to the same personalization system, and it’s unclear by what criterion she classified each result as pro- or anti-Trump. It’s not a stretch to say that merely stating the Trump administration’s actions is enough to make it look bad.
In the Oval Office later, Trump expanded on this morning’s comments.
I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing, and it’s a very serious charge. I think what Google and what others are doing — if you look at what’s going on at Twitter, if you look at what’s going on in Facebook — they better be careful, because you … Can’t do that to people. You can’t do it. We have tremendous — We have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in, and you just can’t do that. So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.
Like most of Trump’s grievances, it’s difficult to know what vague action he is threatening, but the conservative anger against tech platforms is growing, even as those platforms proclaim to love free speech and try their best to appease the politicians in power. Government intervention in how these platforms operate would also be tough to square with the GOP’s stated love of free speech and private enterprise. Which is all to say that when the president claims that “thousands and thousands” are being oppressed, he’s really only talking about one person.