The White House Doesn’t Know How to Use the Google Machine
The President stumbled onto real concerns about Google’s search algorithm, but to him, AI might as well be a brand of steak sauce.
In an early morning Twitter rant on August 28, President Donald Trump accused technology giant, Google, of rigging search results of ‘Trump News’ “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” The president added that … search results show only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?”
The series of bizarre tweets came hours after a Lou Dobbs segment on Fox Business about Google and its alleged censorship of search results. Fox News cited findings from a PJ Media report, also a conservative media outlet, that asserted 96% of the search results for “Trump” on Google News are links from liberal media outlets. If the author’s findings were correct, Google has morphed into the Big Brother entity depicted by George Orwell in his seminal work, 1984. But, once again Fox News got its facts wrong.
Paula Bolyard, who wrote the article, acknowledged the 96% figure was from her own non-scientific tests of search results. Plus she did not have her findings independently tested or verified. Talk about Fake News.
The accusation of a liberal media bias has existed almost as long as the New York Times and Washington Post have existed. But quite often they’re merely a talking point for conservative politicians to avoid criticism from the media. But President Trump’s Twitter rant unintentionally raised two incredibly relevant points:
How does Google’s search algorithm actually work?
The need for more transparency from Google and the major information technology providers in the U.S.
The tech giant responded to Trump’s attack in a statement saying that “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” Google went on to say: “when users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds.”
Google’s algorithm aims to replace the biases of the collective user by organizing its search results by relevance within a large index of keywords. But how can users be assured of Google’s results when its algorithm remains a mystery? It’s difficult to determine whether or not results reflect any political bias.
Trump’s call for reintroducing a ‘fairness doctrine’ to new outlets, threatens to regulate Google’s clandestine algorithm. CNN’s Chris Cuomo suggests that only half of the problem lies in the “pernicious practice by Google,” but the other half lies in Trump’s ability to continually divide the country based on his “fact gaps.”
If you’re still unsure about the viability and political biases of US news media outlets, or are concerned about the lack of transparency of Google’s algorithm, open up a Google search window and see for yourself.
IQM Editors conducted its own unscientific search of “Trump News” and found that Fox News is consistently within the top five search results for the term. The Fair and Balanced network’s coverage of the president hasn’t been described as negative or ‘BAD.’ Our guess is that the president doesn’t conduct his own google searches, so he can’t accurately gauge his own media coverage.
When assessing the negativity of the coverage more generally, in the course of a single media cycle, how often does the president make polarizing and factually inaccurate statements? The administration has not put an end to the Kremlin’s attempts to sow discord within the American electorate. Plus, some of the harshest critics of the president come from administration leaks to the media.
What else is the mainstream press supposed to report on? A southern wall that hasn’t been built yet and Mexico is unwilling to pay for? We don’t think the president would appreciate that. President Trump controls the political media cycle and the tone of coverage. Become a more transparent, honest, and positive president, and the media will follow.