In Brief

Is Google search really biased against Donald Trump?

US president has accused the tech giant of rigging results for the phrase ‘Trump news’

Donald Trump has accused Google of rigging search results against him, even suggesting the tech giant could face prosecution for intentionally prioritising damaging stories about the US president.

In an early morning Twitter outburst, Trump claimed Google’s news service promoted stories from left-wing news outlets and suggested tech companies were trying to hide positive stories about his administration.

The president’s claim that 96% of Google News results for “Trump” were from leftwing outlets appears to come from  conservative website PJ Media, which made the claim using a classification that that ranks almost every mainstream news outlet – other than Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Mail Online – as leftwing.

Google never reveals how its algorithm works, “partly to stop news organisations from gaming the system in order to boost their ranking” says The Guardian, although it states on its support page that there are “over 200 factors” that feed into the ranking of a web page on its search engine.

Mercedes Bunz, a lecturer in digital technology at Kings College London, told BBC News it was highly unlikely that Google was deliberately ranking news according to political bias.

“Google's news algorithm is optimised for actuality and proximity of an event but it is generally not optimised to look for political orientation. However, it has a tendency to rank web pages higher that a lot of people link to,” she said.

Results are also influenced by “previous browsing and search history, and that may be happening to the president” says The Independent.

Google has looked to alter some of the ways it decides what to show in the wake of complaints about false news, and suggestions that the search results were showing partisan or misleading news sources.

In response to the president’s unsubstantiated claim, Google released a statement saying: “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s claim of left-wing bias on Google adds to an escalating war pitting the president and his supporters against the mainstream media.

Several tech giants such as Apple and Facebook have opted to remove far-right commentatorss such as Alex Jones of Infowars from their platforms, prompting criticism from Trump that conservatives voices were being shut down.

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