The horrible dual mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio two weeks ago provided another opportunity for Google to demonstrate some balance in delivering evenhanded results for users who searched for news about the incidents.
But the Silicon Valley giant failed again.
According to an audit conducted by the nonpartisan media watchdog group AllSides, the dominant search engine on the Internet dispensed articles about the massacres that favored liberal sources over conservative – and also over more balanced sources – by a vast margin.
AllSides – which exists to provide its readers information from all sources while also identifying the worldview of those sources – evaluated 522 shooting-related articles from Google’s “Top Stories” section during the three days that followed the events. The results showed a whopping 70 percent of articles from “Lean Left” or “Left” sources, with only 4 percent produced from “Lean Right” or “Right” publishers. Eighteen percent were from sources that AllSides characterizes as “Center” (but some of those can be viewed as leaning left also).
The study found that almost half the results – 46 percent – were drawn from just three sites on the liberal side of the spectrum: CNN (25 percent), the New York Times (14 percent), and the Washington Post (7 percent).
“Outlets with a Center bias rating were outpaced by Left or Lean Left articles by close to 400 percent,” AllSides reported. “Outlets with Lean Right or Right ratings appeared only 19 times over three days, and all 19 were for the most general search query, ‘Trump.’”
AllSides considers BBC, NPR, USA Today and Wall Street Journal as “balanced,” but most media-savvy conservatives view them as left leaning (although the Journal’s opinion page leans right). That tells you which way the “nonpartisan” organization slants, but it also tells you their damning analysis of Google could have been even worse for conservative news organizations. The report found that the “balanced” media outlets as well as “the entirety of the right-leaning media spectrum — got close to no ‘Top Stories’ exposure for any of the queries searched” about the two shootings.
The results further confirm a longstanding practice by Google, despite claims to the contrary. While the company may not always “manually intervene on any particular search result,” as CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress in December, its algorithms have clearly been trained to favor the elite liberal legacy media (Whistleblowers have alleged Google does manually intervene as well).
Other studies in the past corroborate AllSides’s findings. An extensive analysis in November 2017 by the Computational Journalism Lab at Northwestern University, which reviewed thousands of news links, found that only 20 news organizations’ sites were represented in more than half of Google’s “Top Stories.” The researchers found that 62.4 percent of “Top Stories” results were from left-leaning sites, and 11.3 percent were from right-leaning sites (26.3 percent had no identified political leaning based on another study).
The same study also found that CNN received nearly 11 percent of impressions in “Top Stories,” the New York Times 6.5 percent, and the Washington Post 5.6 percent – collectively accounting for 23 percent of the best outcomes a news organization can hope for from Google.
In other findings, during the 2016 campaign research psychologist Robert Epstein confirmed earlier conclusions revealed in a viral YouTube video that showed Google’s auto-complete search function (when you start typing and Google recommends various search terms) offered only positive suggestions when beginning a search on “Hillary Clinton,” but no negative ones. Google-owned YouTube has now censored that video.
PJ Media conducted a similar Google News search project focused on the term “Trump,” and found that 96 percent of the results were from liberal outlets.
Then there were the documents given to the conservative Daily Caller that showed the Google maintains a manually controlled blacklist against conservative websites, which determines how and where their content appears in search results.
Even recently there has been fresh evidence of anti-conservative bias by Google and its employees. PragerU, a video education organization led by conservative talk host Dennis Prager, said its most recent project exposing the “Charlottesville lie” – about whether President Trump actually called neo-Nazis “very fine people” in the 2017 protests – has been restricted by YouTube. PragerU has been in litigation against Google over censorship and discrimination for years now.
Whistleblowers have also exposed the ideological slant behind the scenes at the headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Last week Breitbart reported a leaked discussion between staffers who celebrated Google’s decision not to sponsor the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which one employee characterized as a “circus platform for hate.”
And in a video recorded undercover by Project Veritas that was released in June, a top Google official admitted the company was “training our algorithms” for 2020 to avoid a similar election fate as 2016 – that is, Donald Trump’s victory. That sentiment is further confirmed by the fact that Google employees gave $355,693 to Democrat candidates during the first half of 2019, and only donated $5,600 for Trump’s reelection, according to Recode.
The AllSides study on the coverage of the massacres criticizes Google’s “algorithmic bias” and how it “impacts individual news stories on a daily basis.” The search engine’s trained prejudice leads to what AllSides calls “filter bubbles,” in which readers are “only exposed to news that confirms his or her beliefs.”
“It is bad for democracy when multiple viewpoints are hard to find,” AllSides concluded. “At its best, news media presents all sides of an issue so that people can decide what they think for themselves. This helps people to appreciate diverse perspectives and those who have different views, creating a more tolerant and well-informed public.”