29 Aug 2018

Donald Trump takes aim at Google, accuses it of hiding 'news that is good'

8:06 am on 29 August 2018

US President Donald Trump has accused Google of hiding "fair media" coverage of him, saying its search engine is rigged against him and others.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Mr Trump said the internet giant's search engine was hiding "fair media" coverage of him and said he would address the situation, without providing evidence or giving details of action he might take.

The company, part of Alphabet Inc, denied any political bias in its search engine.

Mr Trump's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, later told reporters that the White House was "taking a look" at Google, saying they would do "some investigation and some analysis," without providing further details.

Mr Trump's criticism and threat of action to somehow restrict Google was his latest attack on a major tech company, following a series of tweets about Amazon.com, which he has accused of hurting small businesses and benefitting from a favorable deal with the US Postal Service.

Last week, without mentioning specific companies, he accused social media companies of silencing "millions of people" in an act of censorship, without offering evidence to support the claim.

In several tweets on Tuesday, the president said Google search results for "Trump News" showed only the reporting of what he terms fake news media, saying this was rigged against him and others.

Blaming Google for what he said was dangerous action that promoted mainstream media outlets such as CNN and suppressed conservative political voices, Trump added, "This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!" He did not offer any details.

We don't bias our results - Google

Google said in a statement that its search engine "is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology ... We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."

US member of Congress Ted Lieu, a Democrat, said in a tweet directed at Trump: "If government tried to dictate the free speech algorithms of private companies, courts would strike it down in a nanosecond." Shares of Alphabet fell 0.3 percent to $1,252.98.

While the exact science behind Google searches on the internet is kept secret, its basic principles are widely known. Search results on Google are generated by a variety of factors measured by the company's algorithms.

They include determining a site's relevance by counting the number of links to the page. Other factors such as personal browsing history and how certain keywords appear on the page also affect how pages are ranked. Popular news sites such as CNN.com and NYTimes.com, which many readers link to, can appear higher in searches based on such factors.

Mr Trump has long criticised news media coverage of him, frequently using the term fake news to describe critical reports. Earlier this month, he accused social media companies, which include Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc, of censorship.

Pressure to police fake accounts, hate speech

Mr Trump's accusation of bias on the part of Google comes as social media companies have suspended accounts, banned certain users and removed content as they face pressure from the US Congress to police foreign propaganda and fake accounts aimed at disrupting American politics, including operations tied to Iran and Russia.

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter have also been pressed to remove conspiracy driven content and hate speech.

Tech companies have said they do not remove content for political reasons.

Some Republican US lawmakers have also raised concerns about social media companies removing content from some conservatives, and have called Twitter's chief executive to testify before a House of Representatives panel on 5 September.

Earlier this month, Alphabet's YouTube joined Apple Inc and Facebook in removing some content from Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He was also temporarily suspended on Twitter.

Mr Trump and the White House did not provide any detail on how they would probe Google, but the new Republican chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, said in June that the agency would keep a close eye on big tech companies that dominate the internet.

- Reuters