December 03, 2018
Google doesn't want to search the web's content -- it wants to control it. That's not news to conservatives, who've been the company's favorite target of political bias since before President Trump. We were told it was all in our imaginations, that Google would never manipulate its programs to promote one political view over another. Well, that'll be a lot harder for the company to say with a straight face now that its emails are public.
Thanks to the Daily Caller, Americans are getting an honest look at just how "impartial" Google is. The answer? Not very. Turns out, the post-election cryfest in 2016 was just the beginning of an organization-wide brainstorm on how to suffocate the conservative message. The blockbuster messages are just another example of how low Google is willing to sink to strangle even legitimate news outlets from participating in the national conversation. When CFO Ruth Porat promised they would "use the great strength and resources and reach we have to advance [Google's] values," she wasn't kidding.
In this latest scandal, the debate wasn't if to bury conservative news outlets -- but how. Google engineer Scott Byer suggests singling out Breitbart and The Daily Caller first. If they were questioned, the group decided, they'd explain that both were "opinion blogs," not genuine media sources. "I think we have a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources," Byer writes, "because not doing so hides real information under loud noises." How many times, he fumed, "did you see the Election Now Card with items from opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations? That's something that can and should be fixed," Byer wrote.
"Beyond that," Byer urges, "let's concentrate on teaching critical thinking. A little bit of that would go a long way. Let's make sure that we reverse things in four years -- demographics will be on our side." When another engineer pushed back, insisting that "right-wing folks... go to those sources because they believe the media doesn't do its job," Byer had an idea. Instead of just blocking out Breitbart and Daily Caller, Google would make sure their information was "link[ed] to critiques of those sources."
Fortunately, the "fact-checking" idea backfired in a major way at the end of last year. Google executives were forced to call it off when it was obvious that the only people being fact-checked were conservatives -- and most times, for things they never said. In January, the company announced it would drop the feature, which would have been an even bigger victory of conservatives if it meant they were ending all of their search manipulations.
But judging by the lead-up to this year's midterms, not much has changed. This spring, Google was back on the apology circuit for search results that linked the California Republican Party to Nazism. Earlier this month, the company got another black eye for elevating a Wikipedia entry on the National Federation of Republican Women to the top spot, even though it mocked the organization as the National Federation of Republican "Enablers." Then there was the sudden association of President Trump with Google image results for "idiot."
A few years ago, people might have believed these were accidents. But by now, we've all seen the fallout of Google's algorithms, followed the money, listened to executives' disgust for conservatives, or worse, been censored ourselves. Online political bias isn't a delusional conspiracy theory of the Right. It's real. "Americans put their trust in big tech companies to honor freedom of speech and champion open dialogue," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) pointed out, "and it is Congress's responsibility to the American people to make sure these tech giants are transparent and accountable in their practices." Goodlatte was looking forward to hearing CEO Sundar Pichai's explanation for his company's inconsistencies at this week's House Judiciary Committee hearing, but because of the passing of President George H.W. Bush the hearing has postponed.
But don't think Google is off the hook, Goodlatte told reporters. "We expect it to occur [next week], and it's very, very important that it does occur." When a company that oversees 90 percent of the world's search traffic has a vendetta against half of America, "it's disturbing," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned. The American people have a right to know if they're being treated fairly -- and a right to relief when they're not.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.