Google is happy to amend the results on its autocomplete search function when it gets called out by The Guardian – but won’t budge an inch for Donald Trump.
The search engine scrambled to remove offensive terms from the tool, which attempts to finish search requests while they’re being typed, after a scathing featured was published by the liberal website.
The incident is a stark contrast to a spat with Donald Trump this summer, where the search engine claimed that humans do not directly interfere with the search process.
— Emmanuel Lazaridis (@StatLaw) December 5, 2016
Writer Carole Cadwalladr weighed in on Google in a feature which went live over the weekend and was also printed in the left-leaning Observer newspaper.
She complained that Google’s algorithm completed the query “Jews are…”, “Muslims are…” and “women are…” with phrases like “evil” and “bad”.
This then led to articles from untrustworthy and biased sites, which is pernicious because, she argued, “Google is knowledge”.
Within hours of publication, Google had intervened to alter some results.
It promptly informed the newspaper in a submissive statement, which earned it an approving news story – though the paper did note that not all the examples it highlighted had been removed.
The search engine’s behaviour is markedly different to when it received criticism of a different political character in June from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Trump called out the search engine after a viral video seemed to show its autocomplete suggestions skirting over the character flaws of Hillary Clinton. By contrast, other search engines offered less flattering results.
By way of a response, a spokesman said: “Google autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause. Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how autocomplete works.”
The comeback seems to be undermined by the swiftness with which they acted on The Guardian‘s criticism, where they made no effort to defend the autocomplete results as a reflection what was published online.
Trump’s claims of deliberate bias were widely discounted as being down to Google’s more sophisticated algorithm, which seems to be more friendly politicians in general, regardless of affiliation.
However, regardless of by how pure a process the results came to be, the responses show the doublespeak it is prepared to deploy to defend its integrity.
When Trump complains, the workings of its algorithm are a sophisticated technical marvel that will brook no criticism from humans – but when the liberal media has a problem, Google becomes fallible, and intervention is no problem at all.
Heat Street asked Google for a comment, but had not heard back by time of publication.