President Trump continued his war against the tech giants yesterday in two hot Tweets about Google, which he claims is biased against him.
After a Tweet in which he said Google is “rigged,” Trump posted a short video that depicts a screenshot of a Google search page that promoted President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address “for years” after he delivered it. The video shows no such promotion of Trump’s SOTU.
And beyond that, Trump has threatened to regulate Google if the company does not ensure that its search results are ideologically impartial in the results they return.
Google, naturally, denies the charge.
Wee Hours Twitter Blast
As is his custom, Trump launched a pre-dawn attack on Twitter, which he uses as a sort of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle.
At 5:24 a.m. Wednesday, Trump averred that Google didn’t like him:
Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!
At 1:55 p.m., under #StopTheBias, his Twitter account showed a short video: “FOR YEARS, GOOGLE PROMOTED PRESIDENT OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ON ITS HOMEPAGE. WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP TOOK OFFICE, IT STOPPED.”
After that, Trump warned the tech giants again at length: “Google is really taking advantage of a lot people.... That’s a very serious thing, and it’s a very serious charge.... What Google and what others are doing, if you look at what's going on at Twitter, if you look at what’s going on in Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people ... we have literally thousands of complaints coming in.... Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”
Escalation of the War
The New York Times reported that Trump’s remarks “escalated a conservative campaign against the internet industry” because of its censorship of Alex Jones and Inforwars.com.
That censorship isn’t helping their cause, and the Times observed, neither is the perception that the tech tycoons and their bazillion-dollar companies have too much power.
The president’s tweets landed at a difficult moment for the tech industry. There is a growing sense across the political spectrum in the United States and in other countries that something must be done to rein in their influence.
Executives from many of the largest internet companies will face questions next week at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about their efforts to prevent foreign meddling in the midterm elections in November, a follow-up to congressional hearings held after the 2016 elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are scheduled to testify in front of the committee.
Google has also been called to testify. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate committee, has asked Google to send Sundar Pichai, its chief executive. So far, the company has offered to send Kent Walker, its senior vice president of global affairs.
Mr. Burr said he was unlikely to subpoena Mr. Pichai to testify, but that his absence would signal that Google was choosing “not to participate” and be “part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s chief economic guru, Lawrence Kudlow, said the administration might well attempt to regulate Google. “We’re taking a look at it,” he said.
The Washington Post suggested that Trump could “go after Google” in four ways. First, he could use his “bully pulpit” to continue attacking the giant and turn the public against it. Second, he could push Congress to probe Google, or, third, he could urge the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to probe the company’s practices. Fourth, he could encourage third parties to sue the company.
The company’s iron grip on the Internet is almost total, and in a sense, frightening. Google controls nine of every 10 searches on the Internet, but, of course, denies bias in returning results.
Google takes into account signals including a user’s geographic location and browsing history, which is why Trump’s search results look different from what another user might see. Social media platforms differ from a search because information on social media is circulated through friends and brands that users choose to follow.
Riva Sciuto, a spokeswoman for Google, said that when users “type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”
But Google’s algorithm is shrouded in secrecy.
Image: screenshot from twitter.com/realDonaldTrump