For GOOGLE, TRUMP HEADACHE MAY HAVE JUST GOTTEN WORSE
In early 2017, when Donald Trump’s brand-new White House implemented a travel ban temporarily barring immigrants and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries, it sparked public outcry—and a conversation among an undisclosed number of employees at Google. According to The Wall Street Journal, some Googlers suggested surfacing links to pro-immigration organizations when a user searched for terms like “Muslim” or “Islam,” in an attempt to counter “Islamophobic, algorithmically biased results,” per e-mails reviewed by the Journal. Google insisted that the e-mails represented a brainstorming session, and that none of the ideas were implemented, saying in a statement that it has “never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology—not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump's executive order on immigration.” But as far as the right is concerned, the Journal’s revelations are the newest addition to the growing pile of evidence of Google’s treachery.
Fox News’s Tucker Carlson likewise reported on the e-mails, publicizing the documents to his own audience including—presumably—an audience of one in the White House. “Google employees discussed corrupting the company’s search engine to push propaganda on hundreds of millions of unsuspecting users,” he tweeted late Thursday, “all for the sake of resisting President Trump.” And this new outrage cycle comes on the tail of a video published by Breitbart showing a private Google listening session from just after the 2016 election. “As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do, too,” Google’s Sergey Brin said in the video, in which he and Larry Page appear to be shaken by Trump’s win. “I think it’s a very stressful time. It conflicts with many of our values. It’s a good time to reflect on that.”
So far, Google has been lucky—Breitbart’s report surfaced just as a devastating hurricane collided with the Carolinas and, as my colleague Tina Nguyen points out, was overlooked by most right-wing outlets. And the Journal’s story dovetails with Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, being accused of sexual assault. But the tide could just as quickly turned against the company. Before he was distracted by the Kavanaugh melee, the trickle of reports captured the president’s attention. “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,” he tweeted last month, citing an unsubstantiated claim made by a right-wing opinion news Web site. “96% of results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.” He continued his rampage against the tech giant in another tweet, warning that Google’s practices “will be addressed.”
Google weathered the fallout from the presidential blitzkrieg fairly well—though National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that week that the White House would “take a look” at regulating Google, his comment appears to have been largely toothless. But company has done little to endear itself to lawmakers since, neglecting to send either Page or C.E.O. Sundar Pichai to testify before a congressional committee alongside Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey earlier this month. (Google had offered to send its chief legal officer, but the committee wanted a figurehead from the company.) “Sheryl and Jack, I’m glad you’re here,” G.O.P. Senator Richard Burr said in his opening remarks. “I’m disappointed that Google decided against sending the right senior-level executive to what I truly expect to be a productive discussion.” Even Democrats weren’t pleased. “I’m deeply disappointed that Google—one of the most influential digital platforms in the world—chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee,” M...