'If this is true, it is a disgrace': Donald Trump responds to viral video claiming Google's search is biased
Donald Trump. AP
Donald Trump took aim at Google on Friday afternoon after a viral video claimed to show the web giant's autocomplete search function manipulated results to favor Hillary Clinton.
"If this is true, it is a disgrace that Google would do that," Trump wrote in a statement sent to Business Insider by his campaign. "Very, very dishonest."
"They should let it float and allow people [to] see how crooked she really is," he continued.
The video, created by SourceFed, showed multiple autocomplete search results for "Hillary Clinton" that it claimed proved that Google "has been actively altering search recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton's campaign."
The video had been viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook since Thursday.
In a statement on Friday, Google emphatically rejected that its autocomplete function was biased toward any candidate. Rather, each site simply uses a different algorithm from the others.
A Google representative wrote in a statement:
Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause. Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works. Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person's name. More generally, our autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity of search terms.In one example from the video, SourceFed showed the autocomplete results for "Hillary Clinton cri" that included "Hillary Clinton crime reform," "Hillary Clinton crisis," and "Hillary Clinton crime bill 1994."
The results did not include anything about "crimes," "criminal," or "criminal investigation," which SourceFed showed were, by comparison, among the first results to appear on Yahoo's and Bing's autocomplete search functions.
A similar result happened when "Hillary Clinton ind" was typed into the Google search bar. Results including "Indiana," "India," "independent voters," and "Indiana campaign" all appeared. But "indictment" did not. On Yahoo and Bing, on the other hand, "indictment" was included on all of the top results for "Hillary Clinton ind."
SourceFed also found, however, that results for "Donald Trump rac"
and "Bernie Sanders soc" revealed autocomplete results that contained "racist" -
with additional wording or context - and "socialist," matching the results on Yahoo and Bing.
Google's autocomplete function automatically filters a small set of terms the company deems offensive or inappropriate. One of those words is "crime," which is filtered when associated with anybody's name. Vox conducted an experiment on that involving Bernie Madoff, the infamous financier who defrauded many of his clients. For the search "Bernie Madoff cri," the first response is "cricket."
Business Insider attempted SourceFed's experiment and found very similar results. But Business Insider also found similar results for other politicians, such as President George W. Bush. Searching "George w bush co" on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, respectively, revealed the following:
The results among the three were also different when searching "donald trump mus." Results for that search did not include "Muslims" on Google, while they did on Yahoo and Bing.
Here are the results for "donald trump mus":
Clinton's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also on Friday, longtime Google search guru Matt Cutts responded to the video on Twitter, calling the claims "simply false." He also gave examples of autocomplete results for Clinton that showed negative results.