Google denied on Friday allegations that it manipulated its algorithm to bury stories unflattering to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause,” said a Google spokesperson in an email to the Washington Times.
“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,” said the statement.
SourceFed, a news and pop-culture website, has accused the world’s largest search engine of “actively altering search recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton’s campaign” by filling in searches for potentially negative terms like “crimes” and “indictment” with inoffensive substitutions such as “crime reform” and “Indiana.”
“The intention is clear. Google is burying potential searches for terms that could have hurt Hillary Clinton in the primary elections over the past several months by manipulating recommendations on their site,” SourceFed’s Matt Lieberman said in a Thursday video.
The analysis found a very different result with Google’s top competitors, Bing and Yahoo.
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When spotted the terms “Hillary Clinton cri” and “Hillary Clintion ind,” Bing and Yahoo brought up as their top choices “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” and “Hillary Clinton indictment” as part of their auto-complete functions using the same key letters, according to SourceFed.
While that could reflect legitimate differences in the engines’ algorithms, Mr. Lieberman said that a search of “Hillary Clinton crime reform” on Google trends showed that “there weren’t even enough searches of term to build a graph on the site.”
“Which begs the question, why on Earth is it the first potential result?” he said, adding, “Apparently far more people are searching for ‘Hillary Clinton crimes’ than ‘Hillary Clinton crime reform.’ Google just doesn’t want you to know or ask.”
There was no difference between Google and other search engines when SourceFed searched for unflattering terms associated with Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump.
In the video, Mr. Lieberman emphasized that SourceFed was not accusing Google of any crimes, calling the manipulation “deeply unethical and wrong but not illegal,” and adding that there is no evidence to suggest collusion between the Clinton campaign and Google.
On the other hand, Mr. Lieberman did say that “there are a stunning number of links between Google and her campaign,” starting with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, an active Clinton backer who runs a Clinton campaign data-analysis contracting firm.
The Google statement Friday did not address the connection between the company and the Clinton campaign.
The allegations by SourceFed, whose YouTube page shows 1.7 million subscribers, come on the heels of a scandal involving allegations that Facebook manipulated its “trending topics” section to omit conservative-friendly stories.