Is Google purposefully manipulating search results about Hillary Clinton to favor the presumptive Democratic nominee?
That's what some critics are now alleging after discovering that when users type in "Hillary Clinton cri" or "Hillary Clinton ind," the search recommendations weren't exactly what they were expecting.
Instead of suggesting "Hillary Clinton crime" when users input "Hillary Clinton cri," the search engine makes other recommendations that are more favorable to Clinton, such as "Hillary Clinton crime bill 1994" and "Hillary Clinton crime reform."
There's just one apparent problem, according to SourceFed, which broke the story: If Google search recommendations are intended to show users what others are already searching for, "Hillary Clinton crime" and "Hillary Clinton indictment" would be before any of the others.
But in a rebuttal by Rhea Drysdale, who claims to have been paid to adjust Google's "complex algorithms," the allegations are baseless.
Drysdale pointed out in a Medium post that when users search for topics unfavorable to Clinton's Republican rival Donald Trump, the relevant search suggestions are nowhere to be found there either.
For example, when you type in "Donald Trump ra," you might expect to get search recommendations like "Donald Trump rape," a reference to Trump's ex-wife Ivana's onetime accusation, which has since been walked back. Of if you type "Donald Trump la," you might expect to see "Donald Trump lawsuit" appear, given the ongoing controversy surrounding Trump University.
Those are not the search recommendations that are generated, however. And according to Drysdale, that revelation pokes a hole in SourceFed's entire theory.
"The story isn’t that Google favors Hillary Clinton, it’s that Google is a complex algorithm that presents information in many ways and at this point that includes artificial intelligence," Drysdale wrote.
"I’m not going to pretend that I understand everything about Google, because that’s impossible for anyone but Google’s engineers," she continued. "However, I can say with certainty that Google does NOT favor Hillary Clinton."
An official spokesman for Google also denied the allegations Friday in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
"Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause. Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person's name," the spokesman said.
This post has been updated.
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