PRESIDENT TRUMP is often mocked for writing daft things on Twitter.
Whether he is boasting about the size of his nuclear weapons or mocking a TV presenter for her facelift, he has become known as the leader who tweets before he thinks.
But this week he tweeted something insightful.
Are these companies really as neutral as they make out, he asked?
Google, in particular, claims all it does is provide people with a window to the world.
But is it really a bias-free guide to global events and decades’ worth of knowledge?
Or is it slyly pushing its users towards the “correct” way of thinking — as defined by the PC liberals who make up the vast bulk of Silicon Valley’s movers and shakers?
Trump complained that all his Google searches for “Trump news” returned negative results and brought up the “viewing/reporting of Fake News Media”.
He claimed that anyone searching Google for current affairs is likely to be served commentary from the “Left-Wing Media” because “Google and others are suppressing voices of Conservatives”.
“They are controlling what we can and cannot see,” he tweeted. He later warned that internet powerhouses including Facebook, Twitter and Google need to be “very careful”.
Predictably, his comments caused a firestorm.
Liberal observers depicted him as a vain president spending hours googling himself then moaning about what he found.
But here’s the thing: The President has a point. And many of his critics know it.
After all, concern about the stranglehold internet firms hold over news and views has been growing for some time. In the run-up to the US presidential election in 2016, Professor Robert Epstein, of the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, did a simple search for political news on Google and Yahoo.
He was stunned to find Google gave him twice as many pro-Hillary Clinton articles as Yahoo did.
Likewise, Can I Rank?, a US-based internet research group, found that if you google politically loaded terms, the top results are 40 per cent more likely to “contain pages with a Left or far-Left slant”.
It concluded that Google’s algorithm could be making it easier for websites on the Left to rank higher than ones on the Right.
The algorithm is the software that decides what search results to give us. And it seems pretty clear that Google’s algorithm is built around what politically correct workers of Silicon Valley in California consider to be “acceptable” publications and ideas.
That Google’s search results are not accidental is clear from the fact you can change them by paying to advertise.
A couple of years ago, an Observer journalist discovered that if you asked Google certain questions about the Holocaust, it would give you a link to a fascist group’s webpage which claims the Holocaust did not happen.
Outraged, she tried to have the link deprioritised, but with no luck — until she paid for a Google ad listing.
Her advert, which said “the Holocaust really happened”, successfully pushed the other page further down the listings.
Google ads are the main way through which the company makes billions every year.
So whether it is for money or to make a political point, the Google algorithm can be manipulated.
Only last month the company was fined £3.9billion by the European Commission for the way it has used its Android mobile phone software to “cement its dominant position” in the world of online searching. Google says it will appeal.
Its politicised algorithm can be glimpsed in searches in the UK too. Type “Theresa May is . . . ” into Google and you will be offered the following suggestions: “toast” or “a wasteman”.
Try “Brexit is . . . ” and Google will suggest “over”, “a disaster”, “dead”.
Or “The Conservative Party is . . . ” and the top auto-suggestion comes up “finished”.
The Labour Party, however, “is a democratic socialist party”.
These are hardly neutral suggestions. They reflect the Brexitphobic world view of the liberal elite.
Google’s political slant is clear from how it treats its staff. Two former employees are suing the company because they claim it discriminated against them on the basis of their political views.
James Damore was sacked after he wrote an internal memo calling into question some of the thinking of modern-day feminists.
And David Gudeman says he was fired after he questioned a Muslim co-worker’s claim that he was being targeted by the FBI because of his religion. Several former Facebook employees have said they often suppressed news about right-wing politicians.
They behaved like “news curators”. They would dismiss stories from right-wing outlets and prioritise the reporting of liberal establishment outlets such as the BBC and CNN.
By creating echo chambers in which users generally only see what the algorithm thinks they should see, Facebook ensures we rarely encounter different ways of thinking.
These internet giants are incredibly powerful.
Seventy-five per cent of online searches are done via Google. It handles an estimated 60,000 searches a second. So its biases matter.
It matters if Google is less a window on the world than a pair of PC-approved goggles that show us what the internet bosses think we should see.
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Trump’s hint at greater government regulation is not the solution to this problem, though. We do not need state heavies poking about in online chatter.
But we do need to talk about the fact that a handful of huge corporations led by politically biased people have become the gatekeepers of political life.
That is bad for politics and bad for free thought.
- Brendan O’Neill is editor of Spiked Online.
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