White House looking into Google after Trump accuses it of bias

Reuters | Published: August 29, 2018 10:49:32 | Updated: August 29, 2018 17:14:12


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US President Donald Trump has accused Google’s search engine of promoting negative news articles and hiding “fair media” coverage of him, vowing to address the situation without providing evidence or giving details of action he might take.

Trump’s attack against the Alphabet unit follows a string of grievances against technology companies, including social media Twitter and Facebook, which he has accused of silencing conservative voices, and Amazon.com, which he has said is hurting small businesses and benefiting from a favorable deal with the US Postal Services. He frequently berates news outlets for what he perceives as unfair coverage.

Google denied any political bias, saying in a statement that its search engine is “not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”

Trump said in several tweets on Tuesday that Google search results for “Trump News” were “rigged” against him because they showed only coverage from outlets like CNN and not conservative publications, suggesting the practice was illegal.

“I think Google is really taking advantage of our people,” Trump said on Tuesday in the Oval Office. “Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

Facebook declined to comment. Twitter did not comment when asked for a response. In congressional testimony, both companies have denied engaging in partisan censorship.

Neither Trump nor the White House detailed how or under what legal justification they would use to probe Google.

Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, later told reporters that the White House was “taking a look” at Google, saying the administration would do “some investigation and some analysis,” without providing further details.

Earlier this summer, the new Republican chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, said the agency would keep a close eye on big tech companies that dominate the internet. In a previous investigation, the FTC decided that Google was likely justified in developing a search function that harmed other companies.

In June Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s alleged anticompetitive behaviour in the online search and advertising markets.

Congressional sources cautioned that it may be difficult for Trump to find a way to probe Google about news search results, and that Congress is unlikely to pass any applicable laws.

US member of Congress Ted Lieu, a Democrat, said in a tweet directed at Trump that such restrictions on Google would violate the US Constitution: “If government tried to dictate the free speech algorithms of private companies, courts would strike it down in a nanosecond.”

Shares of Alphabet closed down 0.8 per cent at $1,245.86.

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