Google says its autocomplete algorithm isn’t with her, or anyone.
The search giant and part of internet conglomerate Alphabet Inc. denied altering its autocomplete algorithm to remove search terms critical of Hillary Clinton, after an online video report posted Thursday accused it of doing that for the presumptive Democratic nominee for president and not her two remaining challengers, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
“Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause,” Google said in a statement provided to the Washington Times. “Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works.”
The original story from little-known media outlet SourceFed, whose other videos include “CoWorkers Write Porn Reports” and “CoWorkers Taste Test Weird Alcohol,” included a video that purported to claim that Google deliberately buried unfavorable search results to protect Hillary Clinton.
As demonstrated in the video, when “Hillary Clinton cri” was typed in Google’s search field, the top suggestions were “Hillary Clinton crime reform” and “Hillary Clinton crisis.” When the same term was entered into competitors Yahoo and Bing, the top autocomplete suggestion for “Hillary Clinton cri” was “Hillary Clinton crimes” or “Hillary Clinton criminal charges.” A similar effect played out when “Hillary Clinton ind” suggested “Hillary Clinton Indiana” on Google and “Hillary Clinton indictment” on Bing and Yahoo.
But “Donald Trump rac” suggested “Donald Trump racist” and “Bernie Sanders soc” suggested “Bernie Sanders socialist” — which SourceFed apparently considers as damaging as “criminal,” “racist” and “indictment” — across all three platforms. The video, which currently has more than 557,000 views, states: “Google’s bias is undeniable,” and implied that Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, a Clinton supporter, is pulling the strings.
Google elaborated further on the reasons behind the discrepancies between different search engines in a Friday blog post:
“The autocomplete algorithm is designed to avoid completing a search for a person’s name with terms that are offensive or disparaging,” Tamar Yehoshua, a vice president in Google’s search department, wrote. “We made this change a while ago following feedback that Autocomplete too often predicted offensive, hurtful or inappropriate queries about people.”
As part of that, Google’s search algorithm prevents “crimes” from filling in “cri,” even when a notorious offender’s name is typed in. However, this apparently works only when full names are entered. “Bernie Madoff cri” returns “Bernie Madoff cricket,” but “Madoff cri” returns “Madoff crimes.” And the top two suggestions for “Clinton cri” are “Clinton criminal” and “Clinton crimes.”