Before dawn on Tuesday, Donald Trump attacked Google on Twitter, accusing the search engine of conspiring against him.
And yes, that is the world in which we now live. The President of the United States is up at 5:30 in the morning Googling himself and positing conspiracy theories when he doesn’t like the results.
Specifically, Trump suggested that Google search results are “rigged” against his presidency and against conservative commentary more generally. At the end of his first tweet, he not-so-subtly suggested that he will try and use the levers of his office to influence search engine visibility for conservative media. He followed up on that with a direct threat in a subsequent tweet.
“Illegal?”, the President asked, before suggesting that efforts to shut out folks like Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones “are a very serious situation [that] will be addressed!”
Google has since responded. “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg News, adding the following
Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.
When Trump’s tweets hit, we reminded you about the myriad reasons why the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are moving to ban folks like Alex Jones. The reason, in short, is that Jones and others like him are spreading inflammatory lies with no basis in reality. They are, simply put, screaming fire in a crowded theatre and they are capitalizing off that in a “big league” way via ad revenue.
Jones has long pushed wild conspiracy theories and has been given a lot of rope in that regard, but his recent battle with (and I can’t even believe I’m saying this), the families of school children slaughtered in the Sandy Hook massacre, finally forced companies to pull the plug on Infowars.
Earlier this month, Trump told supporters in West Virginia he’s against any moves to silence people like Jones. “You have Twitter, or whatever you have, you have Facebook. But you can’t pick one person and say, ‘We don’t like what he’s been saying, he’s out,'” Trump said at the rally.
Yes, “you” can, sir.
For one thing, Google and Twitter and Facebook are private companies which means the government doesn’t get to tell them what they can and can’t do (something any good Republican knows). On top of that, America doesn’t need to be poisoned by people like Jones who, again, is engaged in an actual legal battle with Sandy Hook families. Here, from the New York Times, is a reminder of what Alex is putting these people through:
In the more than five years since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has used his Infowars media operation to spread false theories that the massacre was a hoax staged by the government in an effort to tighten restrictions over firearms.
That is not in dispute.
But in a courtroom hearing here, lawyers for the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook, in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 first graders and six adults were shot and killed in December 2012 — and lawyers for Mr. Jones argued on Wednesday over whether he was maligning the family or the mainstream news media in an April 2017 broadcast titled, “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed.”
The families of nine Sandy Hook victims — including that of Noah Pozner, who was 6 when he was killed — have filed cases against Mr. Jones, whose operation is based in Austin.
That’s why Alex Jones is being shut out and really, he’s hardly been “silenced”. He has a veritable megaphone on his own site through which he is free to rant and rave to his heart’s content. So don’t forget that.
Anyway, Larry Kudlow is now throwing his support behind Trump on Google.
“[I] asked Kudlow about Trump’s comments on Google and he said they are ‘looking into it’ and doing some ‘investigations’ and ‘analysis'”, Bloomberg’s Shannon Pettypiece said on Tuesday morning. The company’s shares fell in the premarket and opened lower on Wall Street.
Who knows whether Kudlow is serious or whether talking about “investigations” and “analysis” is just a polite way of saying “yeah, the President is crazy, so I’ll pacify him by telling you we’re looking into it” – my guess would be the latter.
Still, the fact that this administration is openly suggesting that they are prepared to compel search engines to prioritize propaganda (at best) or actual made up stories written by Right-wing conspiracy theorists (at worst), is surreal.
Let me emphasize here that there is no shortage of credible, thoughtful conservative commentary on the internet. It is readily available for public consumption and people like Larry Kudlow know that. Trump isn’t looking to see that content surfaced on Google. Rather, he’s looking to have content surfaced that promotes his agenda, even if that commentary is completely fabricated and even if it emanates from people like Jones.