Dreading a repeat of President Donald Trump’s victory over his Democratic challenger for the White House in 2020, Google employees were exposed through internal documents debating whether they should bury conservative news outlets when Internet users utilized the company’s search engine.
Two prominent right-leaning news sources specifically discussed in the conversations included The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, as seen through an internal thread written by an engineer.
“Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years,” the engineer wrote two years ago after the presidential election in a thread that included a Google vice president, according to The Daily Caller.
Devastated over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss to Trump, internal Google discussions reveal that employees were so upset over the defeat that they discussed devising schemes to sabotage the conservative president’s chances of repeating his victory in 2020 for a second term.
On November 9, 2016, Google engineer Scott Byer falsely labeled The Daily Caller and Breitbart News as “opinion blogs” before persuading his coworkers to diminish their visibility in search results.
“This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google – sadly – had a hand in it,” Byer asserted in an internal post obtained by The Daily Caller. “How many times did you see the Election now card with items from opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations? That’s something that can and should be fixed.”
He justified his calling to silence right-wing media outlets by trying to discredit their reporting as fake news.
“I think we have a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources – because not doing so hides real information under loud noises,” Byer expressed to his fellow associates at Google. “Beyond that, let’s concentrate on teaching critical thinking. A little bit of that would go a long way. Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years – demographics will be on our side.”
Not so fast …
However, not everyone at Google had a clear conscience about spinning searches in Democrats’ favor, as a number of colleagues indicated that they were worried that the plan could backfire on them, so some offered different ways they could help the Democratic Party defeat Trump over the next two years.
Even though Uri Dekel – another Google engineer – declared himself to be a Clinton supporter, he advised against spinning search results away from conservative news outlets – contending that it was simply a bad idea.
“Thinking that Breitbart, Drudge, etc. are not ‘legitimate news sources’ is contrary to the beliefs of a major portion of our user base is partially what got us to this mess,” Dekel responded to Byer’s suggestion of manipulating search results. “MSNBC is not more legit than Drudge just because Rachel Maddow may be more educated / less deplorable / closer to our views, than, say Sean Hannity.”
Dekel shared his reasoning for abstaining from Byers’ suggestion, conceding that both sides of the political spectrum in the news have their faults.
“I follow a lot of right-wing folks on social networks you could tell something was brewing,” Dekel continued. “We laughed off Drudge’s Instant Polls and all that stuff, but in the end, people go to those sources because they believe that the media doesn’t do its job. I’m a Hillary supporter and let’s admit it, the media avoided dealing with the hard questions and issues – which didn’t pay off. By ranking ‘legitimacy,’ you’ll just introduce more conspiracy theories.”
Byer then kept the conversation going.
“Too many times, Breitbart is just echoing a demonstrably made up story,” Byer argued without citing a single example. “That happens at MSNBC, too. I don’t want a political judgement. The desire is to break the myth feedback loop – the false equivalency – instead of the current amplification of it.”
A suggestion was then ventured by Mike Brauwerman – another engineer at Google.
“What I believe we can do – technically – that avoids the accusations of conspiracy or bias from people who ultimately have a right and obligation to decide what they want to believe, is to get better at displaying the ‘ripples’ and copy-pasta, to trace information to its source, to link to critiques of those sources, and let people decide what sources they believe,” Brauwerman posed. “Give people a comprehensive but effectively summarized view of the information – not context-free rage-inducing sound-bytes.”
Google Vice President of Engineering David Besbris also put in his two cents about Byer’s underhanded idea.
“We’re working on providing users with context around stories so that they can know the bigger picture,” Besbris insisted. “We can play a role in providing the full story and educate them about all sides. This doesn’t have to be filtering and can be useful to everyone.”
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SOURCE: One News Now, Michael F. Haverluck