Is Google Cooking Search Results in Favor of Hillary Clinton?

Google is adamant that its core search services are viewpoint-neutral and apolitical, and that no finger is put on the scales of search returns. In fact, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt testified to as much before a Senate antitrust committee headed by Mike Lee. However, subsequent investigation revealed Schmidt may have been dishonest with Senator Lee, and that FTC investigators subsequently discovered that Google gave itself preferential treatment in its search results.

A number of conservatives online have noted that Google seems to be treating some searches related to the candidates in disparate ways. For example, Google is actively suppressing autocompletes of searches that are not flattering to Hillary Clinton in ways that other search engines are not. Example:

Google’s defense of this is as follows:

Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works. Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name.

I guess I understand how that works for “liar” (similarly, Google does not autocomplete “liar” for Trump, nor does it autocomplete “racist” or “idiot” or any number of other insults you attach to Trump) although it’s much harder to understand why that works for “cough.” Say what you will about the coughing story, people are talking about it and searching for it. It’s an item of interest.

And it’s not an insult. Hillary Clinton coughs sometimes. It’s no less relevant than, say, John McCain’s mole, which if you type in “John McCain mol,” autocomplete will give you several tasty options, in spite of the fact that McCain’s mole hasn’t been in the news for 8 years. “Hillary Clinton cou” not autocompleting cough feels like someone’s hand intentionally putting their thumb on the scales, which is exactly the thing Google promised Congress they did not do. And if they are doing it, they should be made to answer why they told Congress they were not.