Pres. Trump says Google 'rigged' searches against him, tech giant disagrees

WASHINGTON (KGO) -- A battle is brewing over search results on Google as President Trump's war against the news media expanded on Tuesday.

The president is accusing the Silicon Valley tech giant of providing search results that purposefully downplay conservative news and give preference to the liberal media, allegations which Google is strongly denying.

However, Google does find itself vulnerable to the president's last two tweets because of the way it operates.

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The president's latest tweets only continue to put pressure on Google and how it delivers search results. Google says its algorithm is constantly updated. But exactly how it determines what shows up in a search is proprietary.

"We don't know really the weaknesses of Google's algorithms because there's no democratic oversight. Google and these companies, Facebook, others, do whatever they want," said Nolan Higdon, Ph.D., a media studies professor at Cal State East Bay. He says he doesn't see evidence of bias.

Three days ago, the conservative website PJMedia posted this story, claiming its research shows 96 percent of search results are from liberal media. Those findings were also run on conservative site Breitbart News.

A potentially troubling issue for Google is that it already knows a lot about users' interests, reading habits, past searches and political leaning by tracking you.

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"It is certainly a possibility that the news you see is skewed not only by your own search habits but also your geography and demographics that apply to you. So we all don't get the same results," said technology analyst Larry Magid.

Google responded to the president's criticism in a statement:

"Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology. We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."

However, the president suggested at one point what Google does might be illegal. His economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, told reporters the administration will be looking into it.

"Google's goal, though, is to keep you clicking," said Prof. Higdon. "They got to keep you on the screen, and one way to keep you clicking on the screen is by giving you content you like."

That could be points of view you favor or products you might want to buy.

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