Donald Trump is no stranger to a brawl. Be it Vince McMahon at WrestleMania, Hilary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Election or indeed the country of Scotland, The Donald has no fear of taking on all comers.
Since his inauguration as President of the United States in 2017 Trump has proved a hugely divisive figure. Few individuals in the world attract both the devotion and loyalty from his supporters against the loathing of his detractors, particularly in the US. American politics has often been a polarised arena, but the New Yorker takes it to an unforeseen level.
Trump and ‘Fake News’
A hallmark of the Trump Campaign for the Presidency was his use of Twitter to attack his rivals. Popular opinion was upon his taking residency in the White House the newly appointed President would desist from Tweeting his take on current events.
Yet Trump has continued to use his account to reveal his thoughts, opinions and policy ideas to the world. And a hallmark of those is the Trump response to negative news from many US outlets.
During a press conference in January 2017 Trump responded to requests for a question by a CNN journalist by denouncing him as ‘Fake News’. Since then Trump has often described numerous highly respected news companies as Fake News both on Twitter and during press conferences.
Be it CNN, NBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post – Trump has called them all Fake News and displayed hostility to them and their employees. All four have one thing in common – they regularly criticise the President on various behaviours and policies.
Google are one of the worlds best known business brands. A giant of the tech world, the very name ‘Google’ is now the terms often used by consumers to describe an internet search. This is in spite of the various rivals to Google. With three quarters of online searches conducted on Google, it’s safe to say few organisations can rival their size.
However, Google are not immune from criticism themselves. Recently they were hit with a record €4 billion fine from the EU for allegedly rigging competition on Android devices. This, as well as longstanding questions about their tax affairs, has led to a significant amount of goodwill drifting from both Google and its parent company, Alphabet.
Donald Turns On Google
Trump is on record as a keen watcher of conservative American news channel, Fox News. And they recently ran a report which saw a guest describe a study of Google results for the search term ‘Trump News’.
Now it must be said, Trump has often waxed lyrical of the virtues of Fox. He's on record as calling it's flagship show ‘the most powerful T.V. show in America’ on Twitter. So, a segment on his favourite news channel prompted The Donald to turn to Twitter, engage his keyboard and inform his 50 million followers about this study.
So, the President of the United States is accusing Google of ‘suppressing voices of conservatives.’ A subsequent tweet uses the hashtag #stopthebias.
Trump is notoriously thin skinned and has a major aversion to criticism. Safe to say Google can handle allegations of bias in a rather more professional and business-like manner.
The Internet Responds
Of course, while Google took the professional approach, many decided professionalism wasn’t necessary. They took to Twitter to poke a little fun at the claims of the Commander-in-Chief.
The Likely Truth
Having spent a great deal of time learning how Google ranks websites and pages relating to any given keyword I profess to understand more than most. However, Google are notorious for keeping the precise methodology behind their algorithms to themselves.
But I’ll hazard a few guesses at why The Donald is so disappointed at the results Google presents it’s users.
1) US Media Websites Are Amongst The World’s Biggest
Be it CNN or the New York Times, the media websites that Trump determines as ‘negative’ are some of the giants of US media. These giants are some of the most visited sites by both American and international visitors.
Websites and webpages with large volumes of traffic tend to rank higher in Google’s results. This is primarily because pages with huge amounts of visitors are telling Google consumers see them as valuable.
Another thing for Trump to remember is while a significant minority of Americans may support him and his ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign, worldwide no US President has ever attracted such negative ratings. Google considers every web user, and not just the Bible Belt that backs his policies.
2) The Value Of Content
Google released an algorithm in early August 2018 that places greater emphasis on the value and readability of content.
US politics is polarised to the point that when one looks at the map coloured in with states that elected Trump as opposed to Clinton, the coasts are blue. It is commonly accepted that the ‘educated elite’ live in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
These people, the critics of Trump, are far more likely to create and publish content online than his core supporters who are more likely to attend rallies. Without wishing to cast aspersions it is also not unreasonable to suggest those core supporters who do post online will create content that fails to meet the standard of those better educated writers. At least in the eyes of Google’s artificial intelligence!
3) The Google Knowledge Graph
Few organisations on the face of the planet (and we include the CIA, FBI and GCHQ) have the amount of data about an individual that Google do. A significant part of their business model is learning about their users’ individual tastes to tailor adverts and content to them.
As discussed above, outside the US, Trump is hugely unpopular. In the US in excess of 50% of the population (over 150 million people) view him unfavourably.
Google focus content to match their users tastes. And if a large majority of the world (world – not America!) have a negative opinion of Trump then the frighteningly accurate algorithms used by Google will have ascertained that.
Google’s number one focus is to deliver content they believe will appeal to the user. Is it any surprise the most unpopular US President in history received negative results?
What Happens Next
When I started this article, I was merely commenting on Trumps original tweet alleging bias. During the time I’ve typed he has tweeted again. This time a video is used claiming to show how Google gave previous President Barack Obama favourable coverage.
It’s safe to assume then that Trump now holds Google in the same esteem as he does the CNN and New York Times’ of the world – not very favourably. Given his tendency to return to the same theme Google can expect this is only the start.
But what can he actually do? Given the US constitution Trump is unlikely have the opportunity to hit Google, or indeed Alphabet, where it hurts. Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of the Senate showed the lack of both appetite and ability politicians have to attack the Big Tech companies.
Google’s EU fine is small change compared to their profits -and they are appealing that ruling. Money is power and no organisation turning over in excess of $100 billion per year will fear an angry White House.
A Potential Solution
Maybe I’m being mischievous but think of the whispered allegations of the Russian Government having dirt on Trump due to a supposed rendezvous in a Moscow hotel room.
Now imagine the Google search history of Donald J. Trump. A man that by his own admission has intimate relations with adult film star Stormy Daniels. I’d wager several East Coast journalists from Trumps favourite media organisations would forgo their children for that data!
Donald Trump will play out the ‘Google are picking on me’ line. His supporters will back it – brace yourself for the #stopthebias hashtag over the coming weeks. But ultimately Google are too big – too powerful- for even the Commander-In-Chief to take on!
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