Business Ethics

Google

2016.06

Did Google Manipulate Search for Hillary?
Business Ethics
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Google is one of the few institutions that wield a tremendous amount of authority over the US presidential election.

  • It has been found that swing voters’ voting intentions are greatly influenced by the keywords produced by search engines when searching up information about candidates. This is important because their decisions ultimately determine the outcome of the election.
  • Some academic research has shown that Google has the power to determine up to 25% of the election outcomes.

In June, 2016, a news website called SourceFed (SF) released a controversial Youtube video, which claimed that Google may have manipulated its Search Autocomplete function in favor of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

  • Basis 1: Typing in “Hillary Clinton” into Google Search produces fewer negative content than with Yahoo or Bing (e.g. Google autocompletes “Hillary Clinton cri” with “Hillary Clinton crime reform” where as Yahoo/Bing autocompletes it with “Hillary Clinton crime”).
  • Basis 2: There is far fewer negative content found in a Google Search of Hillary than in a search of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

SF has suggested that there may be a powerful collaboration between Google and Hillary and that Google may showing its support for Hillary in this way.

  • Basis 1: Eric Schmidt has invested in Groundwork, an analytics company that focuses on big data related to politics. Furthermore, this company, filled with superb engineers, was appointed to be the major technology vendor for Hillary’s presidential campaign.
  • Basis 2: The CTO of Hillary’s presidential campaign is Stephanie Hannon, who also happened to be a former Google employee.
  • Basis 3: Eric Schmidt has been appointed as the new head of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board, demonstrating the positive, collaborative relationship he has with both Hillary and Obama.

Nonetheless, Google’s spokesperson and executives have denied SF’s claims.

  • Basis 1: Google only suggests objectively proven truths when autocompleting searches. Google does not autocomplete searches with predicted queries or rumors. The reason that “Hillary Clinton cri” isn’t completed with “crime” is because Hillary Clinton has never actually committed a crime.
  • Basis 2: ...nor does Google discriminate against Trump. The first suggestion from, “Trump la” is not, “Trump lawsuit,” but rather, “Trump laugh.” When Google autocompletes “Trump rac” with “Trump racism,” this is because Trump really did make racially offensive statements in public.
  • Basis 3: Google does not favor any candidate or cause.

At the same time, the majority of American media supports the view that Google is indeed blameless in this controversy.

  • CNN: “Google has a more complex search algorithm than those used by Bing and Yahoo. Bing and Yahoo permit their engines to suggest rumors, but Google will only suggest fact-based truths. In this sense, we can say that Google is the more advanced search model.”
  • Wall Street Journal: For celebrities as well as Hillary, “cri” does not always get autocompleted with “crime.” Google is not making an exception for Hillary.

However, despite Google’s clarifications, a smattering of experts continue to assert that Google is indirectly supporting the continuation of the Obama ⇒ Hillary legacy.

  • Claim 1: During the Obama administration, though Google had a monopoly over many markets, it remained relatively untouched by the antitrust laws. Google maintains its monopoly by supporting the Obama ⇒ Hillary line.
  • Claim 2: Several of Google’s new industrial pursuits (e.g. driverless cars) have been legally controversial. However, the Obama administration has permitted all, and Hillary is of the same line of thought.
  • Claim 3: It’s no secret that Google’s lobbyist is a frequent guest in Washington and the White House. In addition, Google has expressed its support for many of Obama’s policies, including the the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement implemented in 2016.
  • ⇒ There are concerns that the government and Google are engaged in a “back-scratching alliance.” That the purported alliance is based more on policy measures rather than on money is becoming an increasingly polemic societal topic.

The US is not alone when it comes to allegations about corporation-supported campaigns. In Korea, the election seasons have given rise to questions about the potential involvement of companies like Naver and Daum in certain candidates’ campaigns.

  • Allegation 1: Naver/Daum curates its news feed by deleting articles that may be deleterious to a party.
  • Allegation 2: Naver/Daum manipulates search results and words associated with a certain candidate in order to portray the candidate in the best light possible.

What are your thoughts on the possibility that Google/Naver may be manipulating their search engines in order to influence elections? Do you think these companies are 100% objective? Or do you think claims of their objectivity are excessively delusional?

Please talk about the current US presidential election with your Ringle tutor, and take the opportunity to improve your English speaking.

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