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Relevant Results: Does Liberal Media have the Google Advantage?

After the 2016 election, the conversation about the prominence of “fake news” and the credibility of news outlets sparked debates and media’s growing effect of how people get their information. In late August of 2018, Trump angerly tweeted about how google has rigged the results, stating that Google pushes results from left-wing media and doesn’t include much information from right-wing media outlets. When testing this theory out, a writer at PJ Media (a conservative publication), Paula Bolyard, searched “Trump” and found that the top 100 stories were all written by liberal sources such as New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico, and more.

Google tends to push results from traditional and widespread outlets. The Google search algorithm seeks to do two things: Provide answers that are pertinent, and answers that are credible. To do this, Google turns to sites that are popular. It would be nearly impossible to check every sites relevance and credibility, so by using indicators such as number of links and traffic to the site, Google can try to push the best results to the top. However, where Trump gets angry is not a fault of Google’s political philosophy but the fact that the publications and outlets that are most credible are mostly from the left. There are simply larger numbers of liberal organizations that have larger staffs and bigger budgets. Many conservative journals simply can’t operate at the same scale.

There is a loop between what Google shows people and the sites that people visit the most. People usually click on the first links Google shows them, but Google puts those links first because those are the links that people typically view the most. This can be directly linked to the page rank update algorithm. The algorithm is recursive, and page ranks can be updated an infinite number of times. Pages gain higher ranks when other pages link to them at a higher rate. For example, many of the prominent liberal publications, such as CNN, are authorities. This means they are webpages that are highly-endorsed. To Google, more endorsements means that the pages are viewed as more credible. This system, while it does take into account many factors, can never perfectly show an unbiased list of credible resources. However, when Google runs this algorithm, it is completely unbiased. Every site, no matter their political leaning, has the same methodology applied to it. However, right-wing sites don’t have the same relevance in the eyes of Google. These sites also don’t have the same relevance in the eyes of Safari, Firefox, or Bing. So, are search platforms rigged against Trump? Probably not. Is there a notable difference in the number of credible outlets from left and right wing organizations? Yes. Google will always put the most relevant sources first, and in the realm of media, most of those happen to be liberal sites.


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