Four months after Diamond and Silk lied about being censored online, the White House is now contemplating regulating Google so that it favors conservatives.
That’s according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who confirmed Tuesday that the Trump administration is “taking a look” at how it can regulate Google. It was a response to a question about President Trump’s tweets from early Tuesday morning, in which he claimed, after searching for his own name on Google, that “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.” Trump directly accused Google of “suppressing” conservatives and “controlling what we can & cannot see.”
Calling it a “very serious situation,” Trump promised that it “will be addressed!”
….results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2018
Later on Tuesday, asked about Kudlow’s comments, Trump reiterated his unhappiness with tech companies including Google.
“I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing and it’s a very serious charge,” he said. “You can’t do that to people. You can’t do it. We have tremendous — we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. You just can’t do that. So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. They have to be careful.”
This is quintessential evidence of a vicious cycle that elevates complete lies into conspiracy theories that then dictate harmful policies. Trump’s claims that Google is rigged follows other conspiracy theories that have motivated his actions, like his beliefs that “millions and millions”of people vote illegally in U.S. elections (they don’t) or that white farmers in South Africa are being massacred en masse (they aren’t).
The lie that spun into this threat to rig Google to favor conservative positions is fairly easy to trace. Since last September, YouTubers Diamond and Silk (Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson) have claimed that they were discriminated against on Facebook because of their ardent support for Trump. ThinkProgress could find zero evidence in their traffic records to substantiate their claims, but that didn’t stop Republican members of Congress from asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg about the baseless accusations of censorship.
Two weeks after Zuckerburg testified, Diamond and Silk made their own appearance before Congress, where they repeated their lies under oath. They claimed that Facebook had censored them for six months and somehow restricted their page to keep their followers from viewing their content. (While testifying, they made the additional false claim that they hadn’t received any money from the Trump campaign, even though an FEC filing shows otherwise.)
When CNN host confronted Rep. Steve King (R-IA) about why Congress’ time and money was wasted propping up Diamond and Silk’s claims, King insisted that he believed them because Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit had provided him with “data” that substantiated their claims. The site is known for promoting conspiracy theories; just this week it incorrectly identified a Reddit user as the alleged perpetrator of the mass shooting this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida.
Thanks to Congress and conservative media sites like The Gateway Pundit, Diamond and Silk have had increased opportunities to spread their false stories of victimization, including on Fox News. That was the case Monday night, when they appeared on Fox Business with Lou Dobbs.
Dobbs opened the segment by highlighting a “study” from PJ Media, a conservative outlet, which claimed that “96 percent of Google search results for ‘Trump’ News are from liberal media outlets.” The test relied upon conservative commentator Sheryl Attkinson’s self-made media bias chart, which identifies most mainstream news outlets — including the AP, NPR, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Hill, and Bloomberg — as “left”-leaning outlets. (Incidentally, Attkisson just so happened to issue a new version of her “subjective chart” on Tuesday.) Dobbs invited Diamond and Silk to comment on the clearly biased test.
As Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz documents, the conversation that followed tracks perfectly with Trump’s tweets, as is so often the case when the president watches content on Fox News or Fox Business.
Diamond and Silk claimed companies like Google were “suppressing voices of conservatives,” calling it “tyranny” and “a form of political lynching.” They repeatedly called on somebody “to step in and take a look at this here,” exactly as Trump then promised to do. (Later tweets further confirm Trump was watching Dobbs’ show from last night, as he continued to tweet about its other content.)
The full segment, btw, is on Fox's website. If you're a journalist writing up the president's tweets, you should really explain where the president is getting his ideas. https://t.co/XUdUGu72S9
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) August 28, 2018
Google shot back Tuesday, insisting that its search engine in no way favors search results according to political leanings. “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company explained in a statement. “Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
It’s unclear what the Trump administration could try to do in an attempt to somehow wrangle Google and force it to rig its search results to favor conservative outlets. But what is clear is that it was many of those very conservative outlets that were responsible for propelling the conspiracy theories about anti-conservative bias that have now prompted Trump to take some kind of action.