On Tuesday, President Donald Trump expressed grave concern that most of Google’s search results for “Trump News” were negative — and suggested that he might do something about it.
….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 in the day, Google responded by denying that political bias has anything to do with search results.
“We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment,” a company spokesperson stated, according to an article in Yahoo.
Now, I don’t work at Google. I’m not going to go so far as to claim I know absolutely anything whatsoever about search algorithms, because I don’t. I also don’t particularly care that the president slammed the company. Although he could probably spend his time doing more productive things than googling himself and becoming infuriated at the results, I’m not a gal to tell a guy what he should or should not be doing with his spare time.
There’s one thing, however, that I do have an issue with: The words “will address” in Trump’s second tweet — because the government has absolutely no business managing Google search results.
Like it or not, “the news” or “the press” is more and more becoming synonymous with “the Internet.” Reading a physical newspaper is a lot like getting married — it’s something a lot of people in my generation see other people doing; we just don’t really do it ourselves quite as often as the people in the generations before us seemed to want to do it. At this point, even a lot of people in the older generations have ditched more traditional news sources for online ones. Last August, 43 percent of Americans reported getting news online, which was up from 38 percent the year before. There’s no question in my mind that that number is only going to continue to grow — which is why it’s so important that we continue to keep the government out of this issue as much as possible.
See, those two little words in that tweet may seem innocuous and simple, but, in fact, their implications are anything but. They imply that President Trump is considering looking for a way to use his power to do something about the amount of negative news that’s out there about him, or at least about the accessibility of it. He’s suggesting that he’d like to be able to make the average search result cast him in a more favorable light, and a president manipulating the press is not the kind of thing that we stand for in America. In America, the news media is supposed to operate independently of the government. News sources, including Google, are supposed to be free to publish and feature — or to not publish and feature — whatever news that they choose.
This isn’t just our model, it’s quite clearly the best one. Compare it to, say, the model in North Korea. Kim Jong-un doesn’t have to wake up in the morning and be mad about negative news about him, because there simply isn’t any. All the “news” is propaganda, slanted to make people believe that the man who is making their lives a living hell is actually the greatest being who ever lived.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that Trump wants to turn our country’s system into one like North Korea’s. I think that that kind of alarmism is not only incorrect and stupid, it’s also probably the best way to get anyone with a brain to stop taking you seriously. Still, I just don’t think that even moving in the direction of a more state-controlled model could possibly be a good thing for our country — even if it were only slightly so.
The beautiful thing about the press in this country is that it provides a check against government power. If the government does something that hurts the people, then the media is going to report on it, and search engines such as Google are going to present those results to the people who search for that topic. I’ve seen people arguing that Trump should be able to do something about Google, and that truly terrifies me. Allowing a person in power to have the right to have any influence whatsoever in deciding what kind of news the people should and should not see is completely unacceptable in a free society. It limits the freedom of the press, which limits the freedom of the people.
If anything, we should be moving in the opposite direction. We should be giving the government less influence over what is and is not allowed or featured in our media. Instead of talking about allowing our president to manipulate search algorithms so that the news is more favorable to his point of view, we should be talking about abolishing the Federal Communications Commission. There . . . now that’s a free country.
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