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Google Employees Considered Changing Search Algorithm to Fight Travel Ban

(Aly Song/Reuters)

In the wake of President Trump’s initial “travel ban” executive order in January 2017, Google employees discussed modifying their search functions to promote pro-immigration views and groups, according to internal emails first obtained by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.

The emails, which were also reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, show employees discussing methods to “leverage” search functions to combat “islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.” and “prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”

A Google spokesperson denied that the strategies discussed in the email chain were ever implemented.

“These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology—not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies.”

The email thread was reportedly interspersed with a number of cautionary reminders not to move too deeply into overt political partisanship, but the majority of the messages appear to have been supportive of the algorithm-manipulation idea.

“Overall idea: Leverage search to highlight important organizations to donate to, current news, etc. to keep people abreast of how they can help as well as the resources available for immigrations [sic] or people traveling,” reads one email sent by a marketing employee, who indicated there was a “large brainstorm” occurring in his division about how best to respond to the travel ban. “Can we launch an ephemeral experience that includes Highlights, up-to-date info from the US State Dept, DHS, links to donate to ACLU, etc?”

The emails seem to bolster long-held concerns among conservatives that employees at the country’s biggest social-media platforms are utilizing their immense influence over the dissemination of politically sensitive information to disadvantage those who don’t conform to their views. The concern was made more salient earlier this month when an internal video of Google employees lamenting Trump’s election was leaked to Breitbart.

The founders of Facebook and Twitter have appeared on Capitol Hill repeatedly in recent months to field questions about potential bias from lawmakers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to meet with a number of state attorneys general next week to discuss the issue.

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