A recent analysis from the Daily Caller offers the newest of a string of evidence that Google, the world's most popular and powerful search engine, is deliberately manipulating search results in the form of dubious fact-checking reviews. This search function reportedly affects many conservative news sites, but not their liberal counterparts.
So, what does this manipulation actually look like for the person searching on Google? When you look up certain right-wing news sites, Google offers additional information about the site on a sidebar, such as frequently covered topics and themes, and a "Reviewed Claims" section.
According to the Christian Post, "these reviewed claims are instances where the publication has made a claim thought to be dubious and is linked to Snopes or another fact-checker report on the matter. And some of the claims for which Google is providing reviews give the impression that the site in question habitually engages in spreading unsubstantiated rumors as factual."
For example, one "unproven" claim, according to Google, was that conservative outlet The Federalist had written about a woman named Eileen Wellstone who claimed former president Bill Clinton raped her while he was a student at Oxford in the 1960s. However, only one of The Federalist's thousands of articles published last year mentions that Wellstone made the allegation and did not elaborate any further as to whether or not the allegation had any merit.
Yet Google's fact-check illustrates the Federalist as having claimed that Clinton was expelled from Oxford for the alleged rape and links the user to a Snopes article claiming the story, which is essentially a strawman, is unproven.
"So the question is, does Google tag every article that relays accusations of sexual misconduct or rape as 'unproven,' or just the ones against Bill Clinton? Or is the mention of Wellstone specifically worthy of a claim?" asked the Federalist's David Harsanyi, in a Wednesday article.
Harsanyi explained that the Wellstone allegation was cited in several publications, including The Washington Post. "It's one thing for us to read publications through filters. We do it all the time. But it's another for a search engine to manipulate perceptions about those sites — and only conservative ones — before people even read them."
LifeNews published a report on Wednesday noting that of the top 20 conservative sites, according to PJ media, 30 percent were flagged with fact-check reviews. None of the top 20 liberal websites, as reported by TopTere.com, were subject to the same fact checking.
On the contrary, a Google search of The Washington Post does not reveal the paper's notoriously erroneous claims, such as Russian hackers targeting a power grid in Vermont—which Snopes has fact checked. Google does, however, list the publication's many Pulitzer prizes in the sidebar.