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As Trump accuses Google of rigging search results, we look into how search engines work

The Google search page appears on a computer screen in Washington on August 30, 2010.
The Google search page appears on a computer screen in Washington on August 30, 2010.

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President Donald Trump is accusing Google and other U.S. tech companies of rigging search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD” — and though he is offering no evidence, a top adviser says the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation.

Google is pushing back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t true: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

The president’s tweets Tuesday echoed his familiar attacks on the news media — and a conservative talking point that California-based tech companies run by CEOs with liberal leanings don’t give equal weight to opposing political viewpoints.

Trump followed that up his accusation with vague threats: “I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing. That’s a very serious charge,” Trump said, adding that Google, Twitter, Facebook and others “better be careful, because you can’t do that to people.”

Experts suggested that Trump’s comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work. Many factors help decide the initial results, including how much time people spend on a page, how many other pages link to it, how well it’s designed and more.

We have reached out to Google and they did not get back to us in time for the program.

With files from the Associated Press.


Joe Balestrino, consultant and independent search-engine-optimization expert; author of the book, "The Definitive Guide to Local Search" (Joe Balestrino, 2011); he tweets @joeybalestrino

Steven Andres, lecturer in management information systems at San Diego State University; founder of Special Ops Security, an Orange County-based firm specialized in cyber security; he is a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)