Trump targets social media

Trump targets social media
US President accuses tech giant of “rigging” search results and illegally censoring content. President Trump also vowed that the situation “will be addressed”. A search engine uses a sorting algorithm to find websites which match the entered keywords. Tech giant like Google can change the algorithm to show different..

US President accuses tech giant of “rigging” search results and illegally censoring content.

President Trump also vowed that the situation “will be addressed”.

Background

A search engine uses a sorting algorithm to find websites which match the entered keywords. Tech giant like Google can change the algorithm to show different search results for every different keyword entered. Google has had its share of controversy in the fight against fake news, often accused by the conservative crowd of being biased towards liberal policies.

President Trump’s attacks on the biased media have now also targeted Google for intentionally showing negative stories about him and his administration.

Analysis

In one of his early-morning tweets, Trump pondered whether social media companies had an  apparent search bias, which he claims shows 96 percent of results from ‘National Left-Wing Media,” is “Illegal.” He did not elaborate on what kind of action he may be considering taking, but his sentiment is in line with earlier statements on censorship.

President Trump’s tweet follows a report by a conservative news commentary site PJ Media. The report found that when searching for ‘Trump News’ on Google, the first page of results was entirely dominated by articles from left-leaning American media.

Out of the first 100 results, only five were from right-leaning sites; two from the center-right Wall Street Journal, and three from Fox News.

The outlets that President Trump often feuds with feature prominently in the first 100 results. CNN appeared most frequently, followed by the Washington Post, and then by NBC. Right-wing news sites like Breitbart, National Review, OAN, and the Daily Caller were all completely absent from the results.

Last year, a Harvard study found that 93 percent of both CNN and NBC’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative in tone. The Washington Post was slightly more positive, but 83 percent of its stories about Trump was still negative.

Google and other tech giants have been repeatedly accused of censorship by conservatives in the US. Twitter has been accused of “shadow-banning” or blocking content of prominent Republicans, whereas Facebook has deployed an unclear “trust score” to rank news sources. 

Google has denied any accusations of political bias. Responding to Trump's allegations of censorship on Tuesday, the company said that search results are not ordered according to any political preferences.

Trump's remarks on social media censorship also come the same day that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faces a deadline from House lawmakers to decide whether to testify next month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee over questions of conservative censorship or face a subpoena.

Counterpoint

President Trump’s options in the scenario are limited. He could ask the Justice Department threaten social media companies like Google with antitrust legislation as it controls over 90% of the market for search engines. However, in prosecuting an antitrust case, the onus would be on the government to prove that not only is Google a monopoly but that it acted maliciously to reach that position.

In the past year alone, Google has changed its basic search algorithms, which has resulted in a dramatic plunge in website traffic for left-wing and anti-war websites.

Additionally, the EU has imposed a fine of billions of Euros on Google for anti-trust violations this year. Google also paid a separate penalty of 2.7 billion Euros for manipulating search results in 2017.

Assessment

Our assessment is that social media companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter should act responsibly as they the world’s most popular search engines. We feel that if these companies want to ensure that fake news does not spread, it must avoid a marked preference for any one section of the ideological spectrum. We also feel that President Trump is using his tactics of pressurizing the media to minimize negative narratives about him. 

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