Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban imposed in 2017, the employees at the biggest search engine in the world wanted to tweak search results to lead people to find pro-immigration organizations and to encourage contacting lawmakers and government agencies.
The Wall Street Journal reported that these changes to the system would have meant that people searching for information on the travel ban – applied to mostly Muslim countries – would be encouraged to donate to these organizations and contact senators and governors to request that the ban be lifted.
Internal emails have been uncovered that explain their plan, and shows that “employees proposed ways to ‘leverage’ search functions and take steps to counter what they considered to be islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc. and prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”
Also in the emails was a word of caution with regards to getting involved in such a political area of concern. Google has issued a statement via a company spokeswoman stating unequivocally that the ideas were never implemented.
“These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented. 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.”
Google employees brainstormed, but didn't implement, ways to alter search functions to counter Trump's 2017 travel ban, internal emails show https://t.co/kXc8AOvvIg— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) September 21, 2018
One of the emails provides a reason as to why the company considered making the tweaks, with the worker writing, “I know this would require a full on sprint to make happen, but I think this is the sort of super timely and imperative information that we need as we know that this country and Google, would not exist without immigration.”
Google was among nearly 100 technology companies that filed “a joint amicus brief in February 2017 challenging President Trump’s travel ban,” citing how Trump’s ban was bad for “business, innovation, and growth.” Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. were also among those companies.
Now that this information has come to light, many Republicans are likely to reignite their argument that Google is trying to stifle the conservative viewpoint by forcing a more liberal agenda. These views have been expressed by a number of people high up in the current administration, including President Trump himself as the election date for mid-terms nears.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to meet with the attorney generals of some states to discuss their concerns surrounding “anti-conservative bias.”