Google, Hillary, and the Search Conspiracy Kooks

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I’ll let you in on a little secret. I have better ways to spend my Saturdays than writing blog posts about nutso conspiracy theories. Seriously, I really do. But the conspiracy fanatics are again on a wacky rampage, this time with the ludicrous claim that Google is purposely manipulating search results to favor Hillary Clinton over racist, misogynist con-man Donald Trump.

Whether you support Hillary, Trump, or the Man in the Moon, the sheer illogic of these new conspiracy claims make a typical Federico Fellini film look staid and sane by comparison.

The fundamental problem with the vast majority of conspiracy theories is that they require the assumed perpetrators to be inept idiots. Because clearly, we’d almost never know about or even suspect conspiracies managed by the smart folks.

Case in point, the current Google/Hillary conspiracy crud.

The conspiracy nuts would have us believe that Google is purposely (and obviously!) manipulating search “autocomplete” results to de-emphasize negative completions regarding Hillary Clinton.

This makes about as much sense as running a foot race on a motorcycle. It would be immediately clear that something was amiss — and what kind of lamebrain conspiracy would that be?

Google has every reason to keep their search results useful and honest, both for purely ethical reasons and since their users can switch to other firms with a single click of the mouse.

But for the sake of the argument, if I were Google and I wanted to manipulate search results in a dastardly, evil way (cue the Darth Vader theme), I’d be trying to hide negative Hillary search results in the main Google search index, not in autocomplete.

And yet if you do a regular Google Search for any negative topics regarding Hillary Clinton — even the nuttiest ones that the haters spew on endlessly about — you’ll get enough pages of results back to keep you in hardcore conspiracy heaven for a lifetime.

So what’s the problem with Google Search autocomplete?

Nothing. Autocomplete is working exactly as it should.

In fact, if I type in “hillary e” I immediately get a list that features the silly “email indictment” stories. If I enter “hillary cr” I get back “crazy” – “crying” – “crooked” – with results pointing at vast numbers of negative, right-wing trash sites.

So why when you simply enter “hillary” don’t all those negative completions appear?

Well, for the same reason that “trump ra” returns autocomplete results like “racism” and “racist” but “trump” alone does not.

If we go back a few years, there were widely publicized complaints and even lawsuits arguing that Google Search autocomplete overemphasized “negative” or somehow “undesirable” information about some searched individuals and other topics– even though those autocomplete results were valid on an algorithmic basis.

And over time, we can see that autocomplete has evolved by returning more “generic” completions until the user’s query becomes a bit more specific.

Whether or not one personally agrees with this mode of operation, the important point is that it doesn’t favor anyone — it behaves the same way for everyone. Hillary. Trump. Even Justin Bieber.

There’s no Google search political favoritism. No conspiracy. Nothing to see here other than honest search results. Move along …

I realize that this is disappointing to Trump fans and to conspiracy aficionados in general.

But hey, there’s always other crazy conspiracy theories to keep you busy. The moon landings. The Illuminati. Yeah, and reptilian lizard people. Hell, even Francis Bacon vs. Shakespeare!

Have at it, gang!

Be seeing you.

–Lauren–
I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so — my opinions expressed here are mine alone.