A full 70 percent of Google News search results for topics related to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend were biased toward the left, a new study revealed Wednesday.
The nonpartisan group AllSides analyzed the top three search results in Google News for ten topics related to the mass shootings, including the cities of the shootings, the names of the shooters, and even “Trump,” whom many liberal outlets blamed for somehow inspiring the El Paso shooting. The research took place on the afternoons of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
“This analysis shows no direct evidence that Google is intentionally suppressing voices from the center or right on the shootings,” John Gable, CEO and co-founder of AllSides, said in a statement on the results. “But there was a clear and overwhelming bias in Google’s results covering these shootings, intentional or not.”
News articles from outlets with a “Center” bias rating were outpaced by articles from “Left” or “Lean Left” sources by close to 400 percent. More balanced outlets like the BBC, NPR, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal got close to zero exposure among the “Top Stories” on each search topic.
Only 19 articles from “Lean Right” or “Right” rated sites appeared in the top three Google News results, of the 522 articles in the search results. That represents a pitiful 3.6 percent, and all 19 articles were search results for “Trump,” not for any of the other search terms. Of the conservative outlets, only articles from Fox News (16 results) National Review (2 results) and The Washington Examiner (1 result) showed up in the results.
AllSides reviewed 70 news sources on the right, and most of them did cover the weekend’s news along with left-wing media. Yet Fox News (16 times), National Review (2) and the Washington Examiner (1) were the only right-wing media sources that appeared in any of the 174 search queries performed by AllSides — and only for the very general query “Trump.”
Nearly half (46 percent) of the results came from three news websites: CNN (25 percent), The New York Times (14 percent), and The Washington Post (7 percent).
“The findings bolster claims of Google’s alleged anti-conservative bias, and reveal evidence of a possible preference for prominent outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post,” AllSides reported. “The results reinforce previous Google bias audits and reports done by AllSides and researchers at Northwestern University.” That previous AllSides report found a 65 percent liberal bias in Google News results.
These findings also confirm the results of an unscientific test on Google News bias run by PJ Media editor Paula Bolyard last year (tweeted out by Trump himself). The Google News slant is not a conspiracy theory, though Google of course denies manipulating results. After all, Google employees heavily favor Democrats in their political donations.
In an explosive Project Veritas video released last month, current Google software engineer Greg Coppola says he thinks some bad actors at Google manipulate news results in a liberal direction. “A small number of people do work on making sure that certain news sites are promoted,” he says in the video. “It would only take a couple out of an organization of a hundred thousand, you know, to make sure that the product is a certain way.”
Unlike Coppola, AllSides did not suggest any intentional bias at Google. “This analysis does not show any direct evidence that Google is intentionally suppressing voices from the right in relation to the shootings. It may be that a lack of right-leaning news media overall accounts for the huge difference between left and right-leaning appearances in Google News, or is perhaps an unintended consequence of Google’s algorithm,” the nonpartisan group reported.
While general user preference may explain the bias toward liberal outlets (after all, CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post are “legacy media” outlets with proud and less partisan histories), an algorithm that reinforces Google employees’ biases or direct meddling from Google employees are possibilities, even if Google CEO Sundar Pichai is telling the truth about his company as a whole never intentionally skewing results.
The liberal bias in news about the shootings may have hidden critical information from the American public.
For instance, liberal outlets and 2020 Democrats rushed to blame Trump’s rhetoric for the El Paso shooting, denouncing “white supremacy” and noting that the shooter referred to the influx of Hispanic migrants as an “invasion,” echoing Trump. The shooter’s manifesto, however, advocated race-based states, violence against immigrants, hatred for corporations, and radical environmentalism — more of a smorgasbord of hateful rhetoric than a pro-Trump manifesto. He denounced both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, the shooter predicted that the media would blame Trump for his manifesto, but insisted his ideas predated Trump’s rise.
Similarly, the deluge of liberal media coverage seems to have buried the political leanings of the shooter in Dayton, Ohio. While the El Paso shooter echoed some of Trump’s rhetoric, the Dayton shooter advocated for gun control and socialism, and said he would support Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Media outlets rushed to tie Trump to the shootings, and he issued a condemnation of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. Yet it seems few asked Warren to denounce the Dayton shooter in the same fashion.
“It is bad for democracy when diverse perspectives are hard to find,” AllSides CEO John Gable argued. “News media, including digital aggregators, should present all perspectives so that people can decide what they think for themselves. This helps people to appreciate diverse perspectives, creating a more tolerant and better informed public.”
It seems the bias in Google News reports reinforced the narrative that Trump is somehow to blame for the shootings, despite evidence to the contrary. This helped cement anger and mistrust on both the right and the left, playing into partisan divisions when Americans need to come together and denounce these horrific mass shootings, as Trump did.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.