- Thomson Reuters
A top Google employee posted a lengthy response online late last week after Donald Trump chastised the internet giant over a viral video that accused the company of manipulating its autocomplete search results to favor Hillary Clinton.
“The autocomplete algorithm is designed to avoid completing a search for a person’s name with terms that are offensive or disparaging,” Tamar Yehoshua, Google’s vice president of product management for search, wrote. “We made this change a while ago following feedback that Autocomplete too often predicted offensive, hurtful or inappropriate queries about people.
“This filter operates according to the same rules no matter who the person is,” she continued. “Autocomplete isn’t an exact science, and the output of the prediction algorithms changes frequently. Predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity and freshness of search terms.”
Yehoshua added that Autocomplete predictions “aren’t search results and don’t limit what you can search for.”
“It’s a shortcut for those who are interested. You can still perform whatever search you want to, and of course, regardless of what you search for,” she wrote.
Trump took aim at Google last week after being made aware of a viral video that showed multiple autocomplete search results for “Hillary Clinton” it claimed proved that Google “has been actively altering search recommendations in favor of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
The video had been viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook within 24 hours of it being posted on Thursday.
“If this is true, it is a disgrace that Google would do that,” Trump wrote in a statement sent to Business Insider by his campaign. “Very, very dishonest.”
He added: “They should let it float and allow people [to] see how crooked she really is.”
Business Insider replicated the viral video’s experiment and found similar results. But, such results were also found for other politicians. Business Insider also found that autocomplete searches using “hillary” instead of “hillary clinton” showed results that included “indictment” and “criminal,” searches that the latter did not when “indi” or “crim” were typed into the search bar.
“Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause,” a Google spokesperson wrote in a statement. “Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how Autocomplete works.”
“Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name,” the statement continued. “More generally, our autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity of search terms.”
A representative for the Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.