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“We’d be breaching precedent”: Leaked emails show Google workers discussing search tweaks

The emails are likely to stoke perceptions of anti-conservative bias within Google’s ranks.

“We’d be breaching precedent”: Leaked emails show Google workers discussing search tweaks
[Photo: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash]

In an email thread obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Google employees discussed ways that they could tweak search functions to affect results related to President Trump’s controversial 2017 travel ban. The employees, at least one of whom worked in search product marketing, sought to leverage Google search to highlight pro-immigration organizations and links to donate to, for instance, the ACLU. The thread contained a number of competing ideas and also some cautionary notes from employees who seemed uncomfortable with the notion of highlighting some groups over others.

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“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” one email said, according to WSJ.

In a statement, Google called the emails a “brainstorm,” and said 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.”

Not surprisingly, the report is riling up right-leaning news outlets, where there is already plenty of anger about perceived anti-conservative political bias within the ranks of the world’s largest search engine. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson did a segment on the WSJ report last night.

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You can read the full report here.

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About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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