Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio June 13, 2016.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, June 13, 2016. Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk

Google is said to support US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican rival Donald Trump. The search engine giant has responded to accusations that it buries Clinton’s negative press in its autocomplete feature.

In a video released by SourceFed last week, Google is accused of manipulating its autocomplete recommendations in favour of Clinton. Instead of objectively reflecting the majority of Internet searches made on the site, it allegedly controls the autocomplete feature to influence the outcome of the US presidential elections.


In the video, SourceFed said Google autocompletes phrases for Clinton that are not the most searched on the site at all, and this violates its own algorithm. When it typed “Hillary Clinton cri—“, Google autocompleted the search with “Hillary Clinton crime reform,” “Hillary Clinton crisis” and “Hillary Clinton crime bill 1994.”

When the same was typed in Google competitors Yahoo and Bing, the results were different. Both search engines reflected “criminal charges,” “crimes,” “criminal record” and similar phrases, all of which suggest Clinton committed a crime.

It could be that there were different searches made on Google, but SourceFed put the recommended keyword phrases to the test on Google Trends and found out that the first recommended keywords, “Hillary Clinton crime reform,” didn’t even have enough searches. On the contrary, “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” reflected on Google Trends.

The investigative site further tested its theory, typing “Hillary Clinton ind—.” Google suggested “Indiana” and “India” in its autocomplete feature. Testing “Hillary Clinton India” versus “Hillary Clinton indictment,” the site found out that the later phrase has bounds more searches than the first one.

“The intention is clear: Google is burying potential searches for terms that could have hurt Hillary Clinton in the primary elections over the past several months by manipulating recommendations on their site,” host Matt Lieberman said in the video.

When it searched for negative phrases for both Sanders and Trump on Google, Yahoo and Bing, the search engines matched recommendations. “Bernie Sanders soc—“ resulted in “Bernie Sanders socialist” phrase recommendation from all three sites, while “Donald Trump rac—“ resulted in “Donald Trump racist” in Google, Yahoo and Bing.

The site reiterated it was not accusing anyone of any crime, though it added that while search manipulation isn’t a crime, it’s unethical. It found out that Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, funds an analysis company that works for Clinton’s campaign. Stephanie Hannon, the campaign’s chief technology officer, is also a former Google executive. Schmidt also has ties to Pentagon, the headquarters of the US defence.

“Though all these connections do not prove explicit criminal wrongdoings, they do showcase a man who has a clear invested interest in how a country is run and is actively funding one candidate to run it while the company he advises is working search results in her favour,” the host said.

Google has denied the accusation, maintaining its autocomplete feature is based on search terms’ popularity.

“Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how autocomplete works,” it said in a statement to the Washington Times. “Our autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name. More generally, our autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity of search terms.”

Google did not address SourceFed’s claim on its connection with the Clinton campaign.