I was prompted today by my friend Eli to look into the viral video about Google censoring negative Hillary Clinton results. After seeing the video by Sourcefed, I went right into it to find that not on Google appears to be censoring Hillary Clinton results, Yahoo appears to be doing something similar, but only Microsoft’s Bing seems immune to Hillary fever.
Google Search in Singapore
Google had already filtered out negative news of Hillary Clinton in Singapore. This was no longer an American phenomenon. However, it remained to be seen if Bing and Yahoo offered unfiltered search results in Singapore as they did State-side.
Bing Search in Singapore
Bing apparently are immune to the forces that persuaded Google to censor their results. I didn’t even have to tempt them with a leading “cr” for crimes or “ind” for indictment.
Yahoo Search in Singapore
If you were hoping to see Hillary Clinton negative results on Yahoo, you’re out of luck. Yahoo’s ‘censorship’ is so strangely aggressive that it doesn’t even look like an algorithmic change. There are absolutely no suggested results for searches on Hillary Clinton with a leading “cr”.
This holds true for leading “in"s as well. There were definitely some searches for "Hillary Clinton indiana” that I’ve seen floating around and in the video. But even this crumb is gone for Yahoo.
At this point, it seemed a fair question to wonder if there are any places left on Earth where Google will suggest negative Hillary Clinton news. I decided to give it a shot by circumventing Google’s language settings altogether. I visited Google Malaysia and switched to Malay and also Google Taiwan in Traditonal Chinese. I then ran the original queries and see what turned up.
It seems that Google Malaysia didn’t get the memo.
And neither did Google Taiwan.
Indonesia may genuinely be a place where Google could claim that “ind” shouldn’t autofill “indictment”. I switched over to Bahasa Indonesia and ran my by now standard query of “hillary clinton ind”
As expected Indonesia and Indiana were the top auto-fill results. This makes sense for Indonesia. I tried to take it further to see if I could tempt an indictment result out of Indonesia or if the filter had already happened.
As it turns out, Google Indonesia was more than willing to give me several suggestions, also strengthening the case that only English results were affected for now.
Just to be sure that these results weren’t standard suggestions on Google.com, I ran the query again on Google with English chosen as my language.
That’s 4 times less than what I can get from Google Indonesia.
The final place that I checked was Hong Kong. The results speak very clearly for themselves. My first set is for the leading snippet “cri”, my second set further below are for “ind”.
Leading Cri with English language selected
Leading Cr with Chinese language selected
In the above, it’s remarkable that when in Chinese, I need only “cr” to trigger a suggestion with “crime”. Hong Kong-ers probably don’t like Hillary Clinton so much.
Leading Ind with English language selected
Leading Cr with Chinese language selected
There is some oddness going on with “indigo” and “indian joke” as suggestions. I think that can be put down to users whose first language is Cantonese actually searching for those terms. And despite their fascination with colour and non-PC jokes, indictment is still a major topic.
At this point I find myself wondering what is really going on. I frequent local fora like Kaskus on occasion but have never detected much interest in American politics. Maybe change was afoot? I ran a Google Trends query after reading Rhea Drysdale’s take on the SourceFed video, and found that whether globally or in America, Donald Trump was way ahead of Hillary Clinton in search interest.
From the related searches report that accompanies the graph above, I graphed searches for “hillary clinton email”, “trump university lawsuit” and “hillary clinton scandal” below.
It’s apparent that Hillary Clinton’s legal problems are much more popular search queries than Donald Trump’s problems with Trump University. These queries were drawn from Google Trends' “Top Searches” report. It’s been observed that highly popular searches tend to come with their own long tail of search queries that mirror the intent of the original query. Hence the popularity of “Hillary Clinton indictment” or “Hillary Clinton criminal” are merely artifacts of a much broader, intense interest in the “Hillary Clinton email” category. That would go some way towards explaining the unexpected and confusing outcome that SourceFed got above, and which was found in other countries.
For fairness' sake, let’s see what Hong Kongers search on Google both with English and Chinese chosen as their language, and for both presidential candidates.
It’s clear that although Clinton’s email scandal is a relatively important topic for Clinton searchers, it isn’t censored in the way that Chinese social media is. Trump supporters would be happy to note that Donald Trump doesn’t attract much interest in the way of scandal (at least in Hong Kong). This research doesn’t suggest that a massive censorship program is going on so I will end it at Hong Kong. To be thorough though, I still did a couple of searches in English and Chinese for Clinton with a trailing “e”.
In both cases, email is the winner. Just to be doubly sure that this adds up, I searched for the top suggested search terms for Hillary Clinton in Google for the US. The chart below shows that interest in Clinton’s email transgressions have only been growing. This issue isn’t going away.
Sourcefed’s analysis is extremely thought-provoking, and this is a scandal that could have had far-reaching repercussions for Google. The potential implications for politics the world over could have been massive, and would have coloured the legal disputes that Google has with governments all over the world a totally different shade. I couldn’t help but imagine a few chuckles at the Politburo of China’s CCP, remembering Google’s decision to leave China in apparent protest at the level of political interference that they were facing. From what has been observed so far though, both within and without the US, it doesn’t look like we will all be subjected to Googly political censorship. That is a kind of freedom we can all be happy about, regardless of political affiliation.Tweet
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