Google Favors Good Reporting, Not Liberal Views: Study

It’s a logical fallacy to suggest that where two sides disagree, the truth must lie in the center. It doesn’t matter how many people believe in Bigfoot or essential oils or the city of Boston — popular opinion won’t make something factually true. (Though of course, well-meaning people can disagree over values, such as whether it’s better to be “tough on crime” and risk imprisoning innocent people, or focus on social welfare and rehabilitation, and risk freeing people who will commit more crimes.)

Be a knowledgable consumer of news. Seek out coverage from a diverse array of sources, including credible sources that lean against your stance. Ignore the sites designed to generate rage-clicks (regardless of whether you share that rage).

Those who, like President Trump, are already convinced that the news media are biased against their worldview probably change their minds, but the results of a study reported by The Economist did not find any evidence to support claims that Goggle is systematically repressing news that’s favorable to conservatives.

Screenshot of Google's home page, with the text "is google biased against conservaties" typed in the search box.If Google favoured liberals, left-wing sites would appear more often than our model predicted, and right-wing ones less. We saw no such trend. Overall, centre-left sites like the New York Times got the most links—but only about as many as our model suggested. Fox News beat its modest expectations. Because most far-right outlets had bad trust scores, they got few search results. But so did Daily Kos, a far-left site.

Our study does not prove Google is impartial. In theory, Google could serve un-biased links only to users without a browsing history. If fact-checkers and Pulitzer voters are partisan, our model will be too.

Moreover, some keywords did suggest bias—in both directions. Just as PJ Media charged, the New York Times was over-represented on searches for “Trump”. However, searches for “crime” leaned right: Fox News got far more links than expected.

This implies that Google’s main form of favouritism is to boost viral articles. The most incendiary stories about Mr Trump come from leftist sources. Gory crime coverage is more prevalent on right-leaning sites. Readers will keep clicking on both. —The Economist

As points out in response to a Tweet from Trump in 2018:

OK, so what? There’s nothing the government can do about this, even if it were true.

Private entities aren’t bound by law to be unbiased, or to be neutral. In fact, they can’t be — because the First Amendment bars the government from meddling with how social media companies exercise their editorial discretion. The only reason the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t struck down by courts (before the Obama FCC finally took it off the books in 2011) was that broadcasters are the only media that don’t get full First Amendment protection, as we’ve explained. The Supreme Court has already ruled that Internet media get the full protection of the First Amendment.

More food for thought… a study of Italian media concluded that people who watched more TV were more likely to vote for populist candidates. They very young and the elderly were the group most affected.

We study the political impact of commercial television in Italy exploiting the staggered introduction of Berlusconi’s private TV network, Mediaset, in the early 1980s. We find that individuals with early access to Mediaset all-entertainment content were more likely to vote for Berlusconi’s party in 1994, when he first ran for office. The effect persists for five elections and is driven by heavy TV viewers, namely the very young and the elderly. Regarding possible mechanisms, we find that individuals exposed to entertainment TV as children were less cognitively sophisticated and civic-minded as adults, and ultimately more vulnerable to Berlusconi’s populist rhetoric. —American Economic Association