There’s noise on the web that Google is censoring Negative Hillary Clinton searches.
The answer to ‘is Google censoring negative searches for Hillary Clinton’ is, probably, **YES** but there is a problem for conspiracy theorists that will need to be taken into account and this I think I can adequately illustrate with two simple images:
Continuing the search by pressing only the spacebar AFTER the initial word is input, and another keyword appears…..
See it? ^
Can you spot the difference?
YES – Google censors autocomplete all the time. Google OFTEN mutes keywords with a negative connotation (in the UK, at least).
These two images above show an instance that Google:
- Hides the negative search away (somewhat)
- Only produces the negative term on further keyboard input, as if to ‘hide the bad stuff away’.
Of course, some places are SYNONYMOUS with a terrible event, and in some cases, Google might want to include the negative term IF they think MOST people searching day-to-day INTEND to look for that specific negative story.
Google mixes things up in how it works too (in all areas) to keep outside forces from manipulating their results in a manner they disprove of.
The trend Google has shown over the last few years have seen them move towards removing or muting ANY overtly negative searches about LOTS OF PEOPLE and – well – ANYTHING that’s worth their attention.
Google could be simply trying to avoid getting into legal trouble by just muting negative terms on lots of autocomplete searches.
This may be an attempt to be sensitive to real people, as in the image above might also indicate (I know people in the town I am referencing in my examples above that HATE that their town is best known on Google for a terrible event – hence why I don’t want to put the actual word on this page.) .
This alteration of autocomplete results is not JUST for Hillary Clinton; it can be shown.
ANYONE can influence this with a court order, too, or super-injunction, probably (that’s an opinion based on what I’ve read I am not a lawyer obviously!).
I see come channels saying search suggestions are more negative for Bernie Sanders than they are for Clinton, offering a comparison between the keyword ‘socialist’ and ‘criminal.’
Calling someone a socialist probably won’t get you into the same sort of trouble that calling them a criminal will.
AND Bernie Sanders IS a self-proclaimed socialist!
Is Google censoring negative predictive searches for Hillary Clinton?
Yes, but not ONLY hers, unfortunately for conspiracy theorists and the undeniable trend in recent years (in the UK) has been for Google to mute overtly negative searches in Autocomplete as quickly as possible.
If Google is censoring negative suggestions for searches ONLY for Hillary Clinton and in a positive way that WAS NOT OPEN to the Bernie Sanders team, there’s nothing in the media I have seen that proves it.
PS – I have no dog in this fight I am still trying to work out my politics (which seems to be moving left to the middle as I get older!).
Hillary Clinton Google Searches Have Not Been Entirely Sanitised
Somebody, somewhere, is tasked with sanitising these autocomplete suggestions, in some way, that is very likely.
Probably lots of people in different camps.
If it is being done, its not been done entirely successfully as the following two images illustrate:
IMAGE 2: Someone forgot about searches with spelling errors (I see at least two negative stories in this list):
OH – and in the UK, Bernie Sanders searches are not filled with negative searches either.
Bernie Sanders autocomplete results are NOT overly negatively biased in the UK, at least. AND – very possibly – UK results might have been more sanitised if the UK was an important demographic to the political parties involved (as in my examples below).
As a search engine optimiser, it does not surprise me in the slightest that someone is actively monitoring negative searches on Google in 2016, or Google Autocomplete would become a mess of conspiracy theories.
AND it would be easy to manipulate and cause potential harm to lots of innocent people.
I wrote about this sort of Google censorship before (which I have added below):
Is Google Censoring Negative Predictive Searches For Celebrities & Politicians?
I was asked on Twitter by Matt what could be the reason for the following anomalies in Google search results for the Conservative Party:
… and it certainly looks as though someone, somewhere has censored some negative options on Google Autocomplete when you search for ‘Conservatives are’… information searches.
You can see that if correct, none are the other parties are focused on doing that.
These days, a lawyer can probably be just, if not more as effective as any SEO at modifying particular Google SERPS.
Time will tell if it is a glitch, or not, or other parties follow suit.
For instance, should Google censor none of these results, or all of them, for all parties?
There is obviously no PROOF that these searches are censored, or that the Conservatives have anything to do with it.
Google Censors What Options I Look At?
CENSORING OF GOOGLE AUTOCOMPLETE IS NOTHING NEW, as the following information from Sep 2014 illustrates:
There’s a lot of chatter in the UK at the moment about historic abuse claims, with some big name celebrities being pulled into the storm, rightly and potentially wrongly.
Most of that chat, naturally, happens on the web and even a casual search can bring up some surprising claims about individuals that you just can’t help having a peek at.
There’s a cottage industry at the moment in the UK when it comes to historical abuse claims, the UK ‘establishment’, and conspiracy theories – and usually – Google autocomplete can usually find the most interesting predictive searches around most topics. That’s kind of what it is for.
Here are the autocomplete results for a well-known celebrity when the negative press broke about him:
(When he hit the headlines – the autocomplete results were quite different from what they are today – however Google creates them.)
Yes I have blurred out the search terms in question above to avoid spreading vile rumours and conspiracy theories. I’m more interested in how Google Autocomplete has changed. The new sanitised version of results is below and they look remarkably….well, sanitised.
There are NO negative results in autocomplete predictions.
And not all predictive results removed are nasty rumours. Apparently the following search query (note how the prediction hints you add ‘Wikipedia’)….
…is more palatable than the following search result lol:
Good news for Wikipedia on that search, but it’s evidently not quite what Google had planned for that journey.
The result of this is that when you now look for this celebrity, you are not apparently being shown what most people have been recently searching for (one way Google autocomplete has been reported in the past, to work).
That was my interpretation of how it operates on a simple level although I understand it’s got to be different these days).
One could say Autocomplete herds web traffic down certain routes.
Google said it was a:
“mere passive facilitator”, with its algorithm based on the content of previous searches. FORBES.
I’ve noticed local region variances, too, to back this up.
The article I linked to above actually has a bit of info on autocomplete and the legal trouble it has got Google into the past – so much so that Google now clearly states on its website:
Autocomplete predictions are possible search terms, not statements by other people or Google about the terms, and not the answer to a search that you have. GOOGLE
It doesn’t really matter how it works – it looks as though Google has edited predictive autocomplete results for this celebrity and more.
There IS an argument to clean up these types of searches – of course.
Some of the rumours are downright nasty for all celebrities.
When It Becomes Ridiculous?
It took only a week or so to clean up those autosuggest results I list above (and I wrote this post a few weeks or so ago) – but when does that kind of censorship become visibly absurd and an actual distraction to researching a person using Google?
I mean – these new predictive autocomplete results even make this guy seem like a top bloke….
Anyways. If you search for celebrities on Google today – the predictive results are a lot cleaner than what they were last week – even for those celebrities convicted in the UK, and dead ones. It might be part of a wider attempt by Google at bypassing all this negative stuff and avoid legal problems in the future and aim to not predict searches that lead to distasteful web content – hey – it’s Google’s search engine. Or – other reasons.
Couple that with ‘right to be forgotten’ editing the actual organic results and it all seems a very edited search experience.
If you are a conspiracy nut – you might want to switch to Bing.
Google has a contact point for those who think a predictive search result is ‘offensive’ and list a few help points, but none seems to be ‘if you are a celeb in the UK with negative rumours, we’ll clean them up for you even if you are dead, or convicted.’