Treating search results as a media source in their own right is a key step in analyzing alleged political bias
Since Donald Trump announced his presidential run in 2016, his list of adversaries seems to grow endlessly, from career politicians to celebrities to media outlets. But this past Tuesday, that list saw an unusual addition: Google. Trump angrily touted on Twitter that the dominant search engine had “RIGGED” its search results by shutting out rightwing media and directing users to content from “Fake News” leftwing media. But behind the bombast, does he have a point? Are search engine results biased? And if they were, how would we know?
The role of social media like Facebook and Twitter in politics has been intensely debated since the 2016 elections, and those conversations have continued as the 2018 midterm elections approach. But while Facebook suffered intense scrutiny culminating in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testifying before Congress, Google and other search engines have remained relatively unscathed. This is perhaps unsurprising; at first glance, it might appear that search engines like Google are fundamentally different from news or social media – simply a way for web users to access existing information, rather than a media source in their own right.