A right-wing news site published an internal video from 2016 showing top Alphabet Inc executives expressing disappointment about the election of US President Donald Trump, potentially giving conservative lawmakers and activists new fuel for their allegations that the internet-search giant is politically biased. Website Breitbart published a more than hour-long video of an all-hands meeting at Alphabet’s Google that happened soon after the election. Google co-founder Sergey Brin says “most people here are pretty upset,” and “myself as an immigrant and refugee I certainly find this election deeply offensive”. In a statement Wednesday, Google said the meeting shown in the video reflected the expression of employees’ own personal views after “a long and divisive election season.”
“Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products,” a Google representative said in the statement. “To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”
Attacks against Google by conservative politicians and activists have intensified in recent weeks, with Trump accusing the company of promoting negative news about his presidency on its search engine — an assertion dismissed by online search experts. US senators lambasted Google for failing to send a top executive to testify on Russian election meddling during Congressional hearings last week. Some conservative journalists, activists and politicians have suggested Google is using its power as the world’s central index of information to sway people toward liberal points of view. Although executives have publicly voiced opposition to Trump policies such as immigrant family separations, Google has always denied that politics play a role in its search algorithms, and last week reiterated that it doesn’t rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is exploring a potential investigation of Google, Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc to see if they are breaking consumer or antitrust laws. Republican politicians have said regulation might be needed to stop the alleged bias, though no serious policy proposals have been outlined. The internal Google video also offers insight into the dialogue within Google about how its products can influence society. The company has fielded criticism from people across the political spectrum for not being attuned to how its YouTube video-sharing site can be used to spread misinformation and inflame political tensions. The leaked video shows Google employees questioning their executives about how its products could contribute to populist political movements and the spread of misinformation.
“This is a problem of scale and not being able to keep up — human systems fail at many of these things,” Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai says in the video. “Investing more in machine learning and AI could be one way we actually make progress on some of this stuff, but I think we should do more.”