Trump vs Google: Search Me

Trump vs Google: Search Me

Here at Signal, we don’t usually pounce on presidential tweets – most of the time they’re aimed at a domestic US audience, and there just isn’t that much geopolitically to read into them. But there are exceptions, like Tuesday’s complaints from President Trump about Google.


What happened: On Tuesday morning, President Trump blasted Google on Twitter, claiming that 96 percent of the search results that pop up when Googling for “Trump News” were “from National Left-Wing Media.” The president, who may have gotten the stat from a segment that aired on Fox News the night before, accused the search company and unspecified others of “suppressing voices of conservatives and hiding information and news that is good” and promised he would address the situation. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow later stated that the administration was “taking a look” at regulating Google. Google shot back with a statement insisting that politics do not factor into its search algorithms. On Tuesday afternoon, Trump expanded his criticism to include Twitter and Facebook, saying these companies were “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

Why it’s important: It may be tempting to dismiss the president’s latest broadside against the tech sector. Remember when Trump accused Amazonof ripping off the Postal Service? There were a few splenetic tweets, a review was ordered, and then nothing happened. But social media bias is an issue that resonates more intensely with Trump’s base: a Pew Research poll from June found that more than half of Republican voters thought it was “very likely” that social media platforms intentionally censor political viewpoints, while 70 percent of all voters think it’s at least somewhat likely. It’s also a priority issue among some Republicans in Congress, including House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who say that powerful Silicon Valley tech companies treat conservative voices unfairly. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other social media execs are due to testify at a House hearing on the issue next week. With some Democrats also eager to rein in the power of the tech giants, albeit for different reasons, there’s at least some risk that the president’s complaints turn into action.

What could Trump do? Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has suggested that Google and Facebook should be regulated like public utilities, a move that could subject digital platforms to extra oversight over how they serve up their content. Think of the now-abolished pre-cable TV “fairness doctrine” that required broadcasters to air differing views on important public issues. But regulating search engines like that would take an act of Congress, and the Supreme Court would probably have something to say on the matter. The administration could also push regulators take a harder look at Google for antitrust violations: Google and its YouTube video subsidiary account for around 90 percent of all web searches in the US. If the government can find leverage, Google might be forced to make concessions that make it easier for rival search engines to gain an audience. But that would only obliquely address the issue that Trump is complaining about.

Next week’s congressional hearings on social media bias, which will feature executives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook, will give an indication of how likely congressional Republicans are to take up Trump’s cause. He’ll probably face an uphill battle. But in a world where most people now depend on search engines and social media to keep themselves informed, even small changes to the way information is served up by the world’s dominant search engine can have big effects on global politics. This is an issue we’ll be watching closely.

Colorful graphic with a woman wearing a red top in the foreground and blue background with two individuals looking on

As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

Ian Bremmer interviews economist Larry Summers on GZERO World. Summers served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Preisdent Obama. He sounded the alarm bell about inflation back in February 2021 when few people were talking about it. Part of the reason prices are rising so much today, Summers says, is because the Biden administration made the political decision to do "too much stimulus," a big mistake in his view. Summers discusses how supply chain problems are also contributed to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years.

More Show less
Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

More Show less
Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

More Show less
What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal