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Internal memo from Google's CEO insists search results are free from political bias

Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Google chief Sundar Pichai wants the people working for him to understand this clearly: Google’s search results aren’t influenced by political bias.

That’s the message Pichai focused on sending in a Friday email to all employees. He was responding to reports of a January 2017 email chain that started a few days after Donald Trump instituted his first version of the Muslim ban.

A Thursday report from the Wall Street Journal noted that, in early 2017, employees talked about using Google’s search features to respond to Trump’s controversial travel ban that focused on predominantly Muslim countries. They sought a way to push back against “islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.” and “prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”

While the WSJ report does note that the chain included “cautionary notes” that warned using the platform for political purposes, Google still issued a statement shortly after the story published. The spokesperson referred to the chain as “a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented.”

The statement continued: “Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology—not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies.”

Pichai’s memo apparently strikes a similar tone. A New York Times report reveals that he shut down any notion of Google engaging in political activities.

“Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our Search results for a political end. This is absolutely false,” Pichai wrote. “We do not bias our products to favor any political agenda. The trust our users place in us is our greatest asset and we must always protect it.”

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