Is Google Showing Political Bias with Search Results?

    February 2, 2009
    Chris Crum

There are people who think Google is incorporating political bias into search results. As examples they use misspellings of George Bush and Barack Obama. Are the results of misspelled queries really something Google would take the time to specifically alter to inject their political beliefs though?

Search for Barack Aboma in Google and you will get a "Did you mean: barack obama" suggestion, and the top 2 results for Barack Obama:

Barack Aboma search results

Search for George Busch and you won’t get any suggestions:

George Busch search results

You will just get stuff like Bush getting a shoe thrown at him and "George Busch is a Fascist" t-shirts.

This has led some to speculate that Google is showing its political bias. Top executives with the company were very open about supporting Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. Eric Schmidt even appeared in Obama’s 30 minute infomercial. This surely only adds to the speculation.

"So what is this all about?" asks someone under the handle Discovery on Search Engine Watch’s Forum. "Obama who Google endorses has all negative pictures, negative sites and negative videos completely removed and his self promoting website put in their place while at the same time George Busch has every single nasty photo, nasty attack site and video presented with NO alterations by Google’s editors to direct searchers to what they deem a more relevant site?"

Is this what is really going on though? You may get the suggestion of a correct spelling with "Aboma," but there are still negative results in the "Aboma" listings. Stuff like "Will Barack Aboma Try To Destroy America?" Further more, if I search for George Bushl, I get a suggestion for "George Bush" and his top 2 results, which are links to his Wikipedia page and to the White House. And the George Bushl results aren’t that bad either.

George Bushl search results

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable, who  makes it clear he doesn’t think Google is doing any biasing, thinks it is more a bias of the American people and the results are simply a reflection of that. "But is there more going on?" he asks.

Perhaps Google just doesn’t have its algorithm fine-tuned to eliminate political bias for every possible misspelling of every possible search. And frankly, they’ve probably got more important issues to worry about than providing the best results for erroneous searches. I personally would rather see them continue to improve search for correctly spelled queries.