Black Friday

Google accused of censoring UK autofill

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

February 3, 2016

If you visit Google.co.uk and type the name of a major UK political party into the search box followed by “are” (as I just did,) you get the following autofill suggestions:

Conservatives

Tories are

Labour are

LibDems

SNP

Plaid Cymru

Notice anything odd? Google is now categorically denying accusations that it censors search results in favour of the ruling center-right Conservative Party (also knows as “Tories”,) dismissing them as “conspiracy theories”.

Interestingly, just a couple of weeks ago the Conservative party struck a deal with Google for it to pay just £130 million (approx. $188 million USD) in back-taxes, despite the company’s actual liability for the period since 2005 sitting at £2 billion, of which it had paid a mere £200 million, leaving it a whopping shortfall of £1.67 billion (approx. $2.31 billion USD.)

Opposition Labour Party described the deal as “derisory,” and have demanded that the National Audit Office investigate the “trivial” settlement.

Google, however, insists that there is no link between this cosy tax deal and the blatantly biassed search results,

[We] can categorically state that tax is not remotely connected to this, nor are their ‘conspiracy theories’ founded in any way.”

According to Google,

Autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity of search terms. We do remove offensive or inappropriate content from autocomplete predictions.

This second point refers to the fact that anyone can report inappropriate or offensive autocomplete results via this public webpage, making it possible that Tory supporters are simply better at complaining about negative autocomplete results.

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