A few days after the 2016 election, at an internal meeting later leaked to Breitbart News, top Google executives, including Sundar Pichai, Sergey Brin, and Kent Walker, lamented President Trump’s victory, comparing Trump voters to “extremists” and discussing their desire to make Trump’s election and the populist movement a “blip” in history.
True to their word, four years later, Google is deliberately working to interfere with the reelection of Trump in 2020.
There are several ways in which Google is interfering in the 2020 election, but this article will focus primarily on one of them: political search bias.
Google Has Been Purging Breitbart Content from Search Results Since the 2016 Election
Search visibility is a key industry measure of how findable a publisher’s content is in Google search. New data shows that Google has suppressed Breitbart’s search visibility by 99.7 percent since 2016.
On April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top ten search positions (i.e., on the first page of Google search results) for 355 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top ten search positions for only one search term. And, on April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top 100 search positions for 16,820 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top ten search positions for only 55 search terms.
Moreover, organic Google search traffic to Breitbart (measured by unique visitors) is down 63 percent when comparing the first half of 2016 with the first half of 2020.
The following chart shows the visibility of Breitbart content in the Google search engine since 2011. It shows that Google has nearly eliminated Breitbart content from its search results.
The SISTRIX Visibility Index ranks a website’s visibility in Google by looking at its ranking in a million search terms.
A close-up of the visibility decline following Google’s May 2020 core update.
This foregoing graph also shows three major drops in Breitbart’s search visibility (these drops are highlighted by the bright red lines). The first drop took place shortly after (and inferentially in response to) the 2016 election. The second took place in July of 2019. The third took place in May of this year, after which (1) unless a user types “Breitbart” into the search bar (and even then), they are highly unlikely to get any Breitbart content search results, and (2) Breitbart search results for “Joe Biden” and other Biden-related search terms have gone to zero. Even if you specifically search for Breitbart News headlines, you are unlikely to find them in Google search.
Google Just Killed All Search Traffic to Breitbart for Joe Biden and Joe Biden-Related Searches
After Google’s May core search update on or about May 5, 2020, Google search impressions and search traffic to Breitbart for “Joe Biden” and other Biden-related search terms has gone to zero. Zero. The following graph clearly illustrates the foregoing.
On May 1, Google searches for “Joe Biden” generated approximately 30,000 impressions (views, used as a metric for advertisers) for Breitbart links. After May 5, both impressions and clicks went to zero.
Breitbart News spoke to an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert, a 25-year industry veteran, whose job consists of analyzing traffic data from Google’s own website performance portal, Google Search Console.
The expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had never seen anything like this graph — and that it indicates highly probable manipulation on the part of Google.
“I’ve never experienced such a wholesale removal of rank and visibility on specific concepts on a site as I have seen being applied to Breitbart,” said the expert. “Removal is the key, not dropping in rank, which would be an organic devaluing. These ranks are just simply gone, overnight, while other topics have been untouched.”
“The sheer fact that there are thousands of pages of Breitbart content that reference Biden that were ranking before May 6, that now have no rank or impressions on search is a sign of manipulation, not algorithmic devaluing.”
A longer view: Google search traffic to Breitbart News from the search term “Joe Biden” from July 2019 to the present. A regular heartbeat followed by a flatline as the election grows closer.
The Percentage of Traffic to Breitbart from Google Search (9%) Is Just a Fraction of the Average Publisher’s (30-50%); Expert Believes Breitbart Being Blacklisted
Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist and former Hillary Clinton supporter who has spent the last half-decade studying the effects of search engine bias on voters, said he believes Breitbart News is currently on one of Google’s blacklists, a topic on which he has written extensively.
“For news websites large and small, Google — in combination with its YouTube offshoot — typically drives between 30 and 50 percent of the traffic to those sites,” Dr. Epstein told Breitbart News via email. “For the New York Times, the percentage is currently 39.3%. At the moment, Google is responsible for just 9 percent of Breitbart’s traffic, and YouTube is sending a negligible amount, if any. Given the size of Breitbart’s audience, this suggests to me that Breitbart is listed on one or more of Google’s blacklists.”
“Those are the lists that Google denies having — even under oath in Congressional hearings — even though two of those blacklists were leaked from the company last year by whistleblower Zach Vorhies.”
“How many blacklists they actually maintain is unknown, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a hundred or more,” continued Epstein.
Dr. Epstein recently told Breitbart News’s Alex Marlow that Google is likely to shift ten percent of voters away from Trump to fulfill its executives’ stated goal of avoiding a repeat of 2016.
The psychologist has previously explained how Google’s search bias can affect undecided voters by offering them selective information about political candidates. This is because voters are not inclined to suspect search results of bias in the same way that they might suspect a CNN or New York Times report to be biased.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Epstein warned lawmakers that big tech could influence an extraordinary number of voters without any trace.
“In 2020 — if all these [big tech] companies are supporting the same candidate — there are 15 million votes on the line that can be shifted without people’s knowledge, and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.”
In a comment to Breitbart News, a Google spokeswoman denied allegations of political bias.
“There is no validity whatsoever to these allegations of political bias,” said the spokeswoman. “Our systems do not take political ideology into account, and we go to extraordinary lengths to build our products for everyone in an apolitical way. Anyone can easily cherry-pick a range of conservative, progressive or non-political sites that have seen traffic changes over time. The improvements we make to Search undergo a rigorous testing process and are done to provide helpful information for the billions of queries we get every day.”
Google Search Rankings Suggest More Wholesale Suppression of Conservative Publishers
Breitbart News isn’t the only conservative news site that has an unusually low position in Google’s search rankings. Alexa data shows that the percentage of traffic to conservative websites that come from Google is far lower than that of corporate media sites.
Percentages of website traffic from Google, via Alexa web rankings. Red = media sources with conservative or libertarian-leaning editorial stances. Data is a six-month average as of July 7, 2020.
Eight of the ten lowest-ranked sites (Breitbart News, Fox News, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Reason, The Federalist, The Daily Wire, the Washington Examiner) in the chart above are conservative.
Meanwhile, all ten of the top-ranked sites, with the arguable exception of heavy.com, are from the corporate, liberal-leaning, or leftist media. Far-left Vox.com is placed third.
The highest-ranking conservative-leaning news publishers — the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the British Daily Mail are all newspapers and part of the media establishment and are relatively centrist. Yet even they are far behind leftist outlets like Vox and the Guardian in Google traffic. The top online-only conservative outlets — Breitbart News, The Daily Caller, and The Blaze — are all near the bottom.
Last week, several conservatives on social media recently noticed that their articles were not appearing at all in Google search. Breitbart News was similarly affected. Google claimed to have investigated the issue, which the company has attributed to an error, and conservative journalists and websites have reported their search results returning. What last week’s incident shows is Google’s incredible power to control what people do and do not see with the flick of a switch.
But the data in this article shows that Google’s manipulation of search results, and its systematic undermining of conservative media, has been far more long-running and pervasive than this one incident.
Google has stated its intention clearly: to make sure the 2016 election of President Trump was a “blip” in history. Sure enough, with less than five months before the election, Google is manipulating election-related search results. The scope and audacity (and hubris) make any alleged foreign interference in the 2016 election pale by comparison. And, it will surely warrant an even greater post-election congressional scrutiny. It will greatly strengthen the contention of Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and of Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), that search result manipulation ought to be a major subject of the Department of Justice’s antitrust investigation into Google. Not surprisingly, when recently asked about political search bias, Vice President Pence told Breitbart News that “we’re going to watch it closely.”
Are you an insider at Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or any other company who wants to confidentially blow the whistle on wrongdoing or political bias? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at [email protected].
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. His book #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election is out in September.