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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump took aim on Tuesday at Google, claiming that news search results were “rigged” against him, which prompted a White House aide to suggest the administration may look at regulating the huge internet platform.

In early morning Twitter comments, the US president complained that searches for “Trump News” brought up negative stories about him, and questioned whether this was illegal.

The attacks follow Trump’s unsubstantiated claims repeated last week that US social media giants were “censoring” conservative voices.

On Google, Trump wrote, “they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” According to Trump, “96% of results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media,” which he describes as “very dangerous.” Google strongly denied Trump’s claims.

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” a Google spokesperson said in an email.

“Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.” The claims appeared to be based on a report from the Trump-friendly news site PJ Media which relied on an analysis chart by conservative news host Sharyl Attkisson that categorised major news outlets such as the New York Times, CBS and CNN as “left wing.” “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good,” Trump said. “They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

Technology and media analysts say there is little evidence to suggest Google is skewing results for political reasons. And if they did, the president would have little recourse under the constitution’s free speech protections.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2018