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Thursday, November 10, 2022
MRC's Biased "Research" Claims Google Buries GOP Candidate Websites
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center is well known for concocting highly biased "studies" designed to advance partisan right-wing narratives rather than further the cause of legitimate research. (Remember its invention of "secondhand censorship" to push its victimhood narrative?) It was at it again in an Oct. 25 post that reads more like a political screed than any sort of "study":

Anti-Democracy Google is manipulating search results to bury Senate Republican candidates’ campaign websites before the 2022 midterm elections. This comes on the heels of a North Carolina State University study that found that Google’s Gmail marked 59.3 percent more emails from “right”-leaning candidates as spam compared to “left”-leaning candidates.

“Google must be investigated for its un-American efforts to sway the election,” said L. Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center. “First, researchers caught Google red-handed by proving Republican campaign emails were sent to spam. Now we’ve uncovered Google manipulating search results to hide Republican campaign websites while promoting Democratic ones. This is all an effort by Google to help Democrats and interfere in the democratic process.” 

MRC Free Speech America has analyzed Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo search results for the 12 Senate races identified by RealClearPolitics as the most important to watch. Our researchers caught Google burying 10 of 12 Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites while highlighting their opponents campaign sites in organic search results. This stands in stark contrast to Bing and DuckDuckGo whose search results treated Republican and Democrat campaign websites more neutrally than Google.  

  • Google buried Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites. Ten of 12 Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites (83%) appeared far lower (or did not appear at all) on page one of Google’s organic search results compared to their Senate Democratic Party opponents’ campaign websites.
  • Google completely hid seven of 12 Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites in page one organic search results. Seven of 12 Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites did not appear on page one using Google’s organic search. Meanwhile, eight of 12 Senate Democratic Party candidate campaign websites were highlighted in the top six items in organic search results.
  • Google’s search result bias is undeniable when compared to Bing and DuckDuckGo. With the exception of two candidates, both Bing and DuckDuckGo showed both the Senate Democratic Party candidates’ campaign websites and the Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites in the top five organic search results on page one. 

The fact that Pariseau put her boss' political attack on Google ahead of the MRC's so-called "research" tells you the true intent of what was being done here. After a set of "recommendations" that began by ranting that "Google must stop its war against Democracy" -- again, not the sign of a serious researcher -- did Pariseau finally get around to describing how this "study" was done:

For this report, MRC Free Speech America has analyzed the Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo search results for the 12 Senate races identified by RealClearPolitics as the “Top Senate Races” on Oct. 7, 2022. The “Top Senate Races” included the Democratic Party and Republican Party candidates from the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

MRC Free Speech America created an algorithm to automate this process in a clean environment. A “clean environment” allows for organic search to populate results without the influence of prior search history and tracking cookies.

MRC Free Speech America researchers searched each candidate's name with the words “Senate Race 2022” using the algorithm. To determine bias, our researchers looked at each search engines’ results and recorded the rank(s) of each candidate’s campaign website.

Example(s): “Blake Masters Senate Race 2022” and “Mark Kelly Senate Race 2022”

What's missing, however, is any sort of reasoning why that particular search term should have put the campaign's website at the top of a given search engine's search operations -- or even why that particular term was used to test search placement.

Pariseau went on to write that "MRC Free Speech America has found that Google search results buried Senate Republican candidates’ campaign websites 83 percent of the time compared to their Democratic opponents. For more than half of these races, Google completely eliminated the Republican campaign websites from the first page of results." What she doesn't do, however, is show her work -- that is, the raw data that showed what those searches did retrieve. Remember, this "study" never explains why the only acceptable outcome for the search term it used is to put the campaign website at the top of the results, or even why that particular term is supposed to generate that particular result. After all, wouldn't someone a month before the election (theMRC conducted its searches on Oct. 7) likely be more interested in news about the candidate and campaign -- which is what search engines would likely be prioritizing -- than the campaign's website, which in most cases is filled with boilerplate platitudes?

Pariseau then cited a anti-Google activist to add a bit faux gravitas to its shoddy "research":

Over 90 percent of all searches are conducted on Google, according to Business Insider, so Google’s outsized influence makes its conduct uniquely harmful among the Big Tech companies. Because of its power and technological capability to shape elections,  liberal psychologist and researcher Dr. Robert Epstein, Ph.D., has repeatedly warned of the danger Google poses to American voters.

“Google poses a serious threat to democracy," Dr. Epstein said in his 2019 testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. He cited the fact that Google and Big Tech have the power to change 15 million votes and added that “to let Big Tech get away with subliminal manipulation on this scale would be to make the free and fair election meaningless.”

Dr. Epstein has extensively researched and monitored what users experienced while using Google products in the lead-up to the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. 

Dr. Epstein also noted in an interview< with Fox News host and contributor Tucker Carlson in 2020 that “Google’s search results were strongly biased in favor of liberals and Democrats.” He also said that the bias was being shown to every user but that conservative users who participated in the study received “slightly more liberal bias in their search results than liberals did.”

We've documented how Epstein's research alleging Google search bias in the 2016 election has been discredited because it was based on an absurdly small sample of 21 undecided voters.And Epstein appearing on the most biased right-wing show on the most biased right-wing "news" channel doesn't improve his credibility as much as Pariseau apparently thinks it does.

Speaking of boilerplace, Pariseau added a bunch that rehashed previous MRC attacks on Google purporting to show how "The company has aided Democrat politicians for at least a decade." That demonstrates even more that this is a partisan attack and a weak attempt at an October surprise rather than legitimately conducted research.

Propaganda in hand, Bozell was went to Fox News to hype this "research," where he knew he would face no serious questions about its shoddiness:

The MRC also got Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn to parrot the bogus results, as well as rich right-winger Vivek Ramaswamy.

When other people pointed out the study's shoddy construction, the MRC lamely fought back. Joseph Vazquez huffed in an Oct. 26 post:

The geniuses at Newsweek tried to toss the leftists at Google a lifeline by issuing a ridiculous “fact check” of MRC Free Speech America’s latest study showing Google manipulating search results to benefit Democrats in top senate races. 

MRC President Brent Bozell had a one-line response to Newsweek: “Remember Newsweek was sold for a dollar. Someone overpaid."

Newsweek’s so-called ‘fact check’ whined that the MRC< study, which caught Google burying 10 of 12 Senate Republican Party candidates’ campaign websites while highlighting their opponents campaign sites in organic search results, “does not provide any definitive evidence to suggest Google deliberately alters their algorithm for partisan effect.”

Not only did the outlet not reach out to the Media Research Center for comment, it chose to leave out core elements of the study that upend Newsweek’s lazy work.

Bozell excoriated Newsweek and Google’s gaslighting: “Google's response and Newsweek's attack on our study are predictable for Google and Newsweek.”

Newsweek had parroted a Google spokesperson’s claim that the MRC Free Speech America “‘report is designed to mislead, testing uncommon search terms that people rarely use.’” 

The so-called fact-check’s “ruling”? “Unverified,” claimed Newsweek, which is a cute way of saying it isn’t really a fact-check. The outlet even conceded based on an expert it cited that Google is notorious for its “lack of transparency” when it comes to its algorithm.

Newsweek didn’t even bother mentioning that the MRC Free Speech America study researched the same parameters on two other search engines: Bing and DuckDuckGo. When MRC Free Speech America researchers performed the same searches on those two search engines, the results were more neutral. 

In all that whining and distraction, Vazquez never responded to Newsweek's central claim of a lack of proof of algorithim manipulation or an explanation of why those "uncommon search terms" were used.

Brian Bradley played the same distraction game against criticism from Google itself in an Oct. 28 post:

On Tuesday, MRC Free Speech America released a study “Google CAUGHT Manipulating Search, Buries GOP Campaign Sites in 83% of Top Senate Races” that showed Google manipulated data to suppress and censor Republicans in key Senate races at a time when the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance.

A Google spokesperson told Fox News Digital: "This report is designed to mislead, testing uncommon search terms that people rarely use. Anyone who searches for these candidate names on Google can clearly see that their campaign websites rank at the top of results - in fact, all of these candidates currently rank in the top three and often in the first spot in Google Search results." 

MRC Free Speech America applied the exact same methodology from its Senate study to analyze 36 top House races, where polling shows the House does not hang in the balance.


MRC Free Speech America’s methodology was not only correct, but when comparing Google’s search results with Bing and DuckDuckGo, Google’s search bias becomes even more clear.

When you can't even offer a plausible explanation for the "uncommon" search terms you use and then hid the raw data those search terms returned, that's evidence your methodology is not "correct." It's biased "research" designed to produce a predetermined result -- the exact opposite of real research.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:15 PM EST
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2022 1:27 AM EST

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