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Google’s autocomplete is inconsistent with their own data for actual searches; hiding negative news about HRC. See the video for full details. I was able to reproduce their findings.

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    Ugh, I can’t believe this conspiracy theory nonsense is on lobsters. I maxed out my contribution to Bernie Sanders and will probably be voting for Gary Johnson, so I’m not a Hillary shill or anything. Everyone who is moved by this video needs to try the guess the NY Times number sequence experiment.

    The number in the video $100k or whatever is so inconsequential when talking about Google, Alphabet, Schmidt, and the Clintons I laughed out loud when they mentioned it. In addition, that data analytics company hardly even sounds relevant.

    Lastly, it seems to me that Google just won’t immediately suggest extremely negative things about full names. I couldn’t get it to autosuggest stuff for Martha Stewart or Bill Cosby.

    If I were developing the algorithm I would absolutely “whitewash” the suggestions. The danger of omitting something like “criminal” after someone’s name when it could be true is far less than that of including it when it’s false.

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      Lastly, it seems to me that Google just won’t immediately suggest extremely negative things about full names.

      Not true.

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        This just shows that “racist” is not on their list of negative things that they refrain from suggesting after full names. “Indictment” and “crimes” seem to be, as illustrated with searches like “bernie madoff cri” or “bill cosby ind” (compared to the same searches with the first name omitted).

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          Yeah, it “just shows” that they’re full of it.

          Honestly, sometimes Google fanboism is astonishing. I see all those free cafeteria lunches and massages paid off.

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            As your tweet says, “donald trump rac” brings up the suggestion “donald trump racist.” And “hillary clinton raci” includes “hillary clinton racist kkk” in the suggestions. What’s your point?

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        More details on this story:

        1. Vox posts a story claiming to “debunk” the video, saying that Google censors autocomplete for the word “crime” for everyone
        2. I point out that the video used the word “indictment” as well, and that depending on which search field you do the autocomplete, it either does or does not autocomplete it
        3. Author of the Vox article asks me to show that it’s different for others, using Bill Cosby as the example
        4. I “prove” that in fact Google does behave differently for Bill Cosby vs HRC
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          Entertainingly, on HN submitting this redirects to “This has already been submitted” but without redirecting to the submission page.

          So, censorship is alive and well.

          Make America Great Again, folks. :)

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            Search turns up this, which has a bit of a discussion but is also marked [dupe].

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              Update for historical note:

              Later attempts to duplicate this behavior resulted in a brand new story being created. Given the helpful links elsewhere here have shown that other submissions both exist and were sometimes marked as duplicates, I suspect there may be some kind of bug here.

              If you want to test this, try making a story using one of the URLs from a story on the “new” page…it’ll redirect you to the already-submitted story and give it an upvote (which makes sense).

              If it doesn’t do this, it will either make a new story, or it will give you the “This has already been submitted” page. I suspect, but don’t have the source to show, that this is due to the way flagging works on HN. @dang explained in one of the comments that the users had flagged it to death, so I figure that might be what happened.

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                This is probably true, and even if the Clinton campaign is involved (which is probably not true) I would still argue that Trump is worse. A Trump victory would prove that you can use Y Combinator/Paul Buchheit/Silicon Valley bullying tactics and still get elected. It would be the ultimate vindication of Sand Hill Road’s might-makes-right culture. Do not want.

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                Seems like the browser suggests up to 5 words, while the website stops at 4; I think this explains the discrepancies you’ve found. There seems to be an additional effect where Google doesn’t suggest “crimes” or “indictment” following someone’s full name, but they do if you just use the last name: here are 20 searches I did that seem to bear out that theory.

                Of course Google may still be actively supporting HRC, and screening out “crimes” and “indictment” after someone’s full name helps HRC more than anyone else at this time. It’s a shame we don’t have similar screenshots from 2 years ago; if this search suggestion screening was relatively new it would be much more illustrative.

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                  Seems like the browser suggests up to 5 words, while the website stops at 4; I think this explains the discrepancies you’ve found.

                  If that were true it would cut off the suggestions from the bottom, not from the top.

                  There seems to be an additional effect where Google doesn’t suggest “crimes” or “indictment” following someone’s full name

                  As shown in these screenshots, yes it does.

                  I’m gonna put a stake in the ground and basically say: cut the bullshit and apologetics. This is inexcusable. None of the other search engines behave this way. It is clear Google is grossly abusing its power here. This sort of thing should land people in jail, it’s a shame the law hasn’t caught up to it.

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                    This sort of thing should land people in jail, it’s a shame the law hasn’t caught up to it.

                    Not that I don’t agree with you, but what’s your reasoning why this should merit jail time? What existing legal precedent would you go about basing this on?

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                      What existing legal precedent would you go about basing this on?

                      Rigging elections?

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                        Is Google conducting the election?

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                          You don’t have to conduct an election to be guilty of rigging it. [1]

                          [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_fraud#Specific_methods

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                            And which method is Google using and which law are they breaking?

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                              I would say Misinformation is the one that most closely applies, but I agree with @angersock that there are stronger cases such as false-advertising.

                              However, Google is making it difficult to study its behavior and gather evidence.

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                          Try again–as @tedu points out, Google isn’t running the election.

                          The current action is more in the spirit of really one-sided news coverage that favors a particular candidate…you know, like the Democratic party did to Sanders for most of this cycle. :)

                          EDIT:

                          And that’s the key argument to be made.

                          Forcing Google to show disfavorable entries for Clinton is the exact same mechanism as would be used to force them to show, say, favorable entries for Trump. Or, to force you to have false testimony: in all of these cases, it would be the law compelling you to speak out in a fashion you do not wish to.

                          So, it isn’t a great idea to say “Ah, these people should be thrown in jail for not saying something we think they should be saying!”.

                          A safer argument would be to say “Hey, you advertise yourself as a correct and accurate search engine, and according to these test cases, you are advertising falsely.” That’s something that, I believe, does have precedent in the US.

                          Plus, it would be less likely to be used to stifle freedoms further later.

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                            A safer argument would be to say “Hey, you advertise yourself as a correct and accurate search engine, and according to these test cases, you are advertising falsely.” That’s something that, I believe, does have precedent in the US.

                            OK, fair enough. I agree that the major issue here is one of expectation. People expect their search engines to behave accurately and without bias, and not like Fox News. This expectation was created by the search engines themselves.

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                              You’re basically saying, “the law hasn’t caught up with the new media yet, so it’s technically legal”.

                              Morally though, being a major information source and manipulating the information people can see basically amounts to propaganda. And people have been hung for propaganda, you know.

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                                Is Google suppressing autocomplete for Clinton indictments in any way comparable to the manipulations of Pulitzer? The law has had more than 100 years to catch up to yellow journalism.

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                                  I don’t know. I don’t even know if it supresses search results selectively at all. I just think that @angersock’s argument is not too good.

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                          Seems like the browser suggests up to 5 words, while the website stops at 4; I think this explains the discrepancies you’ve found.

                          If that were true it would cut off the suggestions from the bottom, not from the top. That’s why “hillary clinton indictment for emails” only shows up on the browser, same with “bill cosby indiana state university.” They have 5 words and the website’s suggestions seem to have a limit of 4 words.

                          No I actually meant that the website’s suggestions are limited to 4 words, not that the number of suggestions is limited.

                          There seems to be an additional effect where Google doesn’t suggest “crimes” or “indictment” following someone’s full name

                          As shown in these screenshots, yes it does.

                          Yes what does? I think maybe you misread my comment?

                          I’m gonna put a stake in the ground and basically say: cut the bullshit and apologetics. This is inexcusable. None of the other search engines behave this way. It is clear Google is grossly abusing its power here. This sort of thing should land people in jail, it’s a shame the law hasn’t caught up to it.

                          You still haven’t provided any evidence that Google is manipulating search results to specifically benefit HRC. Your comparisons between browser address bar suggestions and Google website suggestions aren’t comprehensive enough and if you look at the 20 searches I tried it seems to be 100% explained by (a) not suggesting words like “crimes” after someone’s full name and (b) a limit of 4 words on the length of suggestions provided by the website interface.

                          There are some anomalies like in one of your screenshots where the browser suggests “hillary clinton indictment for emails” and in my screenshot where the website suggests “george bush criminal minds” – this could just be the result of some implementation detail, such as screening out “[full name] criminal” and “[full name] indictment” but not longer strings containing those words.

                          I also feel like we’re really on the same side, I have a distaste for HRC just as you do but I think we should be careful before pointing fingers. Otherwise we lose credibility. And there are 100% verifiable things to protest that are just as fucked up, like Google’s support for the TPP.

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                            I’m sorry, but I’m tired of repeating myself, so I’ll just refer you to this tweet and this comment.

                            Also note that since this story blew up Google Trends stopped working, so have fun calling for research when it’s impossible.

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                              I don’t use twitter so maybe there’s some context I’m missing… but all I see is a screenshot of a paragraph about the autocomplete algorithm, and another screen shot of donald trump auto-completing with “racist.” You’re gonna have to spell it out for me if this somehow responds to my previous comment.

                              The comment you linked to seems to be saying that your argument is more based on the idea that having “hillary clinton cri” not auto-complete to “hillary clinton crimes” has an impact, whether or not their system is doing something special for Hillary Clinton. Is this your argument?

                              If so I agree with you, it seems pretty close to what I said 2 comments back:

                              Of course Google may still be actively supporting HRC, and screening out “crimes” and “indictment” after someone’s full name helps HRC more than anyone else at this time.

                              Is this the gist of your argument? Or are you making some stronger claim?

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                            Imo accusing everyone who is investigating possible confounding factors of being in league with The Man for suggesting confounding factors (because even the possible existence of confounding factors is apologist) isn’t really helpful if your goal is to reverse-engineer what the search engine is actually doing.

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                              Imo accusing everyone who is investigating possible confounding factors of being in league with The Man

                              Please quote or link to where I do that.

                              if your goal is to reverse-engineer what the search engine is actually doing.

                              My goal is not “to reverse-engineer what the search engine is actually doing”. It’s to point out what it’s actually doing. I don’t need knowledge of Google’s code to do that, just like I don’t need someone’s DNA to be able to tell they’re behaving badly.

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                                You don’t need knowledge of their code, but you need to look at possible ways different outputs can be generated, and look at which theories are consistent with the evidence. You seem uninterested in that because one particular theory is more interesting to you than others, so they aren’t worth investigating and only “apologists” could be interested in asking whether you have actually rigorously ruled them out. (And your screenshots are a pretty poor, ad-hoc attempt at reverse engineering.)

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                                  You did not actually say anything there. I’m not interested in having a meta conversation about your perceptions of what it is that I am or am not doing. Happy to talk facts though.

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                                    I’d be happy to talk facts when you’ve acquired any. You claim to have proved something about how Google censors search results, but you don’t have any real evidence of this. Your “evidence” seems to consist entirely of a small sample of screenshots of search results, and no systematic attempt to rule out various explanations for the patterns observed (which are in such a small sample size you can barely see much of a pattern anyway). When people have attempted to discuss whether there are alternate explanations for the (barely) patterns, you’ve attacked them as apologists for suggesting it. Attacking people who point out that your evidence is poor is not an ideal solution; improving the evidence would be better.

                                    I was positively disposed to this thread when it was first posted mostly because I had assumed you’d done some actual investigation, but now that I look more, it looks sorta bullshit, like you did 10 Google searches and then ran directly to social media to yell about it, without doing any real systematic investigation.

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                                      Perhaps there’s a miscommunication here.

                                      no systematic attempt to rule out various explanations for the patterns observed

                                      It sounds to me like itistoday is making an argument somewhat along the lines of res ipso – the end result (i.e. Google treats “Hilary…” searches different for at least some people) is unacceptable and needs to be addressed & fixed, and it’s less important whether that result was a 100% intended effect or a side effect. Screenshots of “this happened to me” and links to “it happened to others, too” is sufficient evidence for such a claim, and “maybe they didn’t mean to” and “it doesn’t happen to everyone” are not arguments directly against it.

                                      “Google intends to manipulate the election and explicitly coded x behavior to manipulate the election”, however, would be a completely different argument, and “here’s how it might have been an accident” and “it doesn’t happen to everyone” are arguments/evidence against that claim.

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                                        When people have attempted to discuss whether there are alternate explanations for the (barely) patterns, you’ve attacked them as apologists for suggesting it

                                        This is simply not true. I gave reasons.

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                            I’m afraid that your life is about to get more complicated. I’ve been there. Reach me privately if you need support, or anything else.

                            I doubt that she or her campaign asked for this. Seeing as it’s more likely a rogue Googler rather than Schmidt (or Page) himself, it wouldn’t surprise me if this were a right-winger trying to tarnish Clinton with the association, given not only the existing Techies vs. Real Americans tension, but how much worse it is going to get in the next few years.

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                              [Removed by author. Not relevant in light of further research on the topic.]