President Donald Trump infamously won the electoral college vote in the 2016 presidential election, securing his ascent to the White House in an upset victory against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Apparently occupying the Oval Office wasn’t enough of a victory, because 941 days into his presidency, he’s claiming that Google somehow manipulated “2.6 million to 16 million votes” in Clinton’s favor, implying that he was robbed of the popular vote, which he lost by 2.8 million votes—the greatest margin in American history for a winner of the electoral college.
Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought! @JudicialWatch
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2019
Trump cited the Twitter handle of right wing conspiracy site Judicial Watch to back up the claims, but people were confused where he was getting this information.
Hillary Clinton, however, seemed to know exactly what he was referring to.
The debunked study you’re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context that’s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted. https://t.co/0zHnWvGjSv
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 19, 2019
The claim appears to originate from Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist and former Clinton supporter, who claimed that Google manipulated search suggestions—or “autocomplete” search results—to favor Clinton over Trump. He claims this influenced a minimum of 2.6 million votes.
The study was based on 95 responses, only 21 of whom were undecided on a candidate.
Google said of Epstein’s claim in 2017:
“We have never re-ranked search results on any topic (including elections) to manipulate political sentiment. Moreover, we do not make any ranking tweaks that are specific to elections or political candidates, period. We always strive to provide our users with the most accurate, relevant answers to their queries.”
The search suggestions Epstein references are, according to Google, determined by the users. A more popular search topic will travel up the ranks due to the volume it’s searched.
The favorable search suggestions aren’t the reason for Clinton’s popular vote win, but—like the win itself—a reflection of her popularity.
The now-defunct YouTube channel SourceFed contested this claim, pointing out that unfavorable search predictions for Clinton were more common among Google’s competitors, Yahoo! and Bing. However, search engine users 45 years or older are more likely to prefer Yahoo! or Bing over Google. This same demographic favored Trump in 2016, strengthening the claim that these results are user-determined rather than determined by the search engine.
The Washington Post provided further skepticism of Trump’s claims and Epstein himself disputed Trump’s take in correspondence with CNN fact checker Daniel Dale.
I spoke to the author of the (disputed) study Trump was referring to. *He* says Trump was wrong in two big ways: 1) The study didn’t find Google “manipulated” votes or even search results; 2) its max figure for votes potentially affected by bias was 10.4M, not 16M.
More soon. pic.twitter.com/9jRfffmTVv
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 19, 2019
People couldn’t stop cheering at Clinton’s savage clapback.
I wasn't expecting that heat blast from the last sentence. pic.twitter.com/YqrIgChTrQ
— José (@josecanyousee) August 19, 2019
I love you, Madam Legitimate President.
— Lily (@LilyTigerRules) August 19, 2019
Trump has frequently claimed without evidence that he was robbed of the popular vote. Though he blames Google now, he’s blamed “millions of people who voted illegally” in the past.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Many mostly Democrat States refused to hand over data from the 2016 Election to the Commission On Voter Fraud. They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub recently called Trump out after he once again made claims at a New Hampshire rally that massive voter fraud handed the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
SAD: Last night, @realDonaldTrump again made unfounded claims about massive voter fraud in NH in 2016.
In this letter, I ask him to back up his claims in terms a former casino operator should understand: “There comes a time when you need to lay your cards on the table or fold.” pic.twitter.com/vkddT1jGmH
— Ellen L Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub) August 16, 2019
“The American people count on me, as the Chair of their Federal Election Committee to protect the integrity of our elections,” Weintraub wrote. “So I ask you, once again, to provide any evidence you may have to the American people and the appropriate law-enforcement authorities to substantiate your claims.”
Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory instead.
Listen to the first episode of George Takei’s podcast, ‘Oh Myyy Pod!’, where we explore the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
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