For most of 2018, many Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have pushed the idea that the world’s largest tech companies are not only biased against them, but have intentionally rigged their platforms to limit Republicans’ reach. On Wednesday, the right-wing website Breitbart posted a video of an all-staff meeting at Google held days after Trump won the presidency. That video, Breitbart says, is evidence of this conspiracy and “reveals an atmosphere of panic and dismay amongst the tech giant’s leadership, coupled with a determination to thwart both the Trump agenda and the broader populist movement emerging around the globe.”
“As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too,” founder Sergey Brin said in the meeting. “I think it’s a very stressful time. It conflicts with many of our values. It’s a good time to reflect on that.” CEO Sundar Pichai notes that the company is “thoughtfully engaging” with Trump’s transition team and states that the company is working to combat misinformation and “filter bubbles.”
This is being presented as a bombshell, but there’s little new information here. Google’s executives, including Brin and Pichai, have been outspoken about the Trump administration, particularly the ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. This kind of all-staff meeting, in which companies attempted to reckon with a shocking election result, happened in companies across the country in the days and weeks after the election. There is nothing in this video, moreover, that suggests that Google is engineering a conspiracy to thwart Trump or his administration. Instead, they highlight AI initiatives that would aim to curb “fake news,” while insisting that they plan on working with, not against, the administration. (Google gave nearly $300,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee in the following weeks.)
Google released a statement highlighting their commitment to the free exchange of ideas. “For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings,” it reads. “Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”
This is true, but it’s really beside the point. Breitbart’s hit job is meant to reinforce the narrative that the company’s products are biased against the political right, even though there’s no evidence that they are.