Google staff discussed tweaking search results to counter travel ban: Wall Street Journal

A Google spokesman said the e-mails represented brainstorming and none of the ideas were implemented.
A Google spokesman said the e-mails represented brainstorming and none of the ideas were implemented.PHOTO: REUTERS

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - Google employees brainstormed ways to alter search functions to counter the Trump administration's controversial 2017 travel ban, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (Sept 20), citing internal e-mails.

Google employees discussed how they could tweak the company's search-related functions to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organisations and contact lawmakers and government agencies, the WSJ said.

The ideas were not implemented.

US President Donald Trump's travel ban temporarily barred visitors and immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. It spurred public outcry and was revised several times.

Trump said the travel ban was needed to protect the United States against attacks by Islamist militants, and the Supreme Court upheld the measure in June.

The Google employees proposed ways to "leverage" search functions and take steps to counter what they considered to be "Islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms 'Islam', 'Muslim', 'Iran', etc." and "prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms 'Mexico', 'Hispanic', 'Latino', etc," the Journal added, quoting from the e-mails.

A Google spokesman said the e-mails represented brainstorming and none of the ideas were implemented. She said the company does not manipulate search results or modify products to promote political views.

"Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies," the spokesman said in a statement.