When Trump speaks of “Trump News,” he’s not necessarily generalizing. He may have a specific [fake] news source in mind.
Trump’s latest Tweeting kerfuffle arose yesterday (August 28), when he unleashed an irate claim that Google, Facebook, and Twitter share a clear and horrifying left-wing bias. He is certain this is true because a Google search for “Trump news” takes him only to leftie sites like, you know, CNN, never to conservative web sites. Wanting to check this claim, I also googled “Trump News.” Among the first sites to pop up was Trump’s own twitter account. The next was CNN, followed immediately by Fox News. Any bias at Google seems less than glaring. But, even though Google was the primary target of our President’s wrath, I decided to soldier on.
I found that Ask.com’s first selection is Wikipedia’s biography of Trump, followed by Fox and then the Washington Post. So, no obvious Marxist bias there either.
The algorithms at duckduckgo and Bing, while offering several of the same sites as Google and ask.com, did lead to a little greater variety, and among their top listed sites was, lo-and-behold, “trump.news.” (That, bizarrely enough, is the full URL. No dot com. Not dot org. Have I passed through a mysterious portal to the dark web?)
Check out trump.news if you want to be better acquainted with the true wingnuts of the MAGA gang. And, after taking a look, think about how many people have discovered this site only because Trump’s tweet inspired searches, like mine, using the exact phrase “Trump News.” Conspiracy theories abound on the site, but there is no “About,” no “Who We Are,” on its menu. In fact, the top bar contains no menu at all, and scrolling to the bottom also reveals no information about who is responsible for the site and what its mission might be. Those who do scroll down will merely learn that “Trump.News is a fact-based public education website published by Trump News Features, LLC.” (I haven’t been able to confirm it with web searches, but that LLC sure does sound like one of Trump’s myriad limited liability companies.)
This lack of transparency, this failure or refusal of the site’s makers to step out from behind the curtain of their wizardry, is likely one reason that Google’s algorithm does not honor trump.news with a top listing. Google has reduced the power of an “exact match domain” relative to other criteria. This means that, even if such a site’s name perfectly corresponds with the wording of a search entry, it will not rise to the top of the search results because Google does not want to give an edge to “low-quality sites” that have been named, as if by design, to draw hits from the unsuspecting, many of whom won’t recognize the flimsiness of the site they have found. trump.news is that kind of web site.
Its stories—and there are so many of them, each one crazier than the last—are written by “News Editors” or by Mike Adams or J.D. Heyes.
Adams, more googling reveals, is a controversial “conservative journalist,” respected by some and despised by others for his reporting on health and nutrition issues. A well-documented story at The Genetic Literacy Project reports that “Adams tried to cleanse his original NaturalNews.com post calling for the killing of scientists and journalists [Yikes!] and is now blocking access to the Monsanto Collaborators site, which he claims was actually set up by Monsanto and its supporters to discredit him and other anti-GMO activists, but the truth is out [Adams really is the site’s editor] and the damage has been done…The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, besieged by complaints from targets and the science and journalism communities, immediately launched an investigation of Adams and the site, with Adams facing possible felony charges of inciting violence.”
Wikipedia tells us Adams is also a professor at UNC Wilmington, where his career has been strikingly checkered; he had to sue the university for anti-Christian bias in order to earn a promotion in 2007. Oh…And he writes for The Daily Wire.
J.D. Heyes, on his page at muckrack.com, introduces himself this way: “Sr. Correspondent, newstarget.com; Editor, thenationalsentinel.com; Combat vet OEF; #MAGA; ‘Merica 1st; no prisoners.” And here’s the headline for his first story at that site: “Democrats push to drop nationwide voting age to 16, because young people are so much easier to brainwash at government-run schools.” Read thenationalsentinal.com if you can bear it.
Finally, I went to Facebook, searched again for Trump News, and quickly arrived at this FB page for the same brand of maniacal hysteria I had already found at the trump.news site. Once again, the “About” and “Information” links on the Facebook page offer no insight into who has brought it into our lives.
I don’t know that Trump had trump.news in mind when he tweeted this morning. I cannot prove that Google’s algorithm doesn’t weed out far right web sites by design, even though I believe the weirdest of alt-right sites have earned their low status in good search engines, and I’m perfectly happy not to have the most wacko of leftist sites pop up in my quick searches. I also don’t put it past the President to conspire to turn the nation towards one more nest of absurd conspiracy theorists in order to feed and possibly extend his ardent base.
And, like Daniel Dale in the Toronto Star, I am confident that when Trump claims, with no supporting evidence, that 96% of sites arising from a Google search for “trump news” represent the views of “National left-wing media,” he is simply revealing his panic about finding that real, documented, professional news sites appear first, with alt-right ranters lagging far behind. Want to know why “bad news” dominates any search for news about you, Mr. President. It’s because all the news really is terribly, terribly bad.