President Trump became aware this week of the results when people Google his name and, according to his Twitter feed, he didn’t like it at all.
“Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media,” Trump wrote Tuesday morning. “They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”
Amid all the bad news when American readers check Google for “Trump news,” here’s at least one piece of good news for the president: It could be much worse — if they tried to do the same from abroad.
Google’s algorithm is still somewhat of a mystery, and results may be influenced by cookies, past search requests or location. But researchers who have examined whether conservatives and liberals are shown different stories have concluded that there are no significant differences, as long as users are based in the same country or at least pretend they are.
So, what if Trump had decided to Google himself from an incognito browser on Wednesday morning from, say, Italy?
He almost certainly would have come across a piece published by the newspaper La Stampa with the headline: “Donald Trump says that Google is rigged but maybe he does not know how it works,” in which the author says technology rather than political bias explains which content is featured by Google. Readers would also have come across a story about an artist prohibiting Trump from using one of his songs, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling lashing out against Trump and a summary of Trump’s recent attacks on the European Union. Then there’s the story of Trump failing to properly draw the American flag.
In Germany, Trump would have woken up to a story about charges against his political allies with the ominous headline, “It’s not yet the end, but ...” Conservative and liberal media outlets both dedicated coverage to criticism of Trump over his tweets following the death of Sen. John McCain on Saturday, with Germany’s conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper criticizing Trump for governing in a way “that leaves little room for bipartisanship.”
Readers interested in more Trump news would have been able to watch the video of a 3-year-old unable to recognize her mother after being separated from her at the Mexican border (headline: “This video hurts”), an analysis of the likelihood of Trump’s impeachment, a commentary on why Trump’s North Korea strategy is doomed and, finally, a story on Trump being “clueless next to his phone,” as the White House struggled to connect him with the Mexican president this week while cameras were rolling.
French, Dutch and Belgian readers Googling Trump news on Wednesday found stories about Trump complaining about Google, even though the RTBF news channel warned its readers that Trump had provided “no further details” to back up his claims. Another Belgian broadcaster wondered “why Donald Trump is starting a war with Silicon Valley?” and a Dutch site offered an update on porn star Stormy Daniels, to whom Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen transferred $130,000 in a hush money payment.
Meanwhile, France’s conservative Le Figaro newspaper examined how “Donald Trump is struggling to focus on artificial intelligence.” Judging from the French-language results for Trump news, it’s not looking good for a president “surrounded by court cases” (Le Monde), facing “storm after storm” (AFP), while being as lonely as a “coal miner” (Liberation), according to pieces published by three of the biggest French media outlets and news agencies in recent days.
In Poland, readers were presented a more domestic take on U.S. politics after Poland’s Newsweek magazine (which is distinct from the U.S. version) compared Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Trump on its most recent cover, artificially transplanting Trump’s hair onto Morawiecki’s head.
In a statement accompanying the cover, the magazine’s editor in chief explained that both politicians were “liars” and “the exact opposite of Senator McCain.”
“This cover will not appeal to the prime minister,” commented Wiadomosci, a website owned by a private Polish TV network.
In general on Google’s European sites, there didn’t appear to be a shortage of Trump stories published by papers with conservative or right-wing editorial pages Wednesday. Yet even so, positive takes on the U.S. president were missing.