As the entity with the biggest influence on what we discover on the Internet, Google is seen both as custodian and also censor of the Wide Wild Web. The latter is an especially thorny subject when it comes to political topics, with the search giant accused of favoring either left or right wing agendas. One of the latest controversies involves images of former US President Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein that certain parties claim have been removed by Google from its search results. The truth, however, might be too simple to be believed.
Last weekend, known finacier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking of minors. The crime itself was already controversial but netizens may have diverted attention away from the crime and the victims towards political scandal and conspiracy. Epstein has been known to have connections with both President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton.
Unsurprisingly, media started showing images of Trump with Epstein and, unsurprisingly, not a few wanted to prove that the other side was just as dirty. The lack of photos of Epstein and Clinton together from Google Search, however, irked certain parties who then concluded that the tech company has yet again favored the anti-Trump faction by scrubbing or deindexing those images.
Depending on who you ask, that may sound credible or at least a juicy conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, one claim went even further and said that DuckDuckGo, the privacy-respecting “anti-Google” search engine. Unfortunately for those theories, fact-checking site Snopes took on their challenge and searched for “bill clinton with jeffrey epstein” not only on DuckDuckGo but also on Bing, Yahoo, and Russian-based Yandex. The images that did turn up of the two occupying the same physical space turned out to be not so clever edits.
It isn’t the first time that Google has been accused of using its search engine to influence public opinion, either by emphasizing certain results or deindexing others. In this case, however, Google’s own rivals have become proof of innocence. It didn’t scrub any remove images from Search. The images didn’t exist in the first place.