software engineer at Google with responsibility for a key feature of
Google’s search engine labeled Tennessee Senate candidate Rep. Marsha
Blackburn (R-TN) a “violent thug” and a “terrorist,” who Google
shouldn’t “negotiate” with, according to internal emails obtained by
Breitbart News. The employee also defended the censorship of her
campaign ads on social media.
comments took place in an internal email discussion that began on June
19 this year. The topic of discussion was Rep. Blackburn’s Fox News
op-ed of the same month, which urged Silicon Valley companies to address
bias against conservatives on their platforms. Blackburn, who has
herself been the target of
social media censorship, has been a vocal critic of tech giants like
Google, Facebook, and Twitter during her time in Congress.
op-ed was not well received within the corridors of Silicon Valley
power. One Google employee, a site reliability engineer, called
Blackburn’s piece “hilarious” and said Republicans are becoming
“tribalists focused on stirring up outrage to maintain power.”
Lemoine, a senior software engineer at Google, was harsher in his
comments. Saying the public is being “lied to” by Blackburn, he went on
to accuse the Tennessee representative of “causing the deaths of people
she claimed to protect” — something he attributed to her work on the
anti-trafficking bills FOSTA and SESTA.
certainly shouldn’t acquiesce to the theatrical demands of a legislator
who makes political hay by intentionally reducing the safety of the
people who she claims to protect,” said Lemoine. “I’m not big on
negotiation with terrorists.”
another Google employee objected to his use of the word “terrorist,”
Lemoine responded that he’d be “willing to go with ‘thug’ as a
you be more okay with characterizing it as not being big
on acceding to the demands of violent thugs?” asked Lemoine.
is a woman who passed a bill that killed people and is trying to use her
passage of that bill to intimidate people. It’s clear to me that
“do what I say or I’ll pass more bills like this one” is the implicit
is named in this story because he occupies a key position in the
company’s influential search team, as a technical lead on Google’s
search feed, formerly known as Google
Now. The Google feed’s most distinctive feature is that it sends
information to users proactively, using personal data to predict what
information users want before they search for it.
to Lemoine’s LinkedIn, he also works on “research pertaining to fairness
and bias in machine learning,” making his own biased comments
also indicated that he supports censorship on social media: he defended
Twitter’s decision to temporarily censor one
of Rep. Blackburn’s pro-life campaign ads on the platform, arguing that
the takedown was not, in fact, censorship.
down libel is not censorship,” said Lemoine.
went on to say “I think that believing that Twitter too it down because
it was a lie is more reasonable than believing they took it down
because she was a Republican. Especially considering how the legislation
that she is touting in her article was sold through lies that she
summary: she’s a lying liar who lies and Twitter treats her like one”
Lemoine caveated himself by stating “not all Republican ads are lies,” a
question that Lemoine did not address is whether his own bias affects
what he sees as “lies,” and whether that bias affects the decisions he
makes in his role overseeing a key element of Google search.
to a request for comment from Breitbart News, a Google spokeswoman
directed us to an open letter to employees written by CEO Sundar
Pichai and reported
in the press last month following Breitbart’s
release of the Google
tape. In it, Pichai said “We do not bias our products to favor
any political agenda. The trust our users place in us is our greatest
asset and we must always protect it.”
Blackburn’s campaign spokesman, Abbi
Sigler, provided the following statement: “These
emails are despicable. Marsha Blackburn is a mother, a grandmother, a
friend, a dedicated public servant, a pro-life champion, an ally for
veterans, and an advocate for lowering our taxes and cutting
regulation. To call her a terrorist is offensive and degrading. These
emails are indicative of the bias conservative women in the political
arena face every day. Liberals do not want them to have a voice in the
public arena, and too many social media employees carry their bias to
work with them.”
even by the anti-Trump Washington
Post, found that Google search results tended to favor
Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Research conducted prior to the
2016 election also found that if Google deliberately skewed its search
results to favor particular candidates, it could shift the votes of
undecided voters by margins of 20
percent or more. Lead researcher Dr. Robert Epstein also says that
Google could potentially manipulate its search results without
leaving a paper trail, as there is currently no system of
monitoring or oversight to detect bias in the platform’s
hyper-personalized search functions.
Google, other tech platforms are affecting elections in more transparent
ways. Over the past two years, major figures in the conservative,
populist, and pro-Trump movements have been banned from platforms like
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and both the Google and Apple app markets,
severely hampering their ability to digitally mobilize their supporters
ahead of crucial midterm elections in November this year. Multiple
conservatives have also been kicked off payment
processing and crowdfunding platforms, crippling their ability to
fundraise for campaigns and causes. Despite this, Democrats continue to
call the tech censorship a “conspiracy
Marsha Blackburn is currently running in a tight two-way race against
her Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen in Tennessee. Even minor bias on
the part of tech companies could easily tilt the race against her —
unless her voters turn out in high enough numbers to nullify such bias.
The threat from big tech notwithstanding, Blackburn continues to be a
vocal critic of Silicon Valley’s failings, including political bias and
failures to protect privacy. In June, Blackburn came out in favor of new
regulation to protect
consumers on social media platforms.
— Statements from Google and the Blackburn campaign were
added after publishing.
Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.
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