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Trump signals he may not seek to regulate Google search results

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, 7:57 p.m.
President Trump pauses before speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington.
President Trump pauses before speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington.

President Trump signaled that the White House isn’t looking to regulate Google and the way it displays search results, a day after his administration said it was exploring whether to set new rules in response to charges that the tech giant is biased against conservatives.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump repeated his belief that Google and its tech peers, including Facebook and Google, mistreat users whose politics hew to the right and “silence a very large part of this country.” Asked whether his solution to the problem entailed new regulation, Trump first said, “We’re just going to see,” then added: “You know what we want? Not regulation. Fairness.”

Trump touched off controversy on Tuesday after he sent predawn tweets accusing Google of manipulating search results. The president claimed that querying Google for “Trump News” returned results that were “RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” apparently responding to a report from Fox News. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, then said that the White House is “taking a look” at whether, and how, Google should be regulated by the government.

Google denied the charges, stressing in a statement that its search engine is “not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” Meanwhile, Trump’s comments drew sharp rebukes from tech experts, constitutional experts and even members of his own party who see government regulation of search results as a potential violation of the First Amendment.

Even as he sent mixed signals on regulation, however, Trump still continued attacking Google and other Silicon Valley giants on Wednesday. “It’s not right, it’s not fair, it may not be legal,” he told reporters.

Then, Trump tweeted out a video accusing Google of giving preferential treatment to former president Barack Obama by highlighting his annual State of the Union addresses on its search page — while not doing the same for Trump. The origin of the video is unclear, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google did not immediately respond to Trump’s new comments or tweet Wednesday.

Over the past year, Republicans have ratcheted up their attacks on tech companies, accusing them of limiting the reach of conservative news, views and users. Their allegations have been the subject of multiple hearings on Capitol Hill, including an upcoming hearing on Sept. 5 featuring Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. It has also become a political rallying cry for some GOP leaders, including Trump, whose campaign shared the president’s tweets with supporters late Tuesday — and asked them to donate.

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