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Google denies it is secretly helping Hillary Clinton with its search results

A plot straight from “House of Cards.”

The Smithsonian And Netflix Host A Portrait Unveiling And Season 4 Premiere Of 'House Of Cards' Paul Morigi / Getty

This is unusual.

When faced with allegations that Google is jiggering its search results, the company typically issues a curt statement or stays silent, waiting for the controversy to fizzle.

Instead, late on Friday, Google issued a blog post detailing how its autocomplete function works in search. It didn’t say so explicitly, but the post is a direct rebuttal to claims — surfaced by a site on Thursday — that the function buries more damning search results for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, thereby aiding her electoral odds.

Google denied it initially, but felt it necessary to add more after the claims drew considerable attention online and in political quarters. (Donald Trump was alarmed.)

Here’s Tamar Yehoshua, the Google VP who runs that search feature:

The autocomplete algorithm is designed to avoid completing a search for a person’s name with terms that are offensive or disparaging. We made this change a while ago following feedback that Autocomplete too often predicted offensive, hurtful or inappropriate queries about people.

The short post concludes with a note, addressed to us web searchers, “that your trust is what keeps you using Google.”

It’s doubtful that the incident will send people en masse to Bing. But Google is particularly concerned about these sorts of claims, in no small part because the contested (frankly bizarre) 2016 electoral politics have given the notion that Silicon Valley shows its political stripes through its products serious legs.

Fiction doesn’t help. The situation Google faces is nearly identical to a central plot line in the fourth season of Netflix’s “House of Cards.” (So I am told; I’ve only made it through the first season. No spoilers!)

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