Google search suggestions that are negative for Labour but blank for the Tories baffle social media users

Is this the reason Google’s autocomplete is returning negative search results for parties other than the Tories? It seems likely. [Image from the Daily Mail website].

“Google autocomplete is returning some very strange results,” according to Vox Political reader Gary Wiscombe, among many others.

“If you type “Conservatives are” or “Tories are” it returns zero suggestions, something I’ve never seen before even with gibberish entries.

“Conversely, “Labour are” “SNP are” and “Lib Dems are” return extremely negative suggestions, ones which aren’t echoed with other search engines.

“It’s a deliberate move on behalf of Google, and in the wake of the recent tax deal it seems extremely suspicious,” according to Gary.

“Would there be any way to confirm the purpose behind the change to this function?

“Because if it was funded by public money, or part of the recent tax deal, it would be a serious misuse of public funds.

“Even if it was paid for by the Conservative party, it should get more exposure as a propaganda tool.”

The humble Google search prompted claims of a conspiracy today after social media users noticed a bizarre anomaly when searching for political parties.

For most major political parties if you begin a search such as ‘Labour are’ the search engine will produce a string of possible terms to complete the search – almost universally negative.

But type in ‘Conservatives are’ or ‘Tories are’ and Google is unable to help – prompting some Twitter and Facebook users to question whether the mystery ‘explains the tax issue’.

Source: Google search suggestions show how Labour, the Conservatives and Lib Dems are doing | Daily Mail Online

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24 thoughts on “Google search suggestions that are negative for Labour but blank for the Tories baffle social media users

  1. John

    This one is both highly funny and very suspicious, but I reckon impossible to prove either way, because if Google were requested to reveal search engine records, someone at Google would probably likely fiddle the details, so as not to reveal the ‘true’ details, if you get my meaning. (Given their apparent cosy relationship with Gov at present)

    1. pat

      Sorry sent reply before i finished, post should read. just tried searching both. Nothing at all for Conservatives, but very negative ones for Labour.

  2. Jimbo

    What do other search engines do? What does Bing and/or the independent Duck Duck Go do? Have a go yourselves and see before you prejudge Google too harshley.

    1. Norma Roberts

      Just tried, Bing, Yahoo, and Duck Duck go;first suggestion, on all, was Conservatives are stupid, went downhill from there!

    2. Daniel

      Well, put “XX are” (XX= Labour/Conservatives/Tories/SNP) string into Bing and you get a list of negative suggestions, similar results on Dogpile and Yahoo. Results on both those search engines for Labour/SNP are similar to Google

      The negative suggestion on all these sites when using “Lib dems are” is “finished”, though some related news articles appear too. Plaid Cymru has no negative suggestions on any site I’ve visited, Typing “The Greens are” results in overwhelmingly negative suggestions on Google, yet Bing and Dogpile have only suggestions linked to a restaurant in Redditch”

      DuckDuckGo has very few political suggestions for Labour, Tories, SNP and The Greens. Lots of negatives for “Conservatives are” though, oddly!

      However, considering the most well-known search engines are Google, Yahoo and Bing, the fact that searches on Google seem to be suppressed for Tories/Conservatives seems highly suspicious! Similarly, most search engines have little on the Greens, linking instead to a restaurant or the movie The Greens are Gone, yet google pulls up a list of very negative suggestions….

      1. Daniel

        If you google the string “The Conservative Party are” then the expected negative autocompletes appear (including “evil”, “your enemy”, “scum” et al), so this issue is linked to the phrase Conservatives or Tories, adding “Party” changes the search parameters. Not that I think this resolves the issue, since you don’t need to add “Party” to the Green to get the negatives on Google, whereas the string “The Green Party” does autocomplete with negatives in other search engines!

        So we have a case where the common term for one popular political party not being resolved as a political party (Conservatives), when a less popular political party is (the Greens) by Google, and the reverse (and, in my opinion, more expected) case applied by the other popular search engines!

  3. Bill Kruse

    Possibly because Google stops showing them when they contain swearing. Google don’t have many clean options to display so they don’t display them. If someone can be bothered to change the filter settings on Google and search again, they may get confirmation of this.

  4. Brian

    This is easily explained, The word “TORIES” or “CONSERVATIVES”, is a profoundly indecent word, filtered by the search engine restrictions as one would set for say ‘PORN’ or ‘Sex’. So profoundly offensive in fact, that even if you turn the search filters off, it will not show results.

  5. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    Well I certainly find Google reports more unfavourable comments about Labour than either Bing or DuckDuckgo. I hope Google will come up with a satisfactory explanation otherwise we will have to resort to the other two. I wonder what Google would have produced say a couple of months ago!

  6. lambtonwyrm

    Really surprising that nothing comes up either for Conservative or Tory. Something smells.
    And it’s not my feet!

  7. robin-mcburnie

    This may actually be a good sign. google suggestions are generally based on the most common results for a topic. It may just be that so many people have been saying things that even the “allow adult themes” settings filters find too strong to show 😉

  8. Joan Edington

    I think that they must have changed it now. I have just put “conservatives are” into Google and got pages of articles such as “Why The Anti-Immigration Views Of Conservatives Are Anti …”, “The Conservatives are still vulnerable to the next Mark Clarke” etc.

  9. Jimbo

    Google uses “back links” mostly, rather than content or metadata, to present search results, i.e., web pages and sites which are most read and visited with most mentions and/or reciprocal links to are ranked highest. So if the Conservatives are mentioned less frequently and less negatively less than Labour in any Google search it’s most likely because more people are visiting Labour related web pages and more people are commenting negatively about Labour than the Tories.

    The idea that Google would tweak its almost entirely automated search algorithms to favour the Conservatives is a bit daft and paranoid to be honest.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Nice theory, but the claims about Google seem to have been borne out by the evidence of other search engines.

      1. Jimbo

        Not really, Mike. Most of the other search engines use content and metadata to rank pages whereas Google ranks pages based on visits and interest.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yes, but that’s because Theresa May coined the term in reference to the Conservatives.

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