As would be true of most groups, supporters of President Donald Trump are sensitive about being associated with Nazis. Many political journalists can say they’ve received messages noting that, even though the likes of white nationalist Richard Spencer and the anti-Semitic trolls at Daily Stormer backed Trump in the 2016 election, their values cannot be attributed to the rest of the president’s base.
While that is a fair point, another one that Trump backers have made is not legitimate: that Google has somehow changed its definition of the word fascism and is using it to label all Trump supporters fascist. They claim that during the election campaign Google began limiting the definition of fascism to “right-wing” systems of governance. According to this conspiracy, this has resulted in Trump fans being defined as the world’s only fascists.
The idea first appeared on the website of NewsBusters, a conservative publication that claims to expose a liberal bias in the media. Another report on the theory appeared on The Daily Caller, a conservative website. It ran a story after the so-called #J20 protests, in which anti-fascist (“antifa”) protesters were arrested en masse for demonstrating against the president’s inauguration.
An early-February headline on The Daily Caller read: “Google Redefines the Word ‘Fascism’ to Smear Conservatives, Protect Liberal Rioters.” The Daily Caller did not reach out to Google for a comment about its definition of the word, writing instead that the “exact reason Google has changed the definition of fascism to reflect on the political right rather than the left is unknown.”
The notion is still bubbling around. The Trumpet, a pro-Trump blog, published a post last week titled “Did You Know Google Redefined the Word Fascism?” The idea that Google has somehow rigged its website to equate conservatives with fascists is also frequently echoed in social media.
As it turns out, this is not accurate.
While a definition of fascism that included the words “right wing” did appear on the site for a time, the reality is far different than the conspiracy theorists’ beliefs, according to a Google spokesperson. For one thing, Google’s Dictionary OneBox, the dictionary feature on the search engine, is operated by a third party, so that definition of fascism was not written by Google.
After July, the spokesperson said, Google responded to “feedback” about the definition (presumably from The Daily Caller and others) and stopped it from appearing altogether. Today, a definition of fascism appears to not follow the same pattern of other definitions on the site: It comes from Merriam-Webster, which does not mention “right-wing” politics. So, if anything, it could be said that Google has gone out of its way to change its policies on behalf of Trump supporters.
“Reports that we edited the definition of fascism displayed in our search results during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign are unfounded, undocumented and incorrect,” the Google spokesperson said.
Bias in the tech industry is a hot topic among conservatives. On Monday, Twitter started banning users based upon regulations that were first introduced by the site’s safety department in November. Many Trump supporters voiced concerns that the bans would be handed out based upon ideology. So far, though, most have focused on white supremacist and neo-Nazi accounts.
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