FACT CHECK: Did Google Not Highlight Trump’s SOTU Speech After Promoting Obama’s?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump posted a video on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that said Google did not promote his State of the Union address even though it promoted President Barack Obama’s addresses.

“For years, Google promoted President Obama’s State of the Union on its homepage. When President Trump took office, Google stopped,” text in the video read.

Verdict: False

Archives of the Google homepage captured during the 2018 State of the Union address show that it highlighted Trump’s speech as it was happening. Google appeared to promote some of Obama’s State of the Union addresses for a longer period of time, however.

Fact Check:

Trump tweeted the video after accusing Google and other tech companies of censoring conservatives. “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see,” he said in a tweet on Aug. 28.

He suggested that the video was evidence that Google is biased. “#StopTheBias,” Trump tweeted.

The video showed alleged screenshots of the Google homepage during Obama’s State of the Union addresses from 2012 to 2016. “Live! Watch President Obama’s State of the Union address. Tonight on YouTube at 9p ET,” the message below the search bar said.

It then showed screenshots of the homepage on what it said were the days of Trump’s first joint address to Congress in 2017 and State of the Union address in 2018 that did not have any message highlighting the speeches.

Google said that the video was incorrect. “On January 30, 2018, we highlighted the livestream of President Trump’s State of the Union on the google.com homepage,” the company told several news outlets.

Multiple archives from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which captures how web pages looked in the past at specific dates and times, verify that Google did feature Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address on its homepage while it was happening on Jan. 30. “Live! Watch President Trump’s State of the Union Address on YouTube,” the message said.

The archives display a date of Jan. 31 because the Wayback Machine uses Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST). It was 9:27 p.m. EST on Jan. 30, during Trump’s State of the Union address, when it was 2:27 a.m. GMT on Jan. 31, the time of one of the captures.

Mark Graham, director of the Wayback Machine, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that there were hundreds of archives of the Google homepage on Jan. 31, but only a small number fit in the display of the tool’s “calendar view.”

The archives in calendar view on Jan. 31, 2018 and Jan. 30, 2018 do not show the message highlighting Trump’s State of the Union. A more complicated search method reveals additional Jan. 31 archives captured during Trump’s address, some of which show the message highlighting his speech.

The video’s false claim may be due to the difficulty of finding some of the Wayback Machine’s archives from the day of Trump’s State of the Union address. The methodology behind the video is not clear, and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

It appears that Google promoted some of Obama’s State of the Union addresses for longer periods of time than it featured Trump’s in 2018, though. The Google homepage displayed messages about Obama’s State of the Union addresses for many hours ahead of the event in 2015 and 2016.

Archive captures show promotions the day of the 9 p.m. livestreams: 1:12 a.m. EST in 2015 and 1:07 p.m. EST in 2016. There was no homepage message highlighting Trump’s 2018 State of the Union on the day of his address at 1:29 p.m. EST, 3:20 p.m. EST or 8:13 p.m. EST. Trump’s address also started at 9 p.m.

The search engine giant also coordinated multiple post-State of the Union digital events with Obama on Google+ and YouTube. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

A post on a pro-Trump Reddit forum during Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address also noted that the Google homepage promoted the speech. It showed a screenshot of the Google homepage. Google pointed one reporter to the post.

Google said that it did not highlight Trump’s first joint address to Congress in 2017 because it was not technically a State of the Union speech. Traditionally, a newly-inaugurated president’s first speech to Congress a month or so after taking office is not called a State of the Union address. Google said that it did not promote Obama’s first joint address to Congress in 2009 on its home page, either.

The video shows another discrepancy. Google changed its logo to a sans-serif font in September 2015, but the video shows the old serif-font Google logo for Obama’s 2016 State of the Union. Other Wayback Machine archives in January 2016 show the new logo. It changed the homepage logo to a Google Doodle the day of the 2016 address to celebrate the birthday of fairy tale author Charles Perrault.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter

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