President Trump expanded his criticism of technology companies on Tuesday to include Twitter and Facebook, after initially attacking Google for what he claimed was an effort to intentionally suppress conservative views supportive of his administration.
Mr. Trump’s remarks come ahead of congressional hearings next week, in which executives from many of the country’s largest internet companies will be questioned. The president has increasingly focused his ire on technology businesses, along with the news media, over coverage that the White House does not like.
Early Tuesday, in a series of tweets, he said Google was not showing enough links to content from conservative sources in its search results.
“Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter at 5:24 a.m. “In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD.”
“They are controlling what we can & cannot see,” Mr. Trump said. He then suggested his administration would take action against the companies. “This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”
By the afternoon, the president named all three social media giants.
Appearing in front of reporters in the Oval Office, the president said social news platforms were actively “taking advantage” of people.
“We have tremendous, we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. And you just can’t do that,” Mr. Trump said, without saying explicitly what he meant or describing the complaints. “And so I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”
Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, was asked by reporters later on Tuesday whether the administration would be pursuing more regulation of Google. “We’ll let you know,” he said. “We’re taking a look at it.”
Google said in a statement that its search service was “not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”
“Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries,” the company added. “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”
Mr. Trump’s attacks on technology companies have increased since Apple, Google and Facebook removed content from Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump’s agenda. Last week, Mr. Trump accused social media companies of “silencing millions of people,” and on Aug. 18, he said the industry was “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”
As evidence for his most recent claims, Mr. Trump said Google linked to a far greater number of articles from mainstream media outlets such as CNN than from conservative news sources.
Google’s search results, however, are determined by an algorithm that scores websites based on their relevancy for a given search word.
Mr. Trump’s criticism appeared to be inspired by a segment last night from Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business Network host. During the program, Mr. Dobbs highlighted an article by a conservative website, PJ Media, that said that it had conducted an unscientific study in which 96 percent of Google search results for the word “Trump” were articles from “left-leaning sites.”
In a subsequent early-morning tweet following his remarks against Google, Mr. Trump posted a comment by Mr. Dobbs praising the president.
Major tech companies like Google, as well as social networks including Facebook and Twitter, have long seen themselves as unbiased platforms on which people and groups can post their views without interference. But following the 2016 presidential election, during which critics said the companies’ platforms were used to disseminate misinformation, they have been pushed by policymakers and users to do more.
The companies find themselves caught between groups who argue they do not sufficiently police their platforms, and those who say they do too much, engaging in censorship. Last week, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube removed pages and accounts linked to Iran and Russia-backed groups.
The industry is also facing the prospect of more regulation. Executives from many of the largest internet companies will face questions next week at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about efforts to prevent foreign meddling in the midterm elections in November, a follow-up to congressional hearings held after the 2016 elections.
Mr. Trump’s swing at Google is a sharp change from last month, when he came the company’s defense after European regulators fined it $ 5.1 billion for antitrust violations. At the time, Mr. Trump called Google “one of our great companies.”