Google excessively recommends pro-government media outlets in Turkey: Report

US-based technology giant Google has recommended pro-government media outlets 81 percent of the time in its search engine results and news section in Turkey during the elections, according to Emre Kızılkaya from Journo.

Duvar English

Out of more than 500,000 suggestions made by tech giant Google in the last seven months in the run-up to the elections in Turkey, 81 percent of them highlighted the pro-government media outlets, according to Emre Kızılkaya from online news outlet Journo

In recent years, Google has been accused of taking steps to disrupt the media ecosystem in Turkey. In particular, its support for copy-paste publishing is one of the most common criticisms. 

The International Press Institute (IPI) Turkey Digital Media Report released in 2020 revealed that Google's search engine and Google News app directed 90.6 percent of users searching for news to three pro-government media outlets.

In the last seven months leading up to the Turkish elections, the algorithm recommended only 13 news sites more than 10,000 times. In other words, nearly half of all recommendations (49.2%) were directed to these 13 sites. 

Of these websites, only daily Sözcü and Cumhuriyet engage in critical reporting. Considering these 13 sites at the top, Google's favoritism rate for the pro-government media rises to 86 percent. 

Nonetheless, Sözcü is by far the most searched news brand by users according to Google's own trend data. Even the total number of searches for pro-government Hürriyet and Sabah, which Google highlights more than Sözcü, is not as high as Sözcü.

The report stated that diversity is a criterion that every digital platform, which is an important distribution channel for news media, should observe in the public interest. Nonetheless, Google does not observe this principle either and shows the pro-government media giants as the most recommended sources. Also, the share of local news sources and alternative institutions in the pie is very small.  

Every day, around two million people search for the Turkish words "haberler (news)" and "son dakika (breaking news)" on Google and see the content suggested by the algorithm. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only politician who was suggested more than 5,000 times.

Google's redirection of almost all traffic to a few sites not only undermines the diversity of news and commentary but also creates unfair commercial competition in digital media.