Google and California Propositions

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By Emily Hoeven, CAL MATTERS

November 3, 2020

Did Google influence the way Californians voted on the 12 statewide propositions? For seven of the measures, Google searches pulled up supporting or opposing campaign arguments from the state’s official voter guide rather than neutral explanations, Politico reports. For example, Googling “Prop 24,” a measure that would change the state’s data privacy law, resulted in the following description: “CON Proposition 24 reduces your privacy rights in California. Proposition 24 allows ‘pay for privacy’ schemes, makes workers wait years to learn what confidential …” Though the secretary of state’s office resolved the issue Friday, at least 40% of California voters had already cast their ballots by then, raising questions as to whether they may have been swayed by the search results. 

Consumer Watchdog on Friday demanded the state Legislature investigate Google, alleging that Prop. 24 was the only California measure for which Google pulled up the “No” argument from the state voter guide. 

Google said it had trained the California secretary of state’s office on how to control search result excerpts.

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