Google has been prioritizing some of the web’s fringiest alt-right, anti-gay news websites in search results related to LGBTQ news content, a Gay City News analysis has found.
News sites such as Church Militant, which has harassed out gay Catholics, and televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, were routinely among the top search results in a five-day experiment during which Gay City News tracked the findings when searching with the “LGBT” keyword on Google News.
The prevalence of such sites and their anti-LGBTQ content among Google’s top searches is wildly at odds with how atypical such attitudes are in American society today. Some of these sites have either been classified as hate groups or called out for their hate speech by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The results found that homophobic sites have been front and center — and some are even on top. The second search result for “LGBT” on September 12 was an article published by CBN News entitled “Your Kids May Become LGBT Billboards Next Week: Soccer Mom Sounds Alarm on Activist Agenda.” That piece ripped “homosexual activists” and quoted “soccer moms” who were critical of sports teams displaying Pride gear such as Rainbow shoelaces.
The next day, that same hate-filled site published an article mocking transgender and gender nonconforming people — and it was listed as the first search result for the “LGBT” keyword. That piece stated that a woman was discussing gender-affirming surgery “with extremely uncomfortable children looking on.”
On September 16, Google propped up Christian Post, another anti-LGBTQ news site. The “LGBT” keyword on that day yielded a Christian Post article about march held by “ex-gay” survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando who organized a gathering “to proclaim their freedom from homosexuality.” The website referred to people who have “since left homosexuality,” described one woman as a “former lesbian,” and stated that marches of that sort are meant to “offer a safe place for those in the LGBT community to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Church Militant got a boost from Google on September 17 when the site published an article about the State Department’s legal battles over the citizenship of binational same-sex parents. Church Militant referred to two men who are in a “so-called same-sex marriage” and wrote that “the rights of children” whose parents are gay “are being ignored.” They also insisted that children of same-sex parents often suffer from psychological problems, ADHD, and have learning disabilities.
On September 18, anti-LGBTQ sites made up two of the top five search results for “LGBT.” One of the articles was a Church Militant piece blasting a bishop in New Jersey for supporting a pro-LGBTQ group in his diocese, while a separate piece published by the Daily Signal praised New York City’s reversing of a ban on conversion therapy as “a win for everyone” because “free speech matters.” That same article called the LGBTQ movement “a wrecking ball against any cultural or legal edifice in its way” and ripped the City of New York for offering gender-affirming resources but not resources for those who want to reverse their transitions.
“It’s the Hotel Transgender,” the writer, Cathy Ruse, wrote in a bigoted tirade. “You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Beyond that five-day analysis, alt-right sites continued to get premium placement on Google News. On September 23, for example, the second search result for “LGBT” showed a Church Militant piece blasting Pope Francis for appointing a “Radical pro-LGBT US bishop to be Synod father” and the third result was a Christian Post piece highlighting accounts of “former LGBT persons” who were sharing the “transformational power of God.”
And on September 30, the sixth result under “LGBT” was yet another Christian Post article in which people offered advice on debunked ways to use religion to leave “homosexuality.”
It isn’t just the “LGBT” keyword, either. The third search result for “gay” on September 13 was an article published by right-wing site CNSNe
Google did not respond to questions about the rankings or requests for comment about the findings.
The search engine giant has long maintained that its search results are generated through predetermined algorithms — perhaps the homophobic sites are simply taking advantage of them — but questions remain about the unique elevation of bigoted platforms that could widely influence masses of people.
This would not be the first time this year that Google has landed in hot water with LGBTQ-related search results. In July, the French website Numerama reported that Google had previously shown mostly pornographic results when France-based users searched for the French word for “lesbian,” but Google eventually cleaned that up.
It is unclear, however, whether the comapny also plans to clean up blatantly homophobic and transphobic sites publishing advice pieces on leaving homosexuality.