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Story highlights

Donald Trump mentioned a long-debunked conspiracy theory about Google searches

He claimed they're aimed at helping Hillary Clinton

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump on Wednesday touted a long-debunked conspiracy theory that the most popular internet search engine suppresses negative headlines about his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump didn’t cite a source to back up his claim, but the most recent report alleging this came from Sputnik News, a Russian state-owned news agency.

“Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, apparently referring to Google searches during the first presidential debate on Monday night.

Trump’s remarks Wednesday night came two weeks after Sputnik News, a Russian government-controlled news agency, published a report claiming that Google search results are biased in Clinton’s favor. Conservative news outlets, including Breitbart News, whose chairman became Trump’s campaign CEO last month, linked to the report.

Trump has been repeatedly criticized for being too praiseworthy of Russian President Vladimir Putin and for promoting foreign policies that would benefit Russian interests around the world. And several of his top advisers – most notably his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – have extensive ties to Russian government officials and oligarchs.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment asking where Trump sourced his claim.

But the remark was not an off-the-cuff ad lib – it was included in the prepared remarks Trump read from during his rally speech Wednesday night.

The conspiracy theory first popped up in a viral video dating back to June, in which the pop culture site SourceFed claimed Google actively altered search recommendations to benefit Clinton’s campaign, which search engine optimization experts quickly debunked.

Despite what you might have seen online, Google is not manipulating its search results to favor Hillary Clinton.

Google also rebuked the claim in a statement last June.

“Our autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name,” a Google spokeswoman said. “Google autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause. Claims to the contrary simply misunderstand how autocomplete works.”