The Republicans believe that Google is biased against them. In fact, they believe that the Democrats who work at the giant corporation place liberal websites in front of the conservative results. For example, search for news about a bill in Congress. The GOP claims Republicans’ information on it shows up at the back of the search results. Check out what happened when Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before Republicans in the latest House Judiciary Committee.
What has become painfully obvious is that many members of hearings in Congress were a generation — or two or three — beyond understanding the internet. Even many people comfortable with computers found themselves at a loss about the internet as late as the early 1990’s. Either people came up to speed or they muddled about in a fog of ignorance and as an embarrassment to their constituents.
The concept of algorithms has been way, way beyond many of them. Democrats tend to be more comfortable with change, in general, so that has made them somewhat more knowledgeable about the subject.
According to The Business Insider, GOP members wanted to discuss:
‘…competitive dominance, Chinese censorship, and privacy, one major focus for Republicans on the committee is allegations of conservative bias.’
Committee Democrats disagreed that Google was biased toward their party. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D- CA) asked Pichai to tell them why Google was not biased. She said:
‘Manipulation of search results, I think it’s important to talk about how search works. Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot,’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that (she did).’
In all fairness, a person has to ask Google for an image of “an idiot,” and Trump was not the only photo that appeared. There were his two elder sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric. There was also a photo of Trump Sr. with England’s Prime Minister Theresa May, and the cover of a book featuring a rock. It was entitled The Idiot, and is about semiotics (the study of signs and symbols).
Pichai responded in full to the committee:
‘We provide search today for any time you type in a key word, we as Google, we have crawled and stored copies of billions of web pages in our index. We take the keyword and match it against web pages and rank them based on over 200 signals. Things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it, and based on that, at any given time we try to rank and find the best results for that query. Then we evaluate them with external raters, to make sure, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines, and how that’s how we make sure the process is working.’
Lofgren responded to the CEO:
‘So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user, it’s basically a compilation of what users are generating and trying to sort through that information.’
‘Last year we served over 3 trillion searches, just as a fact, every single day, 15% of the searches Google sees, we have never seen them before. So this is working at scale. We don’t manually intervene on any search result.’
Steve Chabot (R-OH) said a person had to reach into the Affordable Care Act repeal bill search results about three or four pages, to get a positive coverage of the negative bill:
‘You had to go deep into the search results. I know Google’s attitude, the algorithm made us do it, I don’t know if I buy that.’
Featured image is a screenshot via Google Search page.