Srinagar: Google CEO Sundar Pichai is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and amid questions on competitive dominance, Chinese censorship, and privacy, one major focus for Republicans on the committee is allegations of conservative bias.
Republicans on the committee allege that Google’s search results are biased and that Democrats who work at the search giant choose liberal websites over conservative views for prime placement on Google services like search.
Democrats on the committee pushed back, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who represents the district where Google is based, gave Pichai a chance to explain at length why Google search results aren’t biased.
Her question involved President Donald Trump.
“Manipulation of search results, I think it’s important to talk about how search works,” Lofgren said. “Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot,’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that.”
She’s right. Here’s a search in an incognito window:
“How would that happen? How does search work so that would occur?” she asked.Sundar’s full response:
“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 followed up: “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,” Pichai said.
During the hearing, several Republicans on the committee, including Congressman Lamar Smith, said that there is “political bias baked into” Google’s culture.
Steve Chabot, a Republican from Ohio, said that he needed to go to the third or fourth page of search results to find positive coverage of the Affordable Care Act repeal bill. “You had to go deep into the search results,” Chabot said. “I know Google’s attitude, the algorithm made us do it, I don’t know if I buy that.” (Courtesy: Business Insider)