Images via Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com and Wikimedia Commons
Depending on which camp you belong in, looking up “idiot” on Google Images may or may not produce accurate responses—President Trump’s face appears prominently on the results page.
The matter was brought up by the House Judiciary Committee, which Google CEO Sundar Pichai had to testify before on Tuesday. Republicans argued that the tech giant’s search results were biased, and that Democrats working behind the search engine deliberately prompted liberal sites, whereas conservative content was being shielded.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California gave Pichai a chance to address the complaint on conservative bias by citing an interesting observation.
“Manipulation of search results—I think it’s important to talk about how search works,” she said.
“Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot,’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that.”
Lofgren asked Pichai how a result like that could be summoned, as well as queried about how the search engine’s process works.
Pichai replied, “Anytime you type in a keyword, we as Google, we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of webpages in our index. We take the keyword and match it against webpages 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 that’s how we make sure the process is working.”
Long story short, Google prompts results based on what is current and popular with users, and as you might have observed, the president’s behavior is brought up by the public frequently.
“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user,” Lofgren commented. “It’s basically a compilation of what users are generating, and trying to sort through that information.”
Pichai added that Google does not micromanage what shows up on results pages, given that “we served over three trillion searches” last year.
However, Republican Steve Chabot, who believed “political bias [was] baked into” Google’s culture, was not convinced by the argument.
“I know Google’s attitude, ‘The algorithm made us do it,’ but I don’t know that I buy that.”
[via Business Insider, images via various sources]
Screenshot via Google