The House Judiciary Committee welcomed Google CEO Sundar Pichai today to a hearing entitled: “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices.” Now you might recall that back in August, President Donald Trump claimed that Google was rigging its search engine to place negative news at the top of the results when the president was Googled. Even though Google denied this, there were rumblings about the administration regulating Google search.
Today, something similar happened during the hearings. As noted by The Verge, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) claimed during the proceedings to have “irrefutable” proof that Google’s search results were biased against conservatives. Rep. Smith was referring to a study by Google critic Robert Epstein, and a study published by PJ Media, which the author himself called “non-scientific.”
After this took place, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) attempted to prove that Google search was not politically biased when she surprisingly asked, “Right now, if you google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen?”
Pichai then schooled the committee on how Google search works, explaining how the keyword (in this case, idiot) is matched against billions of web pages stored by Google. The possible results are ranked based on things like “relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it” and Google comes up with a response. The executive added that “This is working at scale, and we don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”
“Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of [websites’] pages in our index. And we take the keyword and match it against their 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 search results for that query. And then we evaluate them with external raters, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines. And that’s how we make sure the process is working.-Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
In this particular case, Trump critics knowledgeable about search engine optimization were able to game the results so that a image search for idiot would show pictures of Donald Trump.
Making an image search for idiot came back with these results earlier today