Google CEO, Sundar Pichai’s testified before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, in regards to the committee’s questions on competitive dominance, Chinese censorship, and privacy rights violations. Amid all these serious allegations, Republicans on the committee expressed their fear over what they believe to be Google’s bias towards conservative views. They feared that Democrats who work at the search giant choose liberal websites over conservative views for prime placement on Google searches service.
Of course, that’s not how things work.
Democrats on the committee pushed back, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who represents the district including San Jose, gave Mr. Pichai a chance to explain why Google search results aren’t biased. She used Donald Trump as a prime example:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren: “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. How would that happen? How does search work so that that would occur?”
Sundar Pichai: “We provide search today for — 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.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren: “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.”
Sundar Pichai: “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 particular search result.”
Well played Congresswoman, well played.
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