The internet despises Donald Trump and Google is not able to do much about it. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai was summoned on Tuesday for a round of grilling by a committee comprising of US Senators.
While the session was primarily around the tech giant’s role in maintaining a fair and indiscriminate platform for searching anything on the internet, some US legislators were more curious about what determines a search result.
How Google algorithms work
One senator asked Pichai why Google shows Trump’s photo when people search for the word “idiot”. I performed a search;
Mr Pichai defended this by saying that a Google search takes more than 200 factors into account while compiling results. Everything from the relevance of the keyword, to the popularity of a certain page or website, to show appropriate results.
Of course, saying this was an attempt to clarify that these searches would be representational of what websites with high page rank are saying about Trump, and not necessarily a manipulation by Google, as alleged by the Senators.
By throwing in a bunch of technical jargons, the Google CEO easily dodged the question, which was reminiscent of how Mark Zuckerberg evaded questions during his hearing earlier this year. Responding to another Senator, he added;
we use the robust methodology to reflect what is being said about any given topic at any particular time. And we try to do it objectively, using a set of rubrics.
The Google boss denied the possibility of a single person or even a group of people being able to manipulate search results, even if they work for Google. However, some Senators seemed far from convinced that these search results are not controlled by a “little man” (as the one Senator put it) manipulating these search results. Pichai, further said that Google is free from any political bias.
our algorithms have no notion of political sentiment in it.
However, part of the onus does lie on Google as the company has launched a fight against fake and misleading search results, primarily because the objective of search is to not resonate with opinions but to provide reliable information that can form the basis of logical opinions.
If Google had an office in Zimbabwe it would have faced a similar grilling, given that when you search for “crazy Zimbabweans”, you see images of President Mnangagwa among many others (check below). But alas there is no way the government can summon Google for a grilling.
Anyway, in the western world where its held accountable, Google always gets away with its disclaimer that says;
These results don’t reflect Google’s opinion or our beliefs; our algorithms automatically matched the query to web pages with these images