Google's Pichai denies any political bias in search results during lengthy Congressional t...

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified in front of a U.S. congressional panel on Tuesday to address a number of issues, above all deflecting suggestions that the company's search results are biased towards one political party or another.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai


Google's algorithms rank search results "based on over 200 signals," Pichai explained, including "things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it." Those results are then evaluated by external raters, who Pichai said use a set of objective guidelines.

"This is working at scale, and we don't manually intervene on any particular search result," Pichai told one panel member, Democrat Representative Zoe Lofgren from California.

.@RepCohen asks Google CEO to look into "the over-use of conservative news organizations," citing fact that when people search for his MSNBC appearances, it often takes them to Daily Caller articles. pic.twitter.com/kmEXYqhq9x

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)


Some Republicans including President Donald Trump have complained that Google search results are biased, favoring liberal news sources. Trump in particular has called Google searches "rigged" to show negative stories about him.

Pichai admitted that being based where it is in California, many of Google's workers may lean liberal, but the CEO added that he and the rest of the company are committed to being politically fair -- and no individual employee can skew search results. This was challenged by the panel, that claimed that neutral algorithms can still produce skewed results with concerted effort by a larger public influencing relevancy.

Another topic of the panel was Google's interest in returning to China, which it has been barred from since 2010 because of the Communist Party's censorship policies. Critics -- including many on Google's staff -- have worried that the company is willing to build a compromised search engine that hides things like the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Beijing.

Pichai claimed that the company has "no plans" to launch in China, even though it has "developed and looked at what search could look like" with a team of over 100 people. He further insisted that there are no ongoing talks with the Chinese government, and that Google will be "fully transparent" with U.S. officials if search ever does go back.

Domestic privacy was the third pillar of Pichai's testimony. The executive spent time explaining how and why Google collects data, insisting that the company gives people control over what's collected, and that it regularly prompts people to check their privacy settings. The company has come under fire for collecting massive amounts of information about people for the sake of advertisers, and/or failing to disclose a Google+ vulnerability that could have exposed the private profile information of some 52.5 million people. Google+ is now scheduled to shut down in April, having originally been expected to wind down in August.

Congress seemed mostly unable to identify what phones they were using during the testimony, with one notable point of confusion between Android-powered devices and Apple's iPhones, and the fact that Google doesn't manufacture the iPhone. For the most part, congressional members seemed disinterested in the testimony as a whole, with many of them not having a good handle on the subject matter, amplified by most of them appearing just before their question period, and vanishing thereafter.

After @SteveKingIA raises inscrutable concerns about iPhones, Google CEO Sunday Pichai patiently informs him, "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company." pic.twitter.com/TiNZ1t3VRo

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 86
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,339administrator
    You know the rules -- and if you don't, a link to them is at the bottom of every forum page. Don't be jerks to each other.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,267member
    I watched much of the hearing. Many of our representatives seemed to have some preconceptions that kept them from understanding (hearing?) the answers Google's CEO offered and so instead kept rephasing or repeating the question if it wasn't getting the reply they expected.

    One of the funnier moments was when one of them asked how his 7-year old granddaughters iPhone popped up a profane photo of her grandfather while she was playing a game and Pichai answered that he couldn't really say since the iPhone is not a Google product. That Congressman immediately yielded the rest of his time to another.
     :)

    Edit: In the first read I missed that the author mentioned that same humorous moment. 

    edited December 2018 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 86
    Well, if he said that there is no bias, then there is no bias. Case closed. /s
    georgie01SpamSandwichwonkothesane
  • Reply 4 of 86
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,980member
    While we see some combat between technically uninformed politicians and tech companies, and while the tech companies hold a lot of influence themselves, the two different forces are still connected, maybe even aligned, via money. Right now they’re playing a game of tug of war, each party blaming media and tech companies for letting the other party be visible... but the thing that is wrecking search engine results isn’t political affiliation; it’s pathological capitalism.

    Every search is compromised by “SEO”. Fake content (not “fake news”; actual fake content) comes up more than real content. All designed to ensure advertisers get eyes on their ads. Entire websites designed not to serve real content but to drive traffic to other content, or, again, just shove ads. I remember when search engines were actually useful, on the first page of search results. Now it takes considerable time and effort to wade through all the garbage to find any actual information.

    What about that bias, Pichai? I stopped using Google as much as possible but it’s not just Google. DuckDuckGo suffers the same. So do the others. Is anyone developing tech to stop the tech that wrecks the usefulness of tech?

    I’m wondering if we need to consider the corporations, or maybe the 1% itself, as a sort of “political party”. Regardless of which of our duopoly parties is in power in the USA, there’s still one alignment they all share: their ability to move between corporate jobs and political offices, and the pursuit/maintenance of their wealth and power. It certainly makes them stand out from the rest of us as a kind of entity of their own.
    mattinozlarryjwminicoffeejony0
  • Reply 5 of 86
    It can be very difficult to believe someone in an authoritative position because too many times we’ve seen people like that clearly lie, even testifying in court. They play games with words or facts that any idiot knows is a lie but at face value eludes accountability.

    Who knows if he’s telling the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t and that he was being knowingly misleading. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 86
    georgie01 said:
    It can be very difficult to believe someone in an authoritative position because too many times we’ve seen people like that clearly lie, even testifying in court. They play games with words or facts that any idiot knows is a lie but at face value eludes accountability.

    Who knows if he’s telling the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t and that he was being knowingly misleading. 
    Most likely he knows very well what he is doing. He is not an idiot and certainly can understand what is going on, which leaves me no other option but to conclude his malicious intent for “greater good”.
  • Reply 7 of 86
    Well, if he said that there is no bias, then there is no bias. Case closed. /s
    What evidence do you provide to the contrary? Any? None? Old white guys having no clue how technical things work won't do, sorry. That includes congressmen and the president.


    urashidgenovelledysamoriamuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 86
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,108member
    Most (almost all??) of the bias in Google search results comes from the user themselves. A few years ago, I tested this with 2 friends. One if very left and the other very right. They each brought their personal laptops to a local micro-brew with free WiFi (Like, who doesn't have free WiFi anymore) and each entered the same exact search terms.

    The biggest differences were on the term "Global Warming". Each result 100% validated their own held beliefs.

    Each individual gets to control Google's search results biases and Google allows each of us to live in a self confirming confirmation bias bubble.
    genovelledysamorialarryjwjcs2305watto_cobraminicoffeewonkothesanejony0
  • Reply 9 of 86
    georgie01 said:
    It can be very difficult to believe someone in an authoritative position because too many times we’ve seen people like that clearly lie, even testifying in court. They play games with words or facts that any idiot knows is a lie but at face value eludes accountability.

    Who knows if he’s telling the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t and that he was being knowingly misleading. 
    Rubbish. Regulations bar the executives of public companies from outright lying to the public and investors. Whether that's Cook or this guy -- they aren't going to lie under oath in a public hearing.

    Just because you don't like what he said and what it means, doesn't mean you get to invent your own facts.
    steven n.dewmemuthuk_vanalingamminicoffeejony0
  • Reply 10 of 86
    georgie01 said:
    It can be very difficult to believe someone in an authoritative position because too many times we’ve seen people like that clearly lie, even testifying in court. They play games with words or facts that any idiot knows is a lie but at face value eludes accountability.

    Who knows if he’s telling the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t and that he was being knowingly misleading. 
    Most likely he knows very well what he is doing. He is not an idiot and certainly can understand what is going on, which leaves me no other option but to conclude his malicious intent for “greater good”.
    In other words, you're pulling down your tinfoil hat, nice and snug. "Who knows! What is truth? Magnets, how do they work?!"
    steven n.dewmemuthuk_vanalingamminicoffeejony0
  • Reply 11 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,267member
    georgie01 said:
    It can be very difficult to believe someone in an authoritative position because too many times we’ve seen people like that clearly lie, even testifying in court. They play games with words or facts that any idiot knows is a lie but at face value eludes accountability.

    Who knows if he’s telling the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t and that he was being knowingly misleading. 
    Most likely he knows very well what he is doing. He is not an idiot and certainly can understand what is going on, which leaves me no other option but to conclude his malicious intent for “greater good”.
    What malicious intent are you referring to? Are you claiming that there is intentional search bias in place from Google to disadvantage conservatives (!) and if so what evidence of it do you have? If it is simply your opinion that search results are being intentionally manipulated to "hide the truth" then fair enough. We all have opinions. 
    edited December 2018 StrangeDaysdysamoriamuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 86
    I don’t think Google modifies search results to lean left or right (as Trump claims). In fact, it would make more sense to show results consistent with what the specific user wants, not to force something on them that’s different from their views.

    That said, I’m not convinced Google doesn’t alter results based on monetary issues (such as paid advertisers). Or lets results of their own products climb higher in the rankings than they normally would. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 86
    rcfarcfa Posts: 756member
    If the right operates tons of fake news sites like InfoWars, etc. and Google is “fact based”, then of course a fact-denying party might get the impression Google is biased against them...

    And a congressman saying he thinks individual employees can influence individual search results, after being told that’s impossible, is like a guy being told he can’t walk on liquid water, answering “I think it’s possible”: these politicians are imbeciles, without understanding of the relevant technology, and opinions-taken-as-fact beyond anything that correlates with reality.
    dysamoriamuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 86
    Well, if he said that there is no bias, then there is no bias. Case closed. /s
    What evidence do you provide to the contrary? Any? None? Old white guys having no clue how technical things work won't do, sorry. That includes congressmen and the president.


    1. Evidence is that in the last 1/2 a year a lot of people were banned from platform, mostly right wingers. It was so obvious that it required a congress committee to question that. Some of those were right wing clowns, just like the clowns on the left. But the clowns from the left were not banned for hate speech ( aka  “community” rules) despite them preaching hate, while the right wingers were. I do not support a lot of those folks, but I disagree with censorship, especially when it is done very dishonestly, like facebook and youtube did.

    2. Why did you bring the race in your response? Are you racist? Or do you have evidence old people of other races understand the tech better? What relevance that remarked had to the conversation in question?

    it would be good, if you could think through your response, before you typed it. But the MSM training kicked in before you could.
    edited December 2018 redraider11
  • Reply 15 of 86
    rcfa said:
    If the right operates tons of fake news sites like InfoWars, etc. and Google is “fact based”, then of course a fact-denying party might get the impression Google is biased against them...

    And a congressman saying he thinks individual employees can influence individual search results, after being told that’s impossible, is like a guy being told he can’t walk on liquid water, answering “I think it’s possible”: these politicians are imbeciles, without understanding of the relevant technology, and opinions-taken-as-fact beyond anything that correlates with reality.
    That is bullshit. I am pretty sure it is impossible for a single person to change the source code, and then deploy it without a lot of people knowing. Therefore, every change that google makes to its source (and consequently - to the way the search engine operates) has to be sanctioned on quite a high level of the company. Especially, idologically driven changes. Rouge actors are extremenly unlikely here for obvious reasons.
  • Reply 16 of 86
    I don’t think Google modifies search results to lean left or right (as Trump claims). In fact, it would make more sense to show results consistent with what the specific user wants, not to force something on them that’s different from their views.

    That said, I’m not convinced Google doesn’t alter results based on monetary issues (such as paid advertisers). Or lets results of their own products climb higher in the rankings than they normally would. 
    I actually believe Google is doing this. I've seen a ton of people testing the search results and more than 97% of the results are from liberal outlets when you Google things such as Trump news. I've tested this myself and saw the same results. There wasn't one conservative news source in the first few pages of results.Some mathematician published a report from about this and all his findings indicated Google is doing this. From Google firing James Damore, to the leaked e-mail where Google employees talk about burying conservative sites after Trump won the election, I think there is enough evidence that shows Google is more than likely manipulating its algorithm to favor left leaning sites. 
    edited December 2018 redraider11watto_cobratoysandme
  • Reply 17 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,267member
    I don’t think Google modifies search results to lean left or right (as Trump claims). In fact, it would make more sense to show results consistent with what the specific user wants, not to force something on them that’s different from their views.

    That said, I’m not convinced Google doesn’t alter results based on monetary issues (such as paid advertisers). Or lets results of their own products climb higher in the rankings than they normally would. 
    I actually believe Google is doing this. I've seen a ton of people testing the search results and more than 97% of the results are from liberal outlets when you Google things such as Trump news. I've tested this myself and saw the same results. There wasn't one conservative news source in the first few pages of results.Some mathematician published a report from about this and all his findings indicated Google is doing this. From Google firing James Damore, to the leaked e-mail where Google employees talk about burying conservative sites after Trump won the election, I think there is enough evidence that shows Google is more than likely manipulating its algorithm to favor left leaning sites. 
    Have you done the exact same searches with Bing and DDG and Yahoo to see how the results differ? That might be an idea. 
  • Reply 18 of 86
    gatorguy said:
    I don’t think Google modifies search results to lean left or right (as Trump claims). In fact, it would make more sense to show results consistent with what the specific user wants, not to force something on them that’s different from their views.

    That said, I’m not convinced Google doesn’t alter results based on monetary issues (such as paid advertisers). Or lets results of their own products climb higher in the rankings than they normally would. 
    I actually believe Google is doing this. I've seen a ton of people testing the search results and more than 97% of the results are from liberal outlets when you Google things such as Trump news. I've tested this myself and saw the same results. There wasn't one conservative news source in the first few pages of results.Some mathematician published a report from about this and all his findings indicated Google is doing this. From Google firing James Damore, to the leaked e-mail where Google employees talk about burying conservative sites after Trump won the election, I think there is enough evidence that shows Google is more than likely manipulating its algorithm to favor left leaning sites. 
    Have you done the exact same searches with Bing and DDG and Yahoo to see how the results differ? That might be an idea. 
    Actually I have. I tried Bing and DDG and both had conservative sites in the search results unlike Google. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 86
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,267member
    gatorguy said:
    I don’t think Google modifies search results to lean left or right (as Trump claims). In fact, it would make more sense to show results consistent with what the specific user wants, not to force something on them that’s different from their views.

    That said, I’m not convinced Google doesn’t alter results based on monetary issues (such as paid advertisers). Or lets results of their own products climb higher in the rankings than they normally would. 
    I actually believe Google is doing this. I've seen a ton of people testing the search results and more than 97% of the results are from liberal outlets when you Google things such as Trump news. I've tested this myself and saw the same results. There wasn't one conservative news source in the first few pages of results.Some mathematician published a report from about this and all his findings indicated Google is doing this. From Google firing James Damore, to the leaked e-mail where Google employees talk about burying conservative sites after Trump won the election, I think there is enough evidence that shows Google is more than likely manipulating its algorithm to favor left leaning sites. 
    Have you done the exact same searches with Bing and DDG and Yahoo to see how the results differ? That might be an idea. 
    Actually I have. I tried Bing and DDG and both had conservative sites in the search results unlike Google. 
    How about an example we can try for ourselves?
    edited December 2018 StrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 86
    My take away from the hearing, there may not be direct pollical bias, meaning Google is not making the algorithm respond in a particular political way. However, its more clear that end users know how Google's algorithm's work and the exploit it to their advantage.  The example they use in the hearing search idiot and get Trump picture, so end users are all tagging Trumps photos with the word idiot so when google craws around the web, it finds a bunch of website with Trumps picture tagged with idiot. So now Trumps picture is now associated with Idiot. I am not say that Google employees are not doing some other own software magic of their owns to skew results, I have seen this on no political things so they are doing it.

    This is no different than the problem Amazon is having with company trashing competitors reputation to rank them lower. Amazon is finding Chinese and Indian companies have figure out how the Amazon AI works on ranking products and they are using the AI against the competitors. The one example is posting negative reviews about a competitors product moves them down the list. Also making claims the products are counterfeit and will automatically cause a company be set to inactive while Amazon investigate. This weekend I went to order something,  found a couple companies offering the same product and one company had a lower price, of course I order from them. Only problem Amazon would not allow me to place it in my cart, thought it was problem with the iPhone app so I went to the computer and could not find the seller with the lower price only the one with the higher price. Amazon disable the account right as I tried to order it, went back to the phone app and it was still there and I looked at the reviews and someone was claiming it was counterfeit. When I refreshed the app the seller was gone on the phone as well. 

    In the end if you automate things, humans are still smarter than computers and AI systems can be analyzed to figure out what they are doing and then work with it or around it to accomplish your goals. Whether it is associating the word "Idiot" with Trump or taking out your competition with fake bad reviews, the systems can be manipulated once you see the trends and what they are doing.
    watto_cobra
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