Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, appeared in front of U.S. lawmakers this past Tuesday to discuss hurdles that tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are likely to face when the 116th Congress convenes. The congressional hearing lasted about 3 1/2 hours and was primarily focused on topics such as online privacy, data protection and the danger of having monopolies.
However, at one point during the hearing, Democratic congresswoman Zoe Lofgren used some of her allotted time to ask Sundar Pichai how performing a search on the word ‘idiot’ using the popular search tool would result in photos of U.S. President Donald Trump coming up. “If you Google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen?” she asked, inquiring about potential bias when performing Google searches.
“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,” Sundar Pichai testified. “Based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best search results for that query.”
“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.” said the congresswoman. The Google CEO went on to state, “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren then went on to state that from time to time she would hear colleagues on the other side of the isle complain that they thought Google engineers appeared to be democrats. “That has nothing to do with the algorithms and really the automated process that is the search engine that serves us. If we didn’t have Google we would be able to find any information, in the efficient way we do.” she stated.
The results garnished from a Google search on the word “idiot”, pointed out by the congresswoman, quickly rose to the #1 most searched term on Google Trends for Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 with over 2 million searches.