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Google had to explain to Congress why Trump’s face appears when you search ‘Idiot’

One of my favorite things is to watch people who are hopelessly lost when it comes to technology try to understand technology.

To be completely fair, it’s not their fault. There’s a lot to know about, especially when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is why you see a lot of internal linking and linkbacks on websites, since I’m told it helps boost your website’s ranking.

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions and learning more about something you’re unfamiliar with. That’s totally fine, and I even encourage this.

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But seeing members of Congress trying to understand technology, then ask accusatory questions about it? That’s a whole new level of hilarity.

We saw this back in April of this year with Mark Zuckerberg being asked questions by Congress.

(Yes, that was this year, and no, I don’t think anything ever came of it.)

WokeSloth reported:

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, was on Capitol Hill today taking questions from the House Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately it turned intoanother episode of “old people calling tech support.”Republicans aredead-set on trying to work the refs by pretending tech platforms are politically biased. Rep. Zoe Lofgren tried to put that sad talking point to bed, butgiven their stubbornness on the issue, her time was probably better spent on other things.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) tried to deflate a tired GOP talking point—that Google’s algorithm is somehow biased against conservatives—by using a very colorful example. She asked Google CEO Sundar Pinchai why Donald Trump’s face pops up when you search for “idiot” under “images”:

“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,” Rep. Lofgren said. “How would that happen—how does search work so that that would occur?”

“Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of 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.—things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it—and based on that, you know, at any given time we try to rank and find the best results for that query,” Pichai explained.

“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,” Rep. Lofgren clarified.

“This is working at scale, and, you know, we don’t manually intervene in any particular search result,” Pichai said.

What’s amusing about this is that, taken to its logical conclusion, it means anytime you search something in Google, someone at Google would go out and find relevant links for your search terms. I can’t even imagine how that would work in real life.

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Nevertheless, this has been a talking point for some conspiracy theorist conservatives… Because the right can’t SEO, I guess.

What’s even more hilarious is when people yell at a company like Google for a product that Apple makes.

This would be like me yelling at Facebook because of something Twitter did.

Ted Lieu injected some calm rationality:

“If you want positive search results, do positive things. If you don’t want negative search results, don’t do negative things. And to my colleagues, if you’re getting bad results, don’t blame Google or Twitter, consider blaming yourself.” 

And it seems that I’m not the only one who finds everything about this to be equal parts entertaining and frustrating.

It’s funny because it’s true.

But what is troublesome here is exactly what WokeSloth points out:

There are plenty of interesting and downright necessary issues where Congress can flex their oversight with a massive monopoly like Google, but policing personal Google results is not one of them. They could ask about Google censoring search results in China, they could ask about Google’s sketchy local searchshenanigans, they could ask what Google is doing to prevent the spread of false information—ANYTHING.

But no. Instead, we get this… And perhaps that’s what we deserve.

Written by Dan Broadbent

Science Enthusiast. Atheist. Lover of cats.

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