Google CEO Sundar Pichai failed to explain why Google image searches for the term “idiot” return pictures of President Trump during a hearing today before the House Judiciary Committee.
During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was questioned by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) about a specific Google search term. When the term “idiot” is searched on Google, the images section of the website returns pictures of President Trump, Lofgren asked Pichai to explain this, however the CEO seemed unable to do so.
“Now, manipulation of search results,” said 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?”
Pichai replied: “We provide search today, any time you type in a keyword we — as Google — we crawl, we’ve gone out and crawled and stored billions of copies of billions of pages in our index and we take the keyword and match it against webpages and rank them based on our two hundred 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. And 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.”
Lofgren replied: “So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the users, basically a compilation of what users are generating and trying to sort through that information.” Pichai replied: “Last year we server over three trillion searches and just as a fact, every single day fifteen percent of the searches Google sees, we have never seen them before. So this is working at scale so we don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”
This, however, does not actually answer Lofgren’s question about pictures of President Trump appearing alongside searches for the term “idiot.” Google has previously defended their search results relating to this particular term stating:
When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.
Watch Sundar Pichai appearing before the House Judiciary Committee here.