Testifying under oath before Congress last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai assured lawmakers that his company does not “manually intervene on any particular search result.”
The sweeping statement was made during an exchange with Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai to explain how Google search results are determined.
Pichai’s claim is now in question following the leak of internal messages from Google to Breitbart News, in which employees of the tech giant describe manual interventions to correct politically sensitive search results across Google’s properties, including Google Home, Google Assistant, YouTube, and occasionally Google’s main organic search engine.
From Breitbart News’ article last month:
“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.” [emphasis ours]
Breitbart News will continue to follow the fallout from Google’s hearing before Congress.