Google CEO Sundar Pichai is facing the House Judiciary Committee today, and he’s having to explain some awkward questions, like “Why does googling the word idiot turn up photos of Trump?”
The question came from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). She was responding to the idea that Google is politically manipulating search ads, and she asked Mr. Pichai: “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?”
Mr. Pichai dived into the explanation of how Google search works:
Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of [websites’] 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.
He continued by saying that the company doesn’t manually intervene on any particular search result. That’s not entirely true though.
In the past Google has been accused of manipulating search results to favor its own products. The FTC launched an investigation into the matter, and Google agreed to “change some of its business practices” to resolve their concerns. It remains to be seen whether Google is doing the same thing with politics.