SEPTEMBER 21, 2018
IMAGE CREDITS: ROBERT SCOBLE, FLICKR.
Internal documents show Google employees discussed corrupting their own search engine “to push propaganda on hundreds of millions of unsuspecting users.”
The notion that Google’s search algorithm is biased (explicitly or implicitly) against conservative voices and media outlets is nothing new. President Trump slammed Google for this tendency over the summer when he tweeted a screen shot of the results from a search using the terms “Trump news”…
…and it came back with only left-leaning news organizations in the top spots.
So it’s hardly surprising that, according to a late Thursday report by the Wall Street Journal, two tech reporters exposed an incident where Google employees considered actively biasing the company’s search algorithm to favor news sources that would offer the perspective that Trump’s then-newly issued travel ban was unconstitutional, illegal and dangerous, while also surfacing links to resource and information that would allow users to contribute to the ACLU or other organizations working against the ban, while also providing resources for people impacted by the ban.
The list of suggestions included:
“Actively counter islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.”
“Actively counter prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”
“Can we launch an ephemeral experience that includes Highlights, up-to-date info from the US State Dept, DHS, links to donate to ACLU, etc?” the email added.
Several officials responded favorably to the overall idea. “We’re absolutely in…Anything you need,” one wrote.
But a public-affairs executive wrote: “Very much in favor of Google stepping up, but just have a few questions on this,” including “how partisan we want to be on this.”
“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” the public-affairs executive said. “Is that accurate? If so, would we be willing to open access to highlights to [organizations] that…actually support the ban?”
While these suggestions were being bandied about, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who moved to the US from the former Soviet Union as a child, was attending rallies in the Bay Area protesting the ban. Google also joined nearly 100 technology companies in filing a joint amicus brief that February challenging the ban. “The order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth.”