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“The algorithm made us do it”: Google chief forced to defend search algorithm, as ‘idiot’ search brings up images of Donald Trump

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meets with democratic leaders the Oval Office in Washington on December 11, 2018. Source: AP/Evan Vucci.

Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai has appeared in front of US Congress, to explain why images of US President Donald Trump come up if you search the word ‘idiot’.

According to a Business Insider report, the move follows accusations of bias against conservative media and websites.

In a video shared on the Twitter page of C-SPAN, the network broadcasting the proceedings of the US government, Republican Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is seen asking Pichai about “manipulation of search results”, saying 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,” the Congresswoman explained.

“How would that happen?” she asked.

Pichai defended the search engine giant, spelling out how its algorithms work.

“Any time you type in a keyword, we as Google, we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of webpages in our index,” he said.

He went on to explain Google matches the keywords against webpages and ranks them based on more than 200 signals, including relevance, freshness and popularity.

“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,” he said.

Pichai also pointed out that more than three trillion searches were made on Google last year, and out of all searches, 15% are brand new, never searched before.

“So this is working at scale,” he said.

“We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”

However, not everyone was convinced.

According to Business Insider, Steve Chabot, a Republican from Ohio, noted he had to go three or four pages into Google’s search results to find positive coverage of last year’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“I know Google’s attitude  ‘the algorithm made us do it’ but I don’t know that I buy that,” Chabot said.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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