Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked a series of questions on how the internet giant operates during his appearance before a House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Among the questions was why image searches for the word “idiot” lead to photos of U.S. President Donald Trump.
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Pichai was asked the question by Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who said: “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?”
The tech executive explained that no one “manually intervenes on a particular search result” — saying that means there is no political bias.
Pichai said it has to do with keywords users type in.
“We have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of webpages pages in our index. We take the keyword and match it against webpages and rank them based on over 200 signals — things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it.”
Pichai explained that Google uses that information to find and then rank the best search results.
“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user?” Lofgren retorted to the explanation.
An incognito search on Google on Tuesday afternoon found the following results:
This isn’t entirely new information — several news outlets reported on these results earlier.
In a July 2018 article, The Guardian explained that part of the reason is that Green Day’s “American Idiot” was used by British protesters in reference to the president this year.
“But since then there’s also been a concerted campaign to capitalize on that association, and manipulate Google’s algorithm, by linking the word to the picture,” the article read, explaining some of it happened on Reddit.
While appearing in front of the House committee, Pichai was also asked several other questions on privacy, data collection, China, Russia, and especially political bias.
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Trump himself has accused Google of rigging the results of its dominant search engine to suppress conservative viewpoints and highlight coverage from media that he says distribute “fake news.”
The question of bias has dogged tech companies for years, but there has been no credible evidence that political leanings factor into Google’s search algorithm.
— With files from The Associated Press