From the New York Times:
By Kate Conger
Sept. 21, 2018
SAN FRANCISCO — Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said in an email to employees on Friday that the company has never and will never bias its search results for political purposes.
On an internal email thread at Google, employees discussed the possibility of including pro-immigration content in search, according to The Journal. The email thread was a brainstorming session among employees and none of the ideas were put into effect, said Gina Scigliano, a Google spokeswoman.
“Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our Search results for a political end. This is absolutely false,” Mr. Pichai wrote in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We do not bias our products to favor any political agenda. The trust our users place in us is our greatest asset and we must always protect it.”
One interesting aspect of this is that people have generally seemed kind of scared to call out Google on it biases, perhaps from fear that Google will do you down in vengeance.
For example, go to Google and type in “American inventors” or “American scientists” and see the hilarious results. My 2016 post on this was one of my most popular ever, but nobody in the press besides the Daily Caller dared pick up on it.
Another issue is that it’s hard to tell the difference, both empirically and in theory, between when Google is doing something bad to somebody and when Google is not doing something nice for somebody. Google has coded a vast number of clever ploys to make it easier for users to find what they want without being experts at Boolean algebra or library science.
More understandably, after I pointed out in 2012 in my column “Google’s Gaydar” how you can use Google’s autocompletion prompt system to measure how much the public is looking for information about whether a celebrity is gay (e.g., in 2012, Kevin Spacey maxed out Google Gaydar):
Other stars who score a 0 on Google Gaydar include Walter Matthau, Jeff Bridges, W. C. Fields, Mel Gibson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Duvall, and Woody Allen. This doesn’t mean that they are all 100 percent straight, just that none of their ten most common search terms — or even the ten most popular beginning with the letter “g” — are the word “gay.”
In contrast, type in “Kevin Spacey,” and the word “gay” is immediately proposed as the single most efficient suggestion to finish your search. So Spacey gets a 100.
Not long afterwards, Google broke its own system to stop autocompleting the word “gay.” (Microsoft’s Bing still does, and the world hasn’t come to an end.)
Does anybody methodically study Google’s various biases? If not, why not?