Google’s bias problem is more complicated than you think

By | January 20, 2020

– Google has a bias problem. Or at least congress
seems to think it does. When the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, went before congress, the
committee was very concerned that the search engine
might somehow be biased. – It’s not possible for
an individual employee or groups of employees to
manipulate our search results. You know, we have a robust framework… – Listen to me, I think humans
can manipulate the process, it is a human process at its base. – It’s not just Google. Facebook and Twitter got a
similar line of questioning from congress earlier this year. – Facebook and other tech
companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of
bias and political censorship. – This is actually a concern that I have, and that I try to root out of the company, is making sure that we don’t have any bias in the work that we do. – Can you give the committee a timeframe, as to when we might expect
that that would, er, receive results that are
fair to the American people? – This is something that
is a high priority for us in terms of, as we roll out algorithms, understanding that they are fair and that we are driving
impartial outcomes. – Sometimes those
complaints get really messy. When Laura Loomer was
banned from Twitter for Islamophobic tweets, she
literally chained herself to the door of their New
York office in protest. – You are not going to silence me! – Now what kind congress is asking for, sounds kind of reasonable. These platforms are really
powerful and they should try to use that power in an impartial way. But when you start trying to
stamp out bias in practice, it turns out everyone sees
bias in a different place. And everyone has a different idea of what a neutral platform looks like. It only makes sense, when
you look at the big picture. Most of the controversy around bias, has to do with Twitter and
Facebook banning accounts. So in theory it shouldn’t have
anything to do with Google. Search engines don’t host
content, they just organize other people’s stuff. But the question of how they do that, has turned out to be really controversial. So Google wants you to think
of it as this simple algorithm. And it really did start out that way. The company’s initial
breakthrough was a system called Pagerank, a machine
learning algorithm that creates a kind of reputation score for
every website on the internet based on how many other sites link to it. Combine that with basic key word matching, and you’ve got a pretty good
map for which search results are good, and which ones are garbage. But that algorithm had
a lot of weird effects, sites that formatted their
URLs in a particular way, got a boost because Google
could find the key words better. And Google wanted to
encourage web encryption too, so it gave https sites
a little boost as well. There were lots of these
tiny nudges and as Google got more powerful, those
nudges became really important. A whole discipline called
Search Engine Optimization grew up around making your site as Google friendly as possible. Pretty soon the sites that showed up first in the rankings were
the ones that were the best at following Google’s rules. Around 2008, a company got
so good at gaming Google, that it put the whole system at risk. Demand Media specialized in posts that were super optimized
for specific searches, often containing vague or
unreliable information. So if you Googled something
like how to fix a radiator, those posts would be the
first thing that came up, even if they didn’t do you much good when you actually clicked through. It was a good business,
leading to a billion dollar IPO in 2011, but then Google struck back. All those spammy results
were making the search engine worse, so developers decided
to rework the algorithm in an update they called Panda. Google started rolling out
the update in early 2011, and within a couple of years, Demand Media traffic plummeted. In some sense, this is
what bias looks like, but it’s bias toward
useful search results. Google saw companies gaming their system, and they put their fingers on the scale to push search back toward
more useful results. – You know, we are trying hard
to understand what users want and this is something
important to us to get right. – But that same idea
becomes a lot more scary when you look at news. Google search has a bad habit of surfacing conspiracy
theories or for chance mirrors when you ask it fairly
straightforward questions, particularly about breaking news. After a church shooting last year, Google’s Top News bar
pointed to false rumors that the shooting was connected to Antifa, a report that had already been debunked. After the Las Vegas shooting, it pointed to an innocent
man as the perpetrator. In each case, people were
really saying this stuff on the internet, it just wasn’t true. But we expect Google
to know the difference. – Providing users with
high-quality, accurate and trusted information is sacrosanct to us. It’s what our principles are,
and our business interests, our natural long-term incentives
are aligned with that. We want to serve users everywhere, and we need to earn
their trust in doing so. Ultimately Google has to decide
which sources are credible, but they’d rather not
talk about it publicly. Is Breitbart a reliable news source? Is InfoWars? How easy should Google
make it to find arguments against vaccinating your kids? Any decision Google makes here is going to make someone angry, because everything’s biased to someone. In this case, it was just congress’ turn to show Google they’re upset. – Dr. Robert Epstein, a
Harvard trained Psychologist, authored a study recently,
that showed Google’s bias likely swung 2.6 million
votes to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. – So it looks like you are
overly using conservative news organizations, on your news. And I’d like you to look into the overuse of conservative news organizations to put on liberal
people’s news, on Google. – We do get concerns across
both sides of the aisle, I can assure you we do
this in a neutral way. – Thanks for watching,
and I hope you liked it. If there’s anything you’d
like to see us tackle, please leave us a comment,
we’ll take a look at it. And, otherwise please like and subscribe. And take care of yourself out there. – [Woman Offscreen] That was great! – (laughs) Yeah, no, it’s great!

100 thoughts on “Google’s bias problem is more complicated than you think

  1. YouEnglish Post author

    I understand they need to improve the algorithm, but people also need to distill the information too. Clicking blindly on one link and going with it is just too naive in my opinion. We need to get better at searching too.

  2. juan santiago Post author

    This video itself is bias. Why don't you mention bias towards terorrist attacks in Google , whenever stuff like this happens the top things that appear in your feed is " van crashes into crowd" instead of calling it a terror attack whereas something related to the "right wing" would've immediately pointed out.

  3. TC IronBear Post author

    "Reality has a well-known liberal bias" – Stephen Cobert

  4. NR Post author

    What happens when you get Grima Wormtongue to obfuscate for long enough so people think Silicon Valleys blacklisting of conservatives is not bias.

  5. Q R Post author

    You are the most hypocritical company out here and you are trying to downplay this problem

  6. Acrimonious Mirth Post author

    I’m sorry, I can’t stop laughing. You look like Harry Potter and Dobby has a secret love child and I know it’s mean but I just can’t help seeing it xD

  7. parth mache Post author

    Verge should stick only to tech reviews they should not go technical or political. It is not a thing for reviwevers its way above thier intellectual level.

  8. satyam chouhan Post author

    hey man actually u r biased …
    u r actually saying biased is not biased😂😂😂

  9. Alan Coman Post author

    Firing James D'Amore did it for me. YT is the only Google thing I use except for some Google stuff for work. DuckDuckGo baby – just as good as Google and they don't track you.

  10. KEY O BEATS Post author

    The big tech companies are very biased their mostly LIBERALS, their. Censoring conservatives speech for so called hate speech. They are going use that as a Pretext to censor everyone who oppose their even liberals. They trying make the internet like tv , filter water down information when finally get to the individual. We have multi billionaire
    Dictating what hate speech to regular people , nothing can go wrong

  11. Canadian Man Post author

    As an old schooled programmer who programmed in Assembler amongst a ton of other languages, I can tell you that Search Engines are simply programs that look for keywords called Meta tags, they can be programmed to be biased , the only way to be sure is to take their source code, compile it, then analyze the source program to see if bias exists.

  12. Edward Estillore Post author

    Is it just me or does it look like that he has a notch?

  13. Bacall McElroy Post author

    moderating harassment and hate speech isn’t bias.

  14. Ryan Anetsberger Post author

    What does this have to do with Disney changing Netflix? You just talked about how we’re gonna pay more

  15. Tom Post author

    No doubt they’re biased. Not even biased, but super biased.

  16. Haruglory131 Post author

    That long sleeve button up just looks so uncomfortable on ya

  17. Veronica Doniel Post author

    The fact these powerful people have no qualms about lieing to the world is disturbing.

  18. Luke Page Post author

    To be fair Congress are idiots, have you seen the questions they asked?

  19. Spam Mail Post author

    There is a simple solution. Open-sourcing the algorithm. It just won’t ever happen, because even we, the users are so bound to these companies, that we won’t stand up for it. Obviously there is no way to not be biased, therefore we need full transparency! We need to exactly know what is being promoted and hidden through these algorithms. This needs to be a basic right in a modern democratic society.

  20. patrick jackson Post author

    My opinion or well what we see in reality is that congress is full of a bunch of older people who may not understand technology but at the same time we do see how bias companies are. Look at amazon Alexa. Steven crowder did an episode asking Alexa questions and how she answered was biased based on what values the company holds whether it’s political or not. Political bias is worse with companies because whether it’s faults or not they will shove it down your throat.

  21. Jay Post author

    Governments and high profile individuals can request Google to make certain searches a bit harder to appear. And Google does manipulate their search suggestions and results to cater to these requests. For example, if you type "Hillary clinton email" on google search, the autocomplete suggestion does not make any reference at all about her email scandal. But when you search "Hillary Clinton email" on other search engines like duckduckgo or start page, there will be myriads of autocomplete suggestions about her email scandal. So Google does engage in data manipulation and political censorship.

  22. 陈君 Post author

    Google is biased. Just search Ralph Northam on YouTube now. And you see YouTube put on news feed to help separate Ralph from Dem. have you seen them do that to Trump or anyone on the RIGHT? Why is YouTube acting like they are DemTube

  23. Snabbe_Fabbe Post author

    Does google personalize my search results based on my previous search history etc.? Is it like facebook in that sense?

  24. Nanduri Bharrath Post author

    Nothing much explained here, just information dumping

  25. Amy amy Post author

    does block chain help to solve the biases within social media

  26. Night Shades Post author

    Usually don't like The Verge but you guys did some good here! 😀
    Thanks for calling out Google.

  27. Rachel X. Post author

    I don't want Google censoring or weighing results just because it's decided it's a lie or that I wouldn't like it, etc. I'LL be the judge of that! Google just needs to do its job and show honest results like we expect.

  28. oO battlechaser Oo Post author

    Maybe there needs to be a conservative social media platform? Imagine how much money fb and twitter will lose when all the conservatives leave.

  29. Kevin Bradshaw Post author

    Our stupidity and gullibility is biased, not Google.

  30. Dennis Nelson Post author

    10 s of millions of us know who and what you are. Make all the reasons you can find. But we no longer trust any of you. Time's up! Game's over!

  31. Ringo Nordstrom Post author

    "Conservative news sites" — that last comment was a contrivance, total lie.

  32. Jack Deman Post author

    Yea, Give me a Good Reason WHY YOU Killed Google Plus…?

  33. Capt Chemo Post author

    LOL I just noticed this was posted by the verge which is biased.

  34. Kathy McBride Post author

    you got an example of googles political bias firstly they showed antifa as victims then they rubbished two right of centra there puting females and black above the best football vologgers bbc systematically market blacks over whites and every other country on bbc football and they should seperate childrens stuff from adults another thing you want to look at the premier leauge tables its like a black dating site you both systematically worked in the intrests of feminists at the expence of white boys for two decades your disscusting

  35. Carlos Aguiar Post author

    conservative / right Wing content = Hate Speech

  36. landy concepcion Post author

    Google is not biased it's the people stop blaming a machine.

  37. branch Post author

    actually a pretty impartial take on a typically-hyperpatiian subject

  38. UnknownPersonality Post author

    Sometimes I question if Congress really should be the ones asking these questions, when they also just seem to be reacting like angry reactive users who don't even understand how complicated the platform is.

  39. Ferintosh Farms Photography Post author

    Ooooooooooh he said the thing.

  40. Bugler55 Post author

    @2:00 That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Often I'll be looking for a website or article which ISN'T popular or heavily linked, but my search terms are exact. Instead, it steers you over to the latest content aggregation machine with a similar sounding topic.

  41. e causey Post author


  42. David Agiel81 Post author

    Well, Project Veritas just confirmed it.

  43. LagiNaLangAko23 Post author

    I'd like to see how Verge would defend Google after that Google exex basically admitted that the company has taken it to itself to prevent Trump winning in 2020.

  44. Edwin M Post author

    It's not about the one time I searched for something, it's about the hundreds of times myself and billions of others search for something. As well as the subtle tweaking of Google's algorithm to affect THEIR (and obviously your) desired outcome.

  45. Ablazing FPV Post author

    Verge…. ever heard of PROJECT MOCKINGBIRD?

  46. Ablazing FPV Post author

    More like VERGE trying to cover up for their buddies at Google because they all work for the big boss at the top of the pyramid…..

  47. Noah Namey Post author

    Google is trying to manipulate the elections.
    Google needs to be broken up.

  48. FireCracker101 Post author

    Duckduckgo is a better search engine than Google.

  49. A Neophyte Post author

    You seem to be speaking about intent, when you should be addressing results. You can fathom a lot about the real intent by looking at the results. With this you can ignore their spoken intent.

  50. Norm Allyn *IM A MAAM* Walkstrong Post author

    Funny how I was watching a video about corrupt google execs being grilled and then this video, explaining how "people are wrong and google isnt really manipulating the search" just popped outta nowhere in the my recommended section. Yeah, thanks for enlightening us, GOOLAG.

  51. Brett Bensley Post author

    the only way to be truly neutral is to do NOTHING!!!!

  52. Russell Schiwal Post author

    This story didn't age well. How much did Google pay you?

  53. aric theodorson Post author

    Lets see now irrelevant this video is now as of June 28th this current year

  54. Rev Jonathan Wint Post author


  55. Richard A Post author

    Yes so much more complicated than we think trying to effectively change the outcome of the 2020 election they shouldn’t be broke up they should be prosecuted for election meddling and much more!!

  56. A Peppermint Candy Post author

    Sundar Pixhai is so creepy.A calculated shrew.He is so good at not answering questions,just like that other creep-Zuckerberg.

  57. Edwin M Post author

    1:45 "it really doesn't have anything to do with Google…" so, first you have to buy into that, and then everything else makes sense.

  58. carguy Post author

    Google is fast becoming a massivly evil company. Ironic… Considering it's original mission statement. If you find a way to edit free speech in any way you are evil!

  59. André Post author

    Just here to say I LOVE this show so much… and The Verge <3

  60. Five Coin Animations Post author

    Me: I have a 16GB storage phone
    Settings: reserves 8GB for nothing.
    Me: >:(

  61. Arvind Hasti Post author

    This video just repeats all known information, no analysis or report that are worth knowing

  62. Lit3 Plumber Post author

    A simple solution would be to find BOTH (if not more) sides of one argument, which are both valid.

  63. JeepDan777 Post author

    Here is the explanation in a nutshell.
    man invented google google is controlled by men. Google itself decides nothing, algorithms are set by men. Mostly liberal men.

  64. Victor Hugo Post author

    youtube uses your comments, like harvested for companies at a huge profit for the data

  65. R Stone Post author

    It is. Google any data regarding race and crime and you will not be able to get fed data

  66. Captain Post author

    google force there views on people. 10 years ago you could find anything related to your search now everything is pushed towards politics mainstream science mainstream medicine google will collapse over this all someone gotta do is bring an old search engine back and make it popular.

  67. ULISES GARCIA Post author

    This video is basically saying google is biased while giving biased left leaning examples.

  68. Brad Johnson Post author

    Here is my 'routine' experience when using google. I hear about some major news story so I google it and seven or eight news agencies are listed on the first page of search results and even though Fox News is the NUMBER ONE cable news channel I won't see their story on the first page. That happens perhaps 85% of the time. Try it yourself. That is my personal proof of their obvious bias.


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