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If Google is Biased, Is There Anyway for it to Become Impartial?

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These are only my opinions and not the representation of Saintel Daily, LLC.

Next week, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai will try to convince Congress that Google’s search engine isn’t extremely biased.  He is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, where he will have to answer questions about “potential bias and the need for greater transparency” when it comes to Google’s business practices. I’m not going to get into the political side of things, because it appears to be a strategic move.  But this post is going to be about Google and whether or not it will always be biased.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy writes: “Google has created some of the most powerful and impressive technology applications.  Unfortunately, recent reports suggest Google might not be wielding its vast power impartially.  Its business practices may have been affected by political bias”.

This past summer, Donald Trump accused Google of suppressing positive news about him. To be fair, I just Googled “Donald Trump”, and none of the information that came up is particularly good.  Including an article about an undocumented Housekeep at Trump’s New Jersey golf club. But is that bias, or the truth?  That of course, is the million dollar question.  If I’m Donald Trump, then I’m going to want to do anything to stop negative news from spreading.  But what we can’t measure in anyway, is whether or not there is merit in his accusation.  Let’s look at it from a different perspective.  Google might not be suppressing the information out there on Donald Trump.  The media might be doing it consciously or unconsciously.  And right now I’d say that Trump is not well liked, so the media will use that to their advantage.

Can you blame them though?  Ok, I said I wasn’t going to make this political, so let’s get back tot he technology. More than any other infrastructure, search engines reshape the web in profound and often invisible ways. It’s a potentially frightening power, particularly when 90 percent of the market belongs to a single company. So it’s understandable to ask Google to be impartial.  But can they be impartial?  As I said, Google isn’t writing the news, but they are ranking it. Further, is government regulations necessary in this case?  I’ve said “yes” to this question in the case of Facebook, but that is to help prevent user data from being stolen or manipulated.  And I’d argue that this is slightly different.

Websites have been fighting Google over search rankings for many years.  In 2002, a site called “Search King” sued Google over a suddenly demoted PageRank score.  Courts dismissed this suit, as well as a handful of others that were very similar.  But in the late 2000s, one complaint started to gain traction. t came from Shivaun and Adam Raff, the creators of a price-comparison service called Foundem. Foundem was what’s known as a vertical search engine: one that helps users sort through specific types of information, like the cost of an airplane ticket or television. Like many niche search services, Foundem got the vast majority of its traffic from product searches on Google and other engines.

In this particular case, the European Union agreed with Foundem that they had been blacklisted, and made Google pay $2.7 billion in fines.  So is Google actually biased?  I think there is a case to make on either side of this.  Technology is developed by humans and often used by humans and definitely is subjected to those biases.  Stay tuned for what Google says to Congress on Tuesday.