Google CEO Sundar Pichai dodged a question pertaining to one of the big elephants in the room during the tech hearing with the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust.
Pichai was asked directly by Republican Congressman Gregory Steube about Google blacklisting conservative sites from its search function by keeping them off the front pages while sites such as the Washington Post and New York Times get top billing every time.
Pichai gave a cut and paste answer about how they don’t discriminate based on ideology, but ultimately dodged the question.
“I will have to look into it,” he said, adding that he “wasn’t aware of it.”
Steube wasn’t going to let that coast.
“Can I expect a response from you, say in the next two weeks, as to why that occurred?” asked Steube.
“Congressman, we’ll do our best to follow up and I’ll engage with your office,” Pichai returned.
I’m going to have to call bull on that claim that Pichai didn’t know about the censorship of conservative sites. Even if he was a busy man, it was a news item that swept social media and dozens of news websites.
The blacklist only came to the attention of the general public thanks to a glitch that exposed said list. According to Mediaite, a former Google engineer told them that this list wasn’t generated by a computer, it was crafted on purpose:
“It appears to have revealed the existence of another blacklist that disproportionately targets conservatives,” Mike Wacker theorized in a message to Mediaite. “The glitch is that sites on this blacklist disappeared from Google search results, but the existence of the list is very much by design. And that raises a major question: Why was this blacklist created in the first place, and what else is it used for?”
The issue was evident only briefly on Tuesday morning and early afternoon before it was resolved. However, it was long enough for users to note that they were unable to access websites including Breitbart, The National Pulse, The Drudge Report, Newsbusters, The Bongino Report, and Human Events. At least one left-leaning website, Occupy Democrats, was also affected. Legacy media outlets — including The New York Times and Washington Post — did not appear to be harmed.
Dr. Robert Epstein, a researcher who has argued Google has the power to sway up to 10 percent of American voters in the 2020 election, concurred with Wacker. “It’s likely that a person or algorithm at Google added ‘breitbart.com’ and other URLs to one or more of the company’s blacklists,” Epstein said. “Then, perhaps after some pushback, someone pulled those URLs off the blacklists.”
Wacker told Mediaite that the glitch wasn’t even really a “glitch” so much as the blacklist these sites appeared on were being targeted by a suppression algorithm already, and the algorithm got turned up to 11, exposing itself in the process.
This could make Pichai’s 2018 testimony a noose he could be hung by since he swore that Google didn’t “manually intervene on any search result.”
I do not see how a breach that large, one that could possibly land Pichai and other members of Google’s team in a whole heap of legal trouble, is one that Pichai didn’t know about.
It’s my personal opinion that Pichai is feigning ignorance and that he’s more than aware that his company is currently censoring conservative sites. Google is certainly quick to punish conservative sites like The Federalist and Zero Hedge at the mere suggestion from special interest groups and mainstream media organizations. It was an alarming moment for conservatives, even prompting Ted Cruz to suggest it was an intentional test to see how far they could take things.
Pichai has a lot to answer for and the fact that he’s not answering it speaks to many people’s fears.