Amid Google CEO Sundar Pichai's testimony Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee on privacy and other issues, Business Insider reported that committee Republicans alleged the internet giant is biased against conservatives and that Democrats at Google choose liberal websites over conservative ones for prime placement on search.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The committee held a hearing on 'Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
But Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California — who represents the 19th Congressional District, which is where Google is based — pushed back by giving Pichai a chance to demonstrate why Google search results aren't biased, the outlet said.
And she used President Donald Trump to get her point across.
What did the congresswoman ask?
"Manipulation of search results, I think it's important to talk about how search works," Lofgren said, according to Business Insider. "Right now, if you Google the word 'idiot,' under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that."
Indeed, a screenshot taken just after 1 p.m. Tuesday with that same search criteria displayed a bevy of Trump images at the top of the page:
Image source: Google
"How would that happen?" Lofgren asked Pichai, the outlet said. "How does search work so that would occur?"
How did Google's CEO respond?
Business Insider offered the CEO's full response:
We provide search today for any time you type in a key word, we as Google, we have crawled and stored copies of billions of web pages in our index. We take the keyword and match it against web pages and rank them based on over 200 signals. Things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it, and based on that, at any given time we try to rank and find the best results for that query. Then we evaluate them with external raters, to make sure, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines, and ... that's how we make sure the process is working.
"So it's not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we're going to show the user, it's basically a compilation of what users are generating and trying to sort through that information," Logfren replied, the outlet said.
"Last year we served over 3 trillion searches, just as a fact, every single day," Pichai responded, Business Insider noted. "Fifteen percent of the searches Google sees, we have never seen them before. So this is working at scale. We don't manually intervene on any search result."
What did GOP committee members have to say?
Several committee Republicans — including Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who chairs the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — said there is "political bias baked into" Google's culture, the outlet said.
GOP Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio said he needed to go to the third or fourth page of search results to find positive coverage of the Affordable Care Act repeal bill, Business Insider reported: "You had to go deep into the search results. I know Google's attitude, the algorithm made us do it, I don't know if I buy that."