If you search ‘Idiot Prime Minister’ on Google, various pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are thrown up by the tech giant for references. Now, while this would crack up many in India guffawing, it surely isn’t going to go well with Sena of Modi’s supporters.
‘Top 10 criminals in the world’
In June 2015, the internet was on fire, when Google search for ‘Top 10 criminals in the world’ showed pictures of Narendra Modi along with criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and Al Capone. This particularly disturbed the right-wing leaning social media users and even amused the Opposition. Things got out of hand and Google had to issue a clarification.
“World’s Most Stupid Prime Ministers”
Something similar happened when a search for “World’s Most Stupid Prime Ministers” showed Narendra Modi along with other leaders like David Cameron, Tony Abbot and even former leaders like Lee Kuan Yew.
However, everything happens for a reason. Right?
So here is why PM Modi shows up repeatedly in such negative searches on Google.
Sundar Pichai, tech giant Google’s top boss, recently attended the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing on ‘Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices’. The Conservative-heavy Congress wanted to know if Google’s search engines were specifically designed to bury conservative websites and biased against conservative voices on the internet.
In the middle of a congressional hearing about privacy and data collection, Republican Zoe Lofgren, performed a live search from the dais when he typed the word “idiot” and the image results in the search engine showed up pictures of the US President, Donald Trump.
Pichai was asked to explain:
“If you Google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. How would that happen? How does search work so that image would occur?”
Google’s CEO tried to explain to an audience, which apparently was not that tech savvy, how the algorithms take into account some 200 factors – such as relevance, popularity, how others are using the search term – to determine how to best match a query with results. Pichai even offered a long, general explanation of how Google search works:
“Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of [websites’] pages in our index. And we take the keyword and match it against their 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 search results for that query. And then we evaluate them with external raters, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines. And that’s how we make sure the process is working”.
To this, Lofgren asked sarcastically,
“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user?”
Pichai once again reiterated that this was working at scale and as a company, they did not intervene manually on any particular search result.
Moving further, Republican Steve King embarrassed himself when he asked Pichai a question that wasn’t just irrelevant to the hearing, but also displayed his utmost ignorance in the field of technology.
King asked Pichai why his 7-year-old granddaughter’s iPhone was spammed with images of him surrounded by questionable language and imagery while she was playing a kids’ game.
To which the Google chief replied,
“Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company. And so, you know, I mean…”
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 11, 2018
Sundar Pichai, 46, was born in Chennai. A graduate from the IIT Kharagpur, he joined Google in 2004 and after a decade in 2015, he was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the global technology brand.
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