“It’s hard to say, but I do not think you can create algorithms that identify which information is false and which is not” explains Pandu Nayak, vice president of the Google department responsible for the search tool, the most widely used in the world
There are very obvious examples, but there are gray areas that are more difficult to identify and would require the investigative work of specialized journalists. “As Google sees it impossible to filter and remove the false information so that it disappears from its search results, what it has done is position “better” the “relevant” information that comes from “authorized sources.”
“We have made a great effort to protect our users,” says Nayak. Until recently, when you asked Google “When Did the Holocaust happen? “The first result corresponded to a denialist page; After the changes incorporated, the first result now is the Holocaust Museum of the United States. In 2017 alone, the company executed a total of 2,500 changes in its search engine algorithm, an average of six a day. “A search product is by definition an unfinished product, there is always room for improvement, “he explains in an interview with Efe Pandu Nayak.
More controversy generated last year the search for “idiot” in its image search engine: most of the images that resulted were from the president of the United States, Donald Trump. Although in principle these results were attributed to a case of ‘spam’ – groups of users trying to trick the system to promote content – the person in charge of the tool said so. He denies: “It was not ‘spam’, but articles from quality sources that referred to the president as an idiot.
Even so, I think they were not good results and we try to improve them, “he explains.” I know that our search tool is not perfect, but we are committed to improving it, “adds Pandu. The irony is that so many media gathered this episode that, currently, the results are still Trump. Positioning is not done by hand, Google has an index with trillions of webs -and an algorithm decides the order based on variables: words, links to other pages, the location or the search language, among others. In addition to this episode, Trump also accused Google last year of manipulating its search engine to silence the conservative media, something that the Mountain View company has repeatedly denied.
The team that runs Nayak has training to avoid, not only to avoid any ideological bias in the configuration of the search engine. The company also tries to promote the diversity of the Quipos, a particularly sensitive issue after criticism of the macho culture (“bro culture”) that prevails in Silicon Valley companies, says the manager. The leader who daily deals with the news of what happens around the world: “15 percent of the questions that are recorded every day are completely new”
“The world is constantly changing and people are very curious, not only about what happens in the world, but also about what happens at the local level” , points. The search engine has changed a lot since it was released more than twenty years ago (1997), but searches have also changed: before people searched for one or two words, now the questions are “more complex” and expressions are used of the colloquial language. “The certain thing is that the questions are every time the questions are more and more difficult”.
Also published on Medium.