Asked how an image search for the word “idiot” produced pictures of President Donald Trump, Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended his company’s search results at a House hearing on Tuesday.
Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told Pichai that she had just performed a Google image search for “idiot,” which produced a picture of Pres. Trump, and asked why that happened:
“Manipulation of search results. I think it’s important to talk about how search works. Right now, if you Google the word 'idiot,' under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen? How does search work so that that would occur?"
Pichai explained that Google’s analytical process “tried to rank and find the best results for that query,” which were then evaluated by the company’s “external rankers”:
“We provide search for any time you type in a keyword. We, as Google, we have crawled, we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of pages in our index and we take the keyword and match it against the pages and grant them based on our 200 signals; things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it, and based on that, you know, at any given time, we tried to rank and find the best results for that query.
“And, then, we evaluate them with external raters to make sure that, and they evaluate it through objective guidelines, and that’s how we make sure the process is working.”
Pichai, then, explained that fifteen percent of Google’s daily search requests have never been previously encountered:
“Last year, we served over three trillion searches. And, just as a fact, every single day, fifteen percent of the searches Google sees, we have never seen them before. So, this is working at scale. And, you know, we don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”