The latest earnings report from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, demonstrates that the company is still a cash cow, but it does nothing to allay fears about the intrusive role “big data” plays in our lives. Nor does it provide respite from serious credibility problems facing the company’s leadership.
For instance, Google CEO Sundar Pichai may have lied to Congress. Pichai testified in December before the House Judiciary Committee, where members grilled him about transparency, data collection, and how Google filters search results. Moreover, several Republican congressmen wanted answers about political and ideological bias.
The plaintive Pichai was unequivocal. “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,” he claimed, because of the massive scale of trillions of searches each year. “It is not possible for an individual employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”
However, according to an internal discussion thread leaked by an anonymous company employee, human beings intervene in searches on a consistent basis, especially on YouTube, a subsidiary of Google. The company allegedly maintains a “blacklist” file for “controversial” terms that result in down-ranking for conservative and libertarian sources, and “whitelists” that boost positive results for liberals such as California Rep. Maxine Waters.