The House Judiciary Committee spent three-and-a-half hours on Tuesday grilling Google CEO Sundar Pichai. But instead of advancing public discourse on antitrust laws, consumer privacy, Big Tech’s role in our democracy and censorship in China, lawmakers languished in debate over whether Google is biased against conservatives.
GOP members accused the Mountain View firm of downplaying right-leaning websites in search rankings. Democrats used much of their time refuting those assertions.
And when he wasn’t correcting dumb misconceptions revealing the rudimentary knowledge many congress members still have about the tech industry, Pichai kept a straight face while answering even the most facetious lines of questioning.
Like a query from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose, which went viral.
“Right now,” she said, “if you Google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen?”
Pichai offered a lengthy, generalized explanation:
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.
“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user?” Lofgren replied sarcastically.
In related news, the word “idiot” was the most-searched word on Google today.
Watch the C-Span footage of the hearing below.