Upon facing search-bias accusations, Pichai answers Congress Committee

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndian-American origin Google CEO Sundar Pichai was questioned by the United States Judiciary Congress Committee on ‘Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices,’ on Tuesday.

In an effort to understand how Google search algorithms work, Representative and member of the Democratic Party Zoe Lofgren asked the CEO, “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 that would occur?”

Zofgren was reacting to Republicans’ allegations that Google employees manipulate results for political reasons. The hearing mostly revealed lawmakers’ rudimentary understanding of how the internet works and provided a platform for them to complain about unfavorable search results.

The company has been accused of “political bias” as it was testified by the Congress Committee, where the chief denied all the allegations. “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests,” Pichai said.

On Tuesday he tried to explain to a roomful of people mostly tech novices, how the algorithms take into account about 200 factors – such as relevance, popularity, how others are using the search term – to determine how to best match a query with results. “We have crawled and stored copies of billions of webpages in our index and we take the keyword and match it against that 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 give the best possible results for that query,” Pichai explained.

The testifying went on for more than three hours. Prior to the hearing, Sundar Pichai submitted a written testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

During testifying, the Google chief was also questioned about their controversial project and search engine for China. He has been under pressure regarding this from the US Government and staff. With regard to the project he said, “Right now, we have no plans to launch in China. We don’t have a search product there.”

Earlier this year, in May, Google was surrounded by controversies when search results for “Pappu” showed Rahul Gandhi and “feku” showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Google was also fined $21.13 million by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for “unfair business practices and search bias” in India.

(With inputs from Agencies)