12 Essential Questions for Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai tried and failed to fend off questions about conservative bias on the world’s most-powerful search platform yesterday. The House Judiciary Committee hearing included numerous examples of congressmen trying to underscore the problems of bias.

Here are several more questions that Pichai needs to both answer and address for Google to try to become a trusted platform.

  1. Mr. Pichai – You and your colleagues have denied that the Google search engine deliberately ‘re-ranks’ search results for political purposes, but your search algorithm routinely favors one thing over another — one comparative shopping service, for example, or one political candidate. It’s designed this way, is it not?  Your company says that this ranking occurs ‘organically’ — that is, because of what users like or dislike. Ranking, by its very nature, will always favor one thing over another because of user behavior. Do you acknowledge that?  
  2. And are you aware that when your search results do favor one political candidate over another, that will shift the voting preferences of a large number of undecided voters? In other words, are you aware that your search engine has the power to determine the outcomes of many close elections worldwide, even without any deliberate re-ranking of search results by your employees?  
  3. Research suggests that Google can easily shift the voting preferences of at least 20 percent of undecided voters in this way — up to 80 percent of undecided voters in some demographic groups — entirely without people being aware they are being influenced.  How do you feel about that?
  4. Does Google have a policy regarding its ability to influence elections? If so, what is that policy? If not, what sort of policy do you think Google should have?
  5. Your election actions are disturbing on their own. We all saw or should have seen the post-2016 election video leaked to Breitbart where Google staff and executives had a collective freakout over Trump’s victory. We watched Google Co-founder Sergey Brin say that “most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad” because Trump won and it went downhill from there. How are we supposed to believe your organization is neutral in its actions when its employees are so clearly on one side?
  6. A report showed a leaked email from Google’s Multicultural Marketing department head Eliana Murillo who seemed to have been running a partisan get-out-the-vote effort to help Latinos vote for Clinton. She reportedly credited you with “a shout out and a comment in Spanish.” Were you aware of Murillo’s decisions? Did you support them? Did you try similar efforts to aid Democrats this election?
  7. A report from the Daily Caller showed a leaked communication from a Google engineer saying that your company should play a hand in reversing the 2016 election during 2020. Are you taking steps to do so? If not, what are you doing to ensure your employees aren’t taking such steps even if you don’t approve? You company has reportedly at least 85,000 workers.
  8. Google’s parent Alphabet and its staff gave more than four times as much money to Democrats than Republicans this past election. How are ordinary Americans supposed to conclude that what you do is ever going to be fair?
  9. Google employees are complaining that there isn’t much diversity of opinion. Only 12% of conservatives who work at Google believe that there are diverse political opinions at Google. Engineer James Damore was fired from Google for having the opinion that men and women functioned differently. What is Google planning to do to change this internal attitude?
  10. In 2009, Google accidentally blacklisted almost every website and effectively “shut down the internet.” Does Google have the power to shut down the internet? How do we know that Google isn’t accidentally blacklisting the wrong sites on its search engine? What are the reasons for blacklisting a site?
  11. Does Google believe it needs any legal oversight for its search algorithm, or any legal restrictions on what it can and cannot censor? If not, why not?
  12. There has been a pattern of Google blocking political ads that is disturbing. Why did Google block an ad from the Tennessee Republican Party in support of Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn ahead of the November elections? Google said the ad, which featured left-wing protesters interrupting Senator-elect Blackburn’s moment of silence for the victims of the Tree of Life shooting, too “shocking” to run. In Canada, Google also shut down the ad account of a Toronto mayoral candidate, just 48 hours before polls opened. Is Google going to revise its ad policies so it doesn’t interfere with elections?
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