Mike Wacker, a former Google software engineer who was fired after speaking out against “outrage mobs,” believes that Google CEO Sundar Pichai lied when he told Congress, “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result.”
He cites a number of events following Pichai’s appearance in Congress which appear to show that Google manually manipulates many of its search results. These events include:
- December 14, 2018: Slate writer April Glaser claims that Google-owned YouTube changed its search results for “abortion” by removing anti-abortion content after she contacted YouTube and complained that anti-abortion videos were dominated the search results.
- January 16, 2019: Breitbart News publishes an article uncovering the existence of a YouTube blacklist and featuring leaked emails from Wacker who was still working at Google when the article was published. The blacklist causes normal search results for any term on the list to be blacklisted and replaced with an alternative set of search results. The article showed that the terms “abortion” and “abortions” were added to this blacklist after Glaser’s complaint to YouTube.
- April 9, 2019: The Daily Caller reports that Google has another blacklist which filters out “problematic” results.
- June 11, 2019: The Daily Caller reports on two more Google blacklists which block certain pages and domains from appearing in some of Google’s search results.
Wacker argues that not only do these blacklists contradict Pichai’s statement to Congress but they’re also problematic and points to the way they’ve been used in two previous elections. He notes that:
- During the 2018 US midterm elections, Congresswoman Maxine Waters was added to the YouTube blacklist, meaning that people who searched for her name were presented with alternative results whereas people who searched for her opponent, Omar Navarro, saw normal search results
- During the 2018 Irish abortion referendum, multiple terms related to abortion were added to the YouTube blacklist, meaning that alternative search results for many abortion-related queries were presented to users during this referendum
Wacker concludes that based on this information, it’s clear that Pichai did not tell the truth to Congress when he said Google does not manually intervene in its search results. He believes that Pichai misled Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren during his testimony and that Pichai’s false statements obstructed Congressional oversight of Google.
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While Wacker is not sure if Pichai deliberately misled Congress, he suggests that it’s likely Pichai was aware of these blacklists because the Google policy documents for one of these blacklists was approved by Senior VP Ben Gomes who reports directly to Pichai.
Wacker’s statements come in the wake of YouTube using questionable privacy complaints as the basis for removing a video exposing Google’s biased artificial intelligence (AI). Like the internal blacklists, this biased AI manipulates Google and YouTube’s search results by amplifying certain types of content while suppressing content Google doesn’t want people to see.