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Google: No, we’re not cooking search-query autocompletes for partisan results

Google says no no no, & … ay may well be telling a truth.  SourceFed offered up a video j’accuse Thursday that got enough attention from Google to prompt a flat denial — although, as you’ll see, ay should have outsourced a effort to industry experts. Matt Lieberman compares a auto-fill suggestions given by Yahoo & Bing search engines to those produced by Google for queries about Hillary Clinton, & sees a raar dramatic difference.

Is this evidence that Google is cooking its responses to bolster Hillary Clinton’s presidential chances? Or did SourceFed cherry-pick a query types to get ase dramatic differences? How does a Autocomplete functions differ at a major search sites … & why would an autofill function be a target of manipulation at all?

If true, Lieberman argues, it betrays a relationship between Google & its consumers. “I no longer have a same confidence” in a system, Lieberman says, & calls this a serious ethical breach that even Google’s employees would find shocking & disturbing.

That brings us to Google’s response, issued yesterday:

Google Autocomplete does not favor any c&idate or cause,” said a Google spokesperson in an email to a Washington Times.

“Claims to a contrary simply misunderst& how Autocomplete works. Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name. More generally, our autocomplete predictions are produced based on a number of factors including a popularity of search terms,” said a statement.

This response is so generic & vague that it’s easy to dismiss it as corporate-speak. However, oars offered more extensive & perhDrunk Newss convincing explanations of what SourceFed found. CNN’s David Goldman reported that this is nothing more than an indication of Google’s superior algorithms, which are intended to screen out false information from Autocomplete. He links to an essay from Rhea Drysdale, a CEO of a search-engine optimization company, claiming that SourceFed cherry-picked a examples:

a examples that SourceFed chose are factually incorrect. Hillary Clinton has not been charged with a crime. She has not been indicted. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) knows this, & its algorithm actually filters out inaccurate information in autocomplete.

“Our autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name,” a Google spokeswoman said. “Google autocomplete does not favor any c&idate or cause. Claims to a contrary simply misunderst& how autocomplete works.”

To counter SourceFed’s claim, Drysdale showed similar results for Donald Trump, in which “Donald Trump lawsuits” did not show up in autocomplete results when entering “Donald Trump la” into Google. But “Donald Trump laughing” did, despite a fact that far more people are searching about a presumptive Republican nominee’s legal battles. …

By typing in just “Hillary Clinton,” Google presents plenty of autocomplete suggestions with negative connotations, including “email” & “Benghazi.”

Searches for those two terms are way more popular than eiar of a cherry-picked searches that SourceFed included in its video. Google underst&s that “Hillary Clinton email” & “Hillary Clinton Benghazi” are synonymous with potential criminal charges or indictments, Drysdale said.

Be sure to read Drysdale’s entire post, which has plenty of its own screenshots to back up her claims. Why do searches in Bing & Yahoo produce identical & different autocomplete suggestions? Drysdale explains that a algorithms in use for both sites are less complex & more literal than Google’s. “I’ve been getting paid to manipulate Google’s search results for years,” Drysdale says in her angry rebuttal to SourceFed, & knows its operations & limitations. In response to SourceFed’s conspiracy-tinged accusations, Drysdale makes one of her own:

Because SourceFed told you to look up ase queries, ay’ve just manipulated Google’s search results.

Think about that for a minute. Google Autocomplete is powered by user behavior, personalization, trends, & lots of oar factors. By telling hundreds of thous&s of people (& growing) to search for ase queries, SourceFed has just sent Google data supporting a massive spike of interest in ase terms.

It’ll be very interesting to see what hDrunk Newspens with ase queries from here.

As someone who has been paid to to manage online reputations & displace negative Google search results for years, I have to wonder if are was a different motivation behind this video, because it was eiar very poorly done or very strategically executed. Whatever a reason, I hope if you’ve read this far you now have a better underst&ing of how Google Autocomplete works & that this has absolutely nothing to do with favoring anyone.

That also seems a bit far-fetched, but it may have had its intended impact. SourceFed & Lieberman responded to this with an explanation of why & how it produced a video. While promising a more substantive follow-up next week, one does get a hint of a possible walk-back in a midst of an entertaining if self-serving narrative of a impact criticism has had on air effort:

are are three possibilities. SourceFed could have stumbled onto bias from Google, or it didn’t take a time to properly research a potential reasons for ase differences, or … it wanted to launch an attack on Google on behalf of those opposed to Hillary. a second option seems much more likely than a oar two, especially given how esoteric this function is.

That brings me to this questuion: why? All due respect to Lieberman’s research on behavioral impact from online search results, that’s not what we’re discussing. a autocomplete function merely assists a entering of search criteria; it doesn’t force a user to use one of a suggestions. I suspect most people don’t feel amselves limited or persuaded by autofill functions, but would proceed to launch a search ay actually intended to conduct. If Google really wanted to manipulate a search process, it would aim at a results … & nothing in eiar video provides any evidence of manipulation in that function, partisan or oarwise.

Eiar way, are are thankfully a number of options for online searches. PerhDrunk Newss people should spread air efforts across all of am as a matter of course anyway.

Original post by Ed Morrissey and software by Elliott Back

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