Google, the world’s largest search engine company, has again been accused of conservative bias.
This all came to light during a CBS 60 Minutes investigation into the handling of political ads on YouTube, specifically about 300 created by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign that were subsequently removed without a reason given. When questioned about this, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki said, “There are ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube. (Examples are) available in our transparency report.”
In a demonstration of real journalism, 60 Minutes, in addition to breaking the story, shared that a review of the report didn’t provide any answers as to why the videos were removed.
When asked about conservative bias on YouTube, Wojcicki responded, “Well, first of all there are lots of very successful conservative creators on YouTube. … Our systems, our algorithms, they don’t have any concept of understanding what’s a Democrat, what’s a Republican. They don’t have any concept of political bias built into them in any way. And we do hear criticism from all sides. We also have people who come from more liberal backgrounds who complain about discrimination. And so, I think that no matter who you are, we are trying to enforce our policies in a consistent way for everybody.”
That might all sound well and good, but there is a major problem. Algorithms are created by people—the systems don’t magically come into existence. Machines and programs, in theory, shouldn’t have any political, personal or cultural bias, but the humans who created them sure do.
It’s almost impossible to write, create or do anything without some sort of bias. Despite a person’s best efforts, their biases and beliefs almost always come through in one way or another. It’s likely that this has happened at Google as well. To ignore the possibility of bias in Google’s algorithm is to deny human nature.
Besides, some conservative creators have been targeted by YouTube for content. Steven Crowder, a political commentator, had his page demonetized earlier this year because of complaints by gay-identified journalist Carlos Maza of Vox. YouTube initially stated that Crowder’s content was “hurtful” but “didn’t violate our policies.” Maza continued his campaign and was successfully able to get Crowder’s page demonetized, which meant that Crowder could not make any advertising revenue from the videos he posted. (The situation was covered by The Daily Citizen in June.)
The problem with the Crowder/Maza affair was that YouTube was both inconsistent in the distribution of its policies and demonstrated political bias. YouTube’s initial assessment of the situation was correct, but then it bowed to the liberal mob. It’s probably not a coincidence that YouTube removed most of those 300 videos in the summer, around the time of this whole incident.
Big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have a profound influence on our lives, perhaps more than we even realize. It’s frightening to consider how political bias impacts the algorithm and what the public sees on a day-to-day basis. As 2020 approaches, it will become more and more apparent that only certain views, opinions and political beliefs will be accepted in the public space.
Instead of these big tech companies determining what is considered appropriate speech, perhaps the American public can determine for themselves what ideas are worthy or unworthy of consideration. It’s big tech’s job to help disseminate information, not determine whether it is true, false, unacceptable, hurtful or what have you. We may need technology, but we don’t need big brother.