In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”
The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.
The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.
Google has “huge teams” working on manual interventions in search results, an apparent contradiction of sworn testimony made to Congress by CEO Sundar Pichai, according to an internal post leaked to Breitbart News.
“There are subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content,” said Daniel Aaronson, a member of Google’s Trust & Safety team.
“Now, these words are highly subjective and no one denies that. But we can all agree generally, lines exist in many cultures about what is clearly okay vs. what is not okay.”
“In extreme cases where we need to act quickly on something that is so obviously not okay, the reactive/manual approach is sometimes necessary.”
The comments came to light in a leaked internal discussion thread, started by a Google employee who noticed that the company had recently changed search results for “abortion” on its YouTube video platform, a change which caused pro-life videos to largely disappear from the top ten results.
In addition to the “manual approach,” Aaronson explained that Google also trained automated “classifiers” – algorithms or “scalable solutions” that corrects “problems” in search results.
Aaronson listed three areas where either manual interventions or classifier changes might take place: organic search (“The bar for changing classifiers or manual actions on span in organic search is extremely high”), YouTube, Google Home, and Google Assistant.
Aaronson’s post also reveals that there is very little transparency around decisions to adjust classifiers or manually correct controversial search results, even internally. Aaronson compared Google’s decision-making process in this regard to a closely-guarded “Pepsi Formula.”
These comments, part of a longer post copied below, seem to contradict Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s sworn congressional testimony that his company does not “manually intervene on any particular search result.”
According to an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source within the company, a Google employee took issue with Pichai’s remarks, stating that it “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists.”