If the Damore lawsuit correctly describes an aggressively leftist culture at Google, the human input into the algorithms can be expected to favor the leftist worldview. That may lead to overcorrection – and to the burying of alternative views, noxiously right-wing or even mainstream conservative. When I type “women are” in the Google search window, the first suggestion I get is “women are always right.” How do I know this is not the result of the personal bias of someone who tweaked the suggestion algorithm?
When I type “the earth is,” the first suggestion is “flat”; while this is probably a manifestation of algorithmic bias, I don’t really want it to be overcorrected – it might be fun for a lot of people to be unexpectedly exposed to the lively flat-earther community, even if they may be disinclined to join it.
Google’s search algorithms are a black box to the public. People inside the company can mess with them without telling us, potentially imposing their internal culture on millions of searchers who have no reason and no desire to share it. This world includes Trump supporters and Antifa activists, creationist pastors and evolutionary biologists, climate change deniers and people who consider them evil. It’s not up to an internet search company to try to level these differences. But if that company fosters a work culture in which a certain worldview dominates, can its products be trusted to be neutral?
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece about the lawsuit brought against Google by James Damore. The key part of the editorial, though, goes to the heart of why I chose to share this. Google’s inherent bias in corporate culture lends itself to naturally produce those same biases in its search algorithms.