Mike Wacker, a former Google engineer has made repeated blockbuster claims that Google engages in manual manipulations of search results. Not only that, Mike Wacker called out CEO Sundar Pichai for lying to Congress about it.
This came on top of then-anonymous claims that he himself had been told to reorder search results.
Now, Mike Wacker has tweeted out confirmation of these and other facts.
All of this is suddenly becoming relevant as the Department of Justice commences antitrust investigations into the big tech companies including Google.
Google has been repeatedly criticized for manipulating search results, especially burying and censoring Conservative content while lifting positive results for left-wing content.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2018, CEO Sundar Pichai was asked directly by representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) if “there wasn’t some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we [Google] is going to show the user”.
Sundar Pichai said, “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result”.
Mike Wacker explained in a Medium post that he was able to find where Google had in fact altered search results regarding abortion. Google had a special file regarding blacklisted topics, and if searches regarding these topics were performed, an alternative algorithm would trigger alternative search results.
Google stated that its policy is to prevent so-called conspiracy theories from gaining steam, and to only use what it considers to be authoritative sources. It’s easy for Google to use these excuses as a fig leaf for whatever agenda it has internally, which may include trying to push one Democrat candidate lower in search results.
Yet the real kicker is that Mike Wacker discovered the blacklist was manually generated by a special Google team.
What’s relevant is whether these practices are anticompetitive and harm consumers? That’s what the criteria will be for an antitrust investigation.
That, in turn, will determine what happens with Google stock going forward.
There is an argument that this kind of behavior harms consumers. Depending on what it is that Google chooses to suppress, consumers who are searching for certain topics in regards to spending money may result in misleading information. Were not just talking about price comparison, but actual goods and services.
For example, imagine a scenario where someone wants to compare buying a gasoline powered vehicle and an electric vehicle? Research regarding environmental harm, or data related to which is the more economical choice over the long term, could be manipulated based on Google’s agenda regarding the environment.
The manipulation of search results may also be anticompetitive. Depending on any number of variables going on behind-the-scenes, Google may blacklist various types of businesses or goods or other services, for which no real basis exists.
As it is, Google has already banned advertisements for payday loans. On the one hand, one may argue that Google is a private business and can accept or reject advertisements for anything it chooses. Certainly that might be a good idea in terms of advertising for high explosives.
Yet when it comes to financial services products, payday loans have never been proven to cause consumer harm, but the powers that be at Google don’t like the product, so they ban advertising for it. That’s anticompetitive because it allows other forms of lending to advertise.
This is just another piece of evidence for the DOJ and another reason to avoid Google stock.
Last modified: June 23, 2020 2:39 PM UTC