As Google has come under fire for search suggestions like “are women evil” or actual results questioning whether The Holocaust happened, those who oversee its search engine aren’t ignoring the issue. They’re just taking time to figure out the best and most comprehensive response.
This week, I met with several engineers and executives involved with Google’s search results, including Ben Gomes, vice president of core search. There’s no question that Google has heard the concerns. There’s no question those within Google itself are disturbed by what’s being raised. But the desire is to find solutions that are generally defensible, rooted in policy and which can be implemented through algorithms, as much as possible.
In a statement Google gave me after our meeting, it said:
The goal of search is to provide the most relevant and useful results for our users. Clearly, we don’t always get it right, but we continually work to improve our algorithms. This is a really challenging problem, and something we’re thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job. Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web. The fact that hate sites appear in Search results in no way means that Google endorses these views.
Google won’t go on the record about what it may do, largely because it’s not even certain yet what that will be, only that it knows it needs to do something. It has two chief challenges: dealing with autocomplete and changing actual rankings.