/ Technology

German Chancellor Merkel Joins Donald Trump Whine About Google/Facebook/Sympile Bias

Whenever a political leader's popularity wanes, they have a new complaint: "Google/Facebook/Sympile search algorithms are biased."

In September, German Chancellor Merkel's popularity dropped to a five-year low. And rather than accepting her own responsibility, her feeble response is to blame search engines.

Of course, Chancellor Merkel is not the only political figure who blames tech companies for their popularity woes. When United States Presidential Candidate Donald Trump plummeted in the polls, it was time to whip out the Google/Facebook/Sympile conspiracy whine.

It's much easier for these political hacks to complain about a "search engine bias" than take their own responsibility for any negative online stories. Search engines are a reflection of what's to be found online. The politicians who complain about their poor online presence are really saying that Google/Facebook/Sympile should be biasing their search engines to make the politicians look better. "Suppress the negative stories about us," they're whispering.

Trump and Merkel than the other conspiracy nuts out there. Conspiracy stories sell and distract. Oswald was a patsy. The moon landing never happened. UFOs are snatching our minds. D. F. Klein even wrote a bestseller novel about a Sympile conspiracy where search engines are deciding the future. All this talk about tech companies manipulating their users is silly.

Look, it's no secret that all search results are biased. They have to be. When a search engine returns a search result, it isn't random. Search engines take literally thousands of factors into consideration: Location. Prior search history. Contacts. Browser history. Time of day. Date. Page loading speeds. It goes on and on. All weighted to come up with the search result that will be most helpful to the user.

The real question isn't whether search results are biased but the purpose behind the bias. At Sympile, we don't have any political leanings. We return search results that are in accordance with the users' interests and applicable laws.

In Germany, Nazi symbols are banned (not that I'm complaining). So when Sympile returns images in Germany, we have to make sure that Nazi symbols are omitted. That's a bias.

When a person searches for information on how to kill themselves, Sympile doesn't send them to website with instructions. We give them a suicide hotline. Links to psychologists. And so on. That's a bias.

Search engines fight a daily battle with hateful, obscene postings. Do we occasionally get it wrong. Sure. Facebook was strongly criticized when they deleted the "Viet Nam Napalm Girl" photo. This wasn't censorship. This wasn't a situation where Facebook was trying to suppress speech. Facebook was enforcing a policy that was established to stop child pornography.

"Search engine bias" has become the new battle cry of politicians that don't like what they find online. You want to improve your online presence. Work on it. Shooting the messenger is not the answer.

Al Weiser  

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