There is absolutely no doubt that Google is the premier search platform in the world and that their earlier promotion of a free and open internet was admirable. Since Google does not own the great majority of the content it indexes, there may be legal issues in how such content is classified for search purposes.
Since Google has become the behemoth of search, we find that they appear to be going out of their way to preserve their government relations, both to secure lucrative contracts and to ensure access to large segments of the worldwide population.
Improve “quality” or engage in social engineering …
Google is trying to improve the quality of its search results by directing review teams to flag content that might come across as upsetting or offensive.
With the change, content with racial slurs could now get flagged under a new category called "upsetting-offensive." So could content that promotes hate or violence against a specific group of people based on gender, race or other criteria.
While flagging something doesn't directly affect the search results themselves, it's used to tweak the company's software so that better content ranks higher. This approach might, for instance, push down content that is inaccurate or has other questionable attributes, thereby giving prominence to trustworthy sources.
The review teams — comprised of contractors known as "quality raters" — already comb through websites and other content to flag questionable items such as pornography.
Google added "upsetting-offensive" in its latest guidelines for quality raters. Google declined to comment on the changes, which were reported in the blog Search Engine Land and elsewhere.
The guidelines , which run 160 pages, are an interesting look into how Google ranks the quality of its search results. For instance, it gives examples of "high-quality" pages, such as the home page of a newspaper that has "won seven Pulitzer Prize awards," and "low-quality" pages, such as an article that includes "many grammar and punctuation errors."
The guidelines cite an example of "Holocaust history" as a search query. A resulting website listing "Top 10 reasons why the holocaust didn't happen" would get flagged.
The new "upsetting-offensive" flag instructs quality raters to "flag to all web results that contain upsetting or offensive content from the perspective of users in your locale, even if the result satisfies the user intent." So even if the results are what the person searched for, such as white supremacist websites, they could still get flagged. But it doesn't mean the results won't show up at all when someone searches for them.
- So where is the tipping point where conventional wisdom, popular opinions and the science of the day override content that is contrarian or extremely critical?
- Where is the point where individual cultures and ethnic minorities are allowed to own common English words for the purposes of ascribing motivations to those who use those words?
- Whose sensibilities will be used to determine content ranking and status and what makes them qualified arbiters?
By common sensibilities, most rap music should be marked as “offensive” as it uses inflammatory rhetoric, impolite words, fetes anti-social behavior including the killing of law endorsement officers, and clearly demonstrates misogyny. Or do they get a pass because they are Black? Does labeling a foul-mouthed individual who is spouting reprehensible (in someone’s opinion) get as pass when someone labels the individual an artist or the work as art, social commentary, or comedy?
When will “cultural appropriation” become a thing to be regulated?
Bottom line …
This is a crock. By not listing offensive content, one is not given the opportunity to know which people are despicable and whose content should be avoided. Google’s search engine should be blind and agnostic, not an instrument of social engineering or thought police. And if Google persists in becoming a government agent, perhaps there should be a wider investigation of their findings and the disposition of those findings when sifting through people's emails and documents to allow a “better user experience.” Perhaps it is about time to consider Google as an anti-trust, anti-competitive target.
We are so screwed.
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius