Thursday, September 13, 2018

Is Google evil?

I've been trying to ignore all the fuss about whether various tech giants are trying to censor viewpoints they find unacceptable, muttering, "I don't use social media anyway," and "What can I do about it?" and "I'm not a lawyer."

But sometimes the situation forces itself upon me.

In the upcoming elections I'll have to choose between 'Beto' O'Rourke and Ted Cruz. I've been sort of lukewarmly pro-Cruz on the grounds that (a) I don't know a lot to his discredit and (b) I don't like an Irish guy (O'Rourke) who suddenly just happens to start going by the nickname 'Beto' when standing for election in a state with a large Hispanic population. However, one of the offspring is fervently pro-Beto and wants to shower us with his campaign literature. I defy anybody to figure out anything useful from campaign literature; it all reads like, "I'm for God and motherhood and my stinky opponent is against apple pie."

So I browsed around a bit, starting with, okay, the candidates' campaign websites and then following links and looking up statements to figure out what they were really saying.

In the course of this work-avoiding activity important research I came across an assertion that O'Rourke had called for impeaching President Trump. That caught my attention. It's not the kind of statement I take an opponent's word for, so I looked it up.

The search string "Beto O'Rourke impeachment" on Google got me exactly two hits. One was a link to a Politifact article, "Is Beto O'Rourke the only Senate candidate to call for Donald Trump's impeachment?" The article, as you might expect, parsed "to call for impeachment" extremely narrowly, then asserted that " nonpartisan observers said by email that while O’Rourke appeared to be the only Democratic Senate nominee to speak out for Trump’s impeachment, he was likely not the only Senate candidate to do so." On that basis they rated the claim False. Well, there's a reason I don't bother reading Politifact.

The other hit was... an article quoting the Politifact article.

Entering the same string on Bing got me page after page of hits, including such notorious right-wing sources as The Nation, The Dallas Morning News and The Hill (sarc /off) all of which quoted O'Rourke's words and interpreted them as a call for impeachment.


Calling for the impeachment of a sitting President without reference to any crime justifying that step does not endear O'Rourke to me, but it would be too casual to stop there, wouldn't it? If I'm still stuck on this blasted book tomorrow I keep researching I may find something equally annoying that Ted Cruz said.

But I'm switching my default search engine to Bing.


  1. For what it's worth, Beto was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the other night and first question up was what's with Beto. Made sense to me, and I'm not even Texan. ;-) Give it a watch:

    As for Google Search, I've rarely used it. Have set my search engine to Yahoo and on my tablet Bing is the default search. Not too sure how much difference it makes as what pops up in any search will be driven by algorithms that look for what's being talked about at the moment. For instance, if I've seen some headline that sounds off and the source is a conservative or far right site, and I search on the assertion with a few words, all that comes up for several pages is more right wing sites spouting the same assertion in the same outrageous terms. It's very difficult to finally get to a more neutral site to find out what's going on. Thus, I pretty much hate algorithms. :-)

    1. Yup. Search algorithms regularly conceal more than they reveal. I'm not sure whether the designers consider that a bug or a feature!

  2. DuckDuckGo makes a big deal of Not Tracking, etc. and for that, they have become my default. I'll use other search engines, but only after DDG hasn't revealed anything of use.

  3. Thanks for the rec! Not Tracking sounds like a very good non-feature.


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