Monday, January 07, 2013

We have work to do

A symbol of public confusion or a driver of public confusion?


Diana Studer said...

my third option is
global warming issues
Google is learning which side I'm on.

Simon Donner said...

Almost a haiku!

If you put a space after is, you should get the four I found, although it could depend on the country.

david lewis said...

I search from the US, but I did my searches from Google websites hosted in various countries. My baseline is a US search for "global warming is " which produced this in the drop down autocomplete box:

fake, not real, natural, real

According to Google (see their support page about Autocomplete ) what appears in the drop down box is "a reflection of the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google", unless you've enabled Web History in your Google Account and are signed in, in which case Google gives added weight to what you've personally searched for in the past.

Although Google assures us that "autocomplete predictions are algorithmically determined... without human intervention", they do censor what appears. "We apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, and terms... frequently used to... [infringe] copywrites".

Searching Google Canada from the US today produces

a myth, fake, a hoax, not real

which might qualify as evidence that denialism is a bit stronger in Canada than the US.

It was interesting to search from Google's Hong Kong site ( which was the nearest thing to Google Beijing on offer. There, the search produced:

caused by, real, not real, fake, hoax, changing the world, getting worse, false, caused by human activity, is bad

Perhaps Google believes Chinese have longer attention spans, or that they will use longer lists. Note the appearance of "real" as the second autocomplete term when the search is done from Hong Kong, as opposed to in the US where its fourth, and as opposed to Canada where it doesn't appear.

Japan also produced results that some might think mean more "believers" are searching than most other countries. Eg, displayed:

a myth, is happening, , fake (the third term in the list was a blank)

as did Sweden:

a lie, happening, fake, a myth

But most other countries conformed roughly to what is happening in North America. Here's what a search done from Norway, i.e. produced:

bullshit, not man made, inevitable, natural not man made

Considering how vulnerable a small island state like The Maldives is to sea level rise, I did a search on

fake, not real, a myth, real

My thoughts after all this fooling around? The Germans adopted their laws prohibiting fomenting hatred against the Jews after everyone in the world saw where so called "hate speech" can lead.

It seems to me that the censorship policy Google has, i.e. its "removal policy" for terms that might facilitate better searches for "pornography, violence, hate speech", and violation of copywrite laws, given that Google Autocomplete does its best to facilitate searches for climate science denialism websites is ludicrous, given what is happening to the planet.

Simon Donner said...

The individuals in charge of the autocomplete algorithm do appear to have an understated power over public discourse. I don't know if climate change denial can be classified as hate speech under the law (Canada has laws on hate speech), though I've certainly received e-mails that might count!