Actual Research On Political Bias In Search Results Would Be Useful, But So Far It Doesn't Show Anything

from the not-how-it-works dept

A few weeks back, we explained why claims of political bias in moderation by tech companies was not accurate at all. I recognize this has upset people who seem to have staked their personal identity on the idea that big internet companies are clearly out to get them, but we like to deal in facts around here. Of course, soon after that post went up, PJ Media editor Paula Bolyard put out an article -- using what she admits isn't anything close to a scientific study -- to make dubious claims of bias in Google searches for Trump news.

There were all sorts of problems with her methodology (including using Google search, rather than Google News, and using an extraordinarily sketchy ranking of how liberal or conservative certain publications were). But the bigger issue, as we noted in another post this week was that it showed a fundamental misunderstanding of how search engines work. It was not -- as some commenters who clearly did not read the article claimed -- that algorithms are perfect and show no bias (because they obviously do). But that the search algorithm boosts sites that are more popular, and if you looked at the sites that Bolyard's test showed as appearing in her search results were... larger sites. And those included typically "conservative" news sites such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. In other words, Google wasn't biasing based on political viewpoint, but on popularity of the news site itself. Which... is how Google has worked since basically the beginning.

Unfortunately, our President did what our President does, and took Bolyard's confusing mess (as amplified by Lou Dobbs on Fox News) and claimed that it was now proven that Google biases its search results against conservatives. He's since posted a video claiming that Google didn't link to a live stream of his state of the union address -- a claim that has already been proven to be 100% false.

Of course, that is leading people to (as they should!) start to do research on whether or not there really is some political bias in search results -- which is a good thing. We should investigate that, but it should be done rigorously. Digital Third Coast is pushing some research claiming to show no bias based on Google search autocomplete, but that methodology strikes me as equally dubious to Bolyard's study.

A much more interesting, and scientifically rigorous study, however can be found at ScienceDirect, in a study by Efrat Nechustai and Seth Lewis entitled What kind of news gatekeepers do we want machines to be? Filter bubbles, fragmentation, and the normative dimensions of algorithmic recommendations. Lewis recently discussed the results on Twitter. The results don't fully get at whether or not the algorithm is biased, but it does throw a lot of cold water on the idea that the Google News (separate from Google search) algorithm creates filter bubbles that drive people deeper and deeper into their own echo chambers.

But what the study does seem to suggest, is that Google tends to recommend big traditional news organizations most of the time. That... shouldn't be a surprise. I am confident that Trump's loudest supporters will argue that this is a sign of political bias on its own, because they believe whatever nonsense he spews about the NY Times and CNN being "fake news," but that's silly. Those publications may not be great, and I have serious concerns about the way they cover news, but the issue is not one of political bias. And the evidence again just seems to suggest that these news organizations are large and extremely popular, which is why Google recommends them.

Some others are attempting to research this topic as well, and they all seem to be coming up empty when it comes to any evidence of actual political bias on Google. The site Indivigital tried to look more closely at the sites that were analyzed in the study that Trump tweeted about and found... that the sites that were dubbed "left wing" tended to get a lot more inbound links. And, as you hopefully know, much of Google's ranking algorithm is based on inbound links. So if there's "bias" it's the "bias" of basically everyone else on the internet to more frequently link to those sites. It also found that the supposedly "left wing" sites published a lot more -- again, leading to more links and more attention.

In response, Google’s parent company Alphabet stated: “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology”.

To address these claims, we analyzed each of the top 25 right-wing and left-wing websites listed in PJ Media’s study. We looked at the quantity of unique links pointing into each news website as well as the total content output by each news website over a 24 hour period.

The results are listed in the tables below. Overall, from the websites analyzed we discovered:

  1. Left-wing news websites attract more links than right-wing news websites; and
  2. Left-wing news websites create more content than right-wing news websites.

So there may be "bias" in there, but it's not "political bias due to crazy liberal Google engineers."

Then there's another study by sociologist Francesca Tripodi, who looked at whether or not political bias was showing up in Google's rankings and also found little to support the claims. Instead, she found that the wording of the search query mattered tremendously in what kinds of responses you got (which makes a lot of sense). So, some search queries might return you more "conservative" leaning stories, while others might return you more "liberal" ones.

My research demonstrates that Google can actually drive the public toward a silo of conservative thought. For example, users curious for more information on the connection between Nellie Ohr and the Department of Justice—a topic widely discussed both on the QAnon message board and Fox News—would have received predominantly conservative perspectives if they queried her name on August 6, 2018. The top result was a piece by conservative think tank the American Spectator, the second and third links are from Fox News, followed by two more links from conservative news sites.

Again, obviously there is "bias" involved in story selection on search. That's the entire point. You want a search engine to "bias" towards what will be most relevant. The question of whether or not there is "political bias" (especially as influenced by the political leanings of the employees at a company) is a different one -- and one that can and should be researched. But to just default to insisting there must be such bias, without any actual evidence showing that political bias is happening in search results, it really looks silly to keep claiming it's a fact.

And, as multiple people have pointed out, if this really is somehow unfairly tilting things to one side of the political spectrum, there is nothing stopping anyone in this free market system from setting up their own news search that skews towards whatever it is Trump fans think is fair and balanced. Of course, it's still worth doing more research on this topic, but so far there is little to suggest any actual political bias in search results beyond the bias of "big, popular media sites get more links."


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    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 9:45am

    From the left's viewpoint left wing bias is never bias.

    If you are located in CA and you work with computers Google's social position seems normal.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 9:49am

      Re:

      If reality is biased against you, this conversation clearly needs to leave the bounds of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:31pm

        Re: Re:

        It's not bias, just stats, you just need to look at the demographics of who identifies as left wing and who identifies as right wing. Drawing proportionally from a qualified pool of applicants is not prejudice or bias. Having the result reflect the views of the contributers is inevitable. If you want your views reflected more... Contribute more.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      "From the left's viewpoint left wing bias is never bias"

      .. and therefore is follows that:
      From the right's viewpoint right wing bias is never bias

      This is commonly referred to as confirmation bias. I think some people actually do not see their own bias even when it is pointed out to them multiple times and ways.

      and I assume that you think you are without bias when you make your post.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      From the left's viewpoint left wing bias is never bias.

      Well when you define 'left wing' as stuff like agreeing with 99% of climate scientists that climate change/global warming is real and already causing big consequences, then Stephen Colbert's saying "reality has a liberal bias" becomes kind of appropriate.

      If you are located in CA and you work with computers Google's social position seems normal.

      Google is hardly it's own far out in left field entity in Silicon Valley. Here's a tip from someone in the tech industry, it's an overwhelmingly liberal people politically, and has been for a while.

      Remember how Mozilla's CEO got sacked really quickly because it came out that he had donated in support of Prop 8 banning same sex marriage in California? The entire Mozilla workforce in the US forced their hand. (Also, yes they had legitimate reasons to protest him. They pointed out that having an openly anti-LGBT CEO raised questions about the legitimacy of all his hiring/firing/salary decisions on LGBT people, just like having an openly racist pro-KKK CEO would raise such questions about all the African American employees.)

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 2:55am

        Re: Re:

        Not only that, but the "left wing" actually know what a boycott means (hint for the current "right wing": it's not burning and slicing up things you've already bought), and a boycott of Mozilla's products is relatively trivial for anyone wishing to do so. His actions made them a ripe target for boycott, so if they stood to lose more money than his work provided, he was out without question.

        You don't even have to get into the reasons for his firing beyond "he did something that stands to lose the company money". The fact that his actions were supporting bigotry and discrimination are just an extra reflection on those who would defend him.

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  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 9:52am

    Bias crapposting is the new abortion debate

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  • icon
    Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 9:53am

    I'm scanning through the DataSociety study, but wouldn't any study on this have to deal with how Google itself delivers search results based on who is asking?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      Thought I read somewhere that search engines attempt to read your cookies in order to provide more relevant results.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:19am

        Re: Re:

        My understanding is that it goes even deeper. I use Chrome and tend to do so "logged into it". My understanding this gives Google even more information to build a profile for me on, along with my GMAIL and android phone searches giving them even more information.

        Which if true, does make my post below interesting I think.

        No included links to sites I frequent, three links included from a baseline search to sites I don't frequent. One of those three sites is a site I avoid like the plague.

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  • icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 9:56am

    As I noted on previous stories about 'political' bias, transparency in how these algorithms work could resolves all these issues. Absent that, it is dangerous to confuse correlation with causation.

    As I noted, I had a friend who was diagnosed Celiac. Lived gluten free for years. Until a new doctor noted her known bleach allergy and connected her 'gluten' issues with bleached flour. The same effect, celiac like symptoms, but two different causes. One cause - Celiac disease - was assumed to be the cause, because it fit the symptoms without additional testing. But the assumption was wrong. Unbleached flour is fine.

    That is why Techdirt is highlighting misleading claims of political bias in search - not to say there is no bias or no political bias, but that the evidence we have does not prove political bias - it has other explanations. These explanations also fit other search behavioral data, and so when we look at the whole search picture the evidence presented appears to be further evidence of known behavior, not evidence of unknown behavior.

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    • icon
      Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      I do partially agree, comparing a Google News (news.google.com) search on a browser on My PC against a search done through a TOR browser with a simply search for "President Trump" with the buttons pressed at nearly the same time (Tor first).

      TOR
      1 - Wash Post - 5000 false claims
      2 - CNN - Jaime Dimon
      3 - Kennebec Journal - veteran support
      4 - CNN - Jaime Dimon
      5 - People - Friend Deny Bad Behavior
      6 - Snopes - 9/11 Fist pump, This even news?
      7 - ABC15 Arizona - Trump signs measure election
      8 - USA Today - Trump Fist Pump 9/11
      9 - Esquire - Trump Puerto Rico
      10 - CNBC - Jaime Dimon

      Mine

      1 - TIME - Trump threat to GOP prospects WITH a theHill article subposted about Trump shocking Nov Surprise
      2 - Wash Post (Tor #1) - misleading Trump claims
      3 - CNN (Tor #2) - Jaime Dimon
      4 - Kennebec Journal (Tor #3) - veteran support
      5 - CNN (Tor #4) - Jaime Dimon
      6 - People (Tor #5) - Friend Deny Bad Behavior
      7 - Snopes (Tor #6) - 9/11 Fist pump, This even news?
      8 - ABC15 Arizona (Tor #7) - Trump signs measure election
      9 - USA Today (Tor #9) - Trump Fist Pump 9/11
      10 - HuffPost - Seth Meyers Shreds Trump

      So the difference between the two is that Google thinks I'd be more interested in the Time, TheHill, and Huffpost article.

      All three sites are ones I never go to.

      HuffPost because that site annoys me just as much as FoxNews does.

      TheHill and Time because I just don't

      So frequently visiting those sites can't be the reason.

      I don't do much celebrity searching at all, other than related to my streaming viewing habits which Seth Meyers doesn't fit into AT ALL.

      And why wasn't any news orientated site that I typically view included at all considering the basic and simplistic search I did?

      Heck a search in both for "Social Media Bias" turns up a TechDirt article at #14 on Tor. On my search, nothing...

      So yea it is all about the algorithm.

      However, algorithms are programmed. They can also be very buggy. They have to be designed to work certain ways. What information they take in, and what choices they make are not necessarily of their choosing.

      I can create Techoogle tomorrow (not really), which would be a search engine utilizing an algorithm that delivers nothing but tech and geek orientated news and information from around the interwebs based with its state of the art algorithm.

      What algorithm? The one I wrote, with all of the IF/ELSE statements (and bugs) I put in there.

      Will there be bias? Heck yea! Star Trek articles always at the bottom of the page.

      What bugs? When you search for Linux distros, you only get results for Mint. Ooops.

      Why? Because it's mine and I can, dang it.

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      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re:

        I agree that algorithms are programmed.

        TOR search results notably might be influenced by other factors, including the geo-IP of your TOR node (looks like you may have kept an arizona IP), and potentially other searches by other people on that TOR node. We don't know how much google caches the searches of your IP address, beyond cookies on your computer or google account.

        We don't know why your results are different, and that's a huge problem. Which is why I noted that transparency in how the algorithm determines that you would be interested in TIME.

        Because there is bias. it just doesn't appear to be based on the politics of the content.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:34am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If one were actually interested in finding an answer to the question, are search results biased and in what ways, they would have a huge task in front of them.

          This is not something one can perform during lunch break with a couple of searches, it would take a significant amount of resources. Assistance from a search engine might be beneficial. For example, if one had access similar to that used by the search engine QA dept in their efforts to validate code. This would bypass much of the outside influence on the search results, like your cookies, location, OS, applications, whatever they got on you. Then one would have to perform parametric testing where all possible inputs are varied in all possible combinations.

          Anything short of something like this is not going to provide accurate results.

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          • icon
            Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            But wouldn't bypassing influences theoretically give you the same result every time, or nearly the same result if done on different days.

            To understand the algorithm, you would need to be able to feed it influences. Ideally, you would need to ability to set those influences. You'd then run multiple queries and compare them all.

            To do all of this, we need transparency on how the search engines work.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:37pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Ummm - yeah.
              Sorta like what I typed above .... you do know what parametric testing is right?

              This would bypass much of the outside influence on the search results, like your cookies, location, OS, applications, whatever they got on you. Then one would have to perform parametric testing where all possible inputs are varied in all possible combinations.

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        • icon
          Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Agree and somewhat disagree.

          Maybe I'm getting too cynical in my old age, but I would be shocked if searches of all types aren't nudged in one way or another.

          Its just a thing "humans" do. We mess things up.

          Put it this way, if we were on Bizarro Earth and these companies were based in Alabama, I'd still be here arguing that there is bias in searches when you look for the morning after pill and all you get are directions to hell.

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          • icon
            James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Again, The question is not if searches are nudged, it is how they are nudged, by what mechanisms are they nudged. spending time developing a module that accurately parses content and determines the presence and political affiliation of that content based on shifting political definitions in microseconds seems like a stupid investment. On the other hand, other simpler mechanisms may exist. Which is the point - transparency would allow us to understand those mechanisms and stop relying on anecdotal data.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 10:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          TOR search results notably might be influenced by other factors, including the geo-IP of your TOR node ... We don't know how much google caches the searches of your IP address

          Google Search blocks most Tor nodes, so... problem solved?

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      • icon
        ShadowNinja (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re:

        What you describe sounds a lot like the Facebook problem where if you like baseless conspiracy theories and fake news stories that's been debunked already you keep getting suggested more lies like that.

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  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:14am

    Whatever happened to critical thinking? People have gotten so lazy that they don't bother to think for themselves anymore.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      It has been actively rooted out as well in many aspects between sensationalists promoting acting before thinking, lawyers and legislators establishing defacto by feelings laws instead of objective reality: often in service of their pet pigs, and last but not least religious fundamentalist influence. See the Texas textbook pushes that were explicitly against critical thinking without any spin - like they were about honest US history being "anti-American".

      I count the flag fetishist cultists among religions fundamentalists as well who would rather burn the constitution and any and all liberties than let anyone "disrespect" a piece of cloth.

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    John Smith, 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:25am

    I belive Google and many big internet companies have an incredibly liberal bias (look at the Google engineer fired over a gender-issue memo, whereas a feminist making a similar claim about men likely wouldn't be), but the internet AS A WHOLE does not suffer much for anyone's influence, due to its decentralized nature.

    Those who want neutral, free speech are free to use USENET anytime they want. The demand for this "free speech zone," or the lack thereof, speaks for itself. This is a phantom issue created by the public's worship of branding. If anything, the internet is more CLASSIST than anything, with users constantly stereotyping people based on their perception of socioeconomic status or celebrity, e.g., "You have X followers on Twitter." Never mind that Twitter doesn't pay creators the way YouTube dues, and someone with 10 followers on Twitter might have 10,000 on YouTube, eetc.

    Sites like this promote free speech a great deal, even if they are run by sniveling little pro-piracy a***holes.

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    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      "ook at the Google engineer fired over a gender-issue memo, whereas a feminist making a similar claim about men likely wouldn't be"

      You mean the engineer being fired because he was a bigoted moron even if there are certain areas where biology favors men or women in detriment of their counterpart? Right.

      "Sites like this promote free speech a great deal, even if they are run by sniveling little pro-piracy a***holes."

      And then you complain that people flag your posts. You are a complete moron. Have my flag.

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        Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Your response express the ultimate in bias.

        You have either a free society in which one can express their opinion without being call all manors of the 57 varieties of liberal hate or you do not have a free society.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're free to say whatever you want. You're not free from the consequences of what you say, though.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You have either a free society in which one can express their opinion without being call all manors of the 57 varieties of liberal hate or you do not have a free society.

          No, that is the exact OPPOSITE of a free society. That's a restricted society where only certain things are ok to say.

          You are literally wrong.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 10:11am

        Re: Re:

        You mean the engineer being fired because he was a bigoted moron even if there are certain areas where biology favors men or women in detriment of their counterpart? Right.

        What part of the memo would drive you to declare them a "bigoted moron"? The letter says things like, on average, men are more driven to seek leadership positions for status. That seems like something we could fact-check, but not offensive or obviously moronic. Various things are listed as a possible reasons for lack of diversity; I don't see anything really disparaging, or untrue and stated as fact.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      >>I belive Google and many big internet companies have an incredibly liberal bias...

      Google may have a liberal corporate culture, but that does not mean that google search results have a liberal bias programmed in.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      "I belive Google and many big internet companies have an incredibly liberal bias"

      You are entitled to your own opinion, whether it is based on fact or not does not matter. Is your above opinion based upon one data point (google engineer)?


      "whereas a feminist making a similar claim about men likely wouldn't be"

      Pure conjecture. Since we are just making up shit now .. it is more likely that if one were to apply mathematics to the data one would find similar cases to be more or less evenly distributed among the sexes.


      "with users constantly stereotyping people based on their perception of socioeconomic status or celebrity"

      I'm quite certain you would never stoop so low as to stereotype anyone.

      I'm still trying to figure out what your point was, guess it does not matter.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:18pm

      Re:

      Those who want neutral, free speech are free to use USENET anytime they want

      Old man longs for the "good old days", rejects all progress and changes for the better. News at 11.

      USENET is not the only place to find neutral free speech. Try the internet at large.

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    Zof (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:27am

    Bias is bias

    Bias is bias. Like sunlight is sunlight. It doesn't matter why the bias is there. You can't explain it away. It just matters that it is. And you can demonstrate it. And like this story does, you can describe the bias with an Appeal to Popularity logical fallacy. But it's still bias.

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    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:37am

      Re: Bias is bias

      Facts be damned, right?

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:38am

      Re: Bias is bias

      I think the why matters, as I noted above in my example of my friend who was diagnosed Celiac. She had to avoid all wheat products to avoid Celiac, when what she actually had to avoid was bleach. A correction allowed her to live her life with less strain.

      For bias, the cause of the bais can most definitely affect how we as a society deal with it.

      If the bias is entirely caused by known factors of big news vs small news, it radically changes the perception of the problem, and whether or not there is a problem. Political bias in search, that is filtering/ranking general search results based on their political content would be a huge issue. Filtering/ranking results based on popularity and applicability to the search terms can have a number of concerns, but is not a massive political issue, even if it has created an appearance of politically motivated bias in limited testing. The way we approach the issues with those biases changed based on what the actual bias is.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:34am

    There are a few things that came to mind here, I'll try to separate them in topics.

    1- The right/left wing terminology. I don't think it's fit here. Maybe liberal vs conservative but even then the opposition to conservatives come from a wider spectrum that include progressive people that may lean left (again, it would be a very small minority in the US). This is up for debate but I thought it was worth mentioning.

    2- It's known that younger people tend to hover along what opposes conservative thoughts. There are researches covering it. And younger people are generally more tech savvy and thus tend to tip the scales towards the 'liberal' side (using liberal loosely as in opposition to conservative). There's a very high probability that your grandpa doesn't even know that Breitbart or whatever online conservative lunatics out there exist. But he surely knows Fox News, CNN and the likes.

    3- The conservative online presence is not that large but it is extremely noisy. In the social media. As noted in the article, there's less content coming from alleged 'liberal' sources than conservative ones. So they yell and whine incessantly and loudly but they don't produce as much content leading to this apparent 'bias'.

    Did I miss anything?

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    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:39am

    Who needs research when you have Google top executives basically spelling it out for you?

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/09/google-cofounder-called-trumps-election-deeply-offen sive-in-leaked-video/

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      The corporate culture of Google does not mean that search results are programmed to somehow identify and down rank conservative content.

      Outside of private corporations like Hobby Lobby, the products sold by most companies are designed to sell to the broadest market for their price point. Designing your product to alienate half your consumer base would be strange, and be challenged by Googles's investors, many of whom statistically will be conservative.

      And for those that subscribe to the 'you are the product' philosophy it makes less sense, as they want to sell conservative product as well as liberal.

      The CEO is Liberal. That does not mean the search results are.

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        Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:59am

        Re: Re:

        See you didn't bother to read it. In which they spell it out for you.

        Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, an avowed Hillary Clinton supporter, described the result as a "massive kick in the gut." She vowed that Google would "use the great strength and resources and reach we have to continue to advance really important values"—values, presumably, that were not shared by Donald Trump.

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        • icon
          Thad (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:28am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Nothing in there about changing the Google search algorithm to prioritize the New York Times. "Use the great strength and resources and reach we have" can mean a lot of different things -- advertising, donating to political candidates, lobbying, etc.

          Again, Occam's Razor applies here: Google is prioritizing popular news sites. That includes the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

          Which explanation makes more sense for a search algorithm that prioritizes the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal -- liberal bias, or bias toward popular sources?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 3:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "liberal bias, or bias toward popular sources?"

            A tendency toward reliable or factual sources. From my experience with deliberately "right leaning" sources, this may correlate with a focus on "liberal" sources, but it's not the political viewpoint causing the bias.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Decadre (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re:

        And yet scientifically speaking, I did a baseline TOR search for a few things against searches on my PC. Its a post elsewhere for this article.

        Sites that I avoid appeared on my PC, and either weren't there at all on the TOR search or way down the list.

        A TOR search for Media Bias had a TechDirt article I believe at 14. Tech Dirt didn't even appear at all in my results.

        If Google is basing results off of my history, cookies, etc, it should know I avoid HuffPost and FoxNews like the plague. Yet I had them in the results and a handful more links than I got in the TOR results.

        WHY? Is it the algorithm?

        YEA!

        But why, and it is exactly that reason why people perceive there is bias. And quite frankly, algorithms don't become "biased" all on their own.

        With luck, that bias will result in users getting exactly what they want all the time with "some" opposing viewpoints thrown in.

        However like my couple of searches showed before, and perhaps this is just "some" of is, we are getting no results from places we frequent, and results from places we don't tend or ever go to.

        Why?

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 3:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "If Google is basing results off of my history, cookies, etc, it should know I avoid HuffPost and FoxNews like the plague."

          Actually, it has no way of knowing that. It can only know that you haven't visited them on that computer, it can never know exactly why. So, popular sites will still appear in your search results even if you personally avoid them.

          The fact that fiction publishers like the Daily Mail appear in results for me doesn't mean that Google thinks I want to sully my computer with their site, it only means that there's enough morons generating traffics for them to come up on the list.

          "However like my couple of searches showed before, and perhaps this is just "some" of is, we are getting no results from places we frequent, and results from places we don't tend or ever go to.

          Why?"

          Because the most relevant results on that particular search came from places you've not been to? Because search results would be pretty pointless if they only came from sites you've already been to? Because inserting new information from sources you disagree with is a good way to avoid being stuck in an echo chamber, especially if they actually are the most relevant sources?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 7:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I do not think that one can produce valid results based upon a few searches from your machine. Using TOR will not magically remove all the bias being obtained via your machine.

          The algorithms used in search engines, I am told, are kept secret to thwart the efforts of SEO types trying to game the system. I suspect that these algorithms use many more inputs than those you have listed above and until these are known, tested and evaluated one can not draw any valid conclusions.

          Simply claiming something is true does not make it so.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      This doesn't say what you think it says. Try reading it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 13 Sep 2018 @ 10:47am

    How many liberals have lost their jobs recently for attacking conservatives?

    How many minorities and women have lost their careers for posting "hate speech" towards white men?

    there's no point in reasoning with those who refuse to reason and pretend clear evidence of bias doesn't exist. The mere threat of losing one's economic freedom is enough to poison search results by silencing those with "politically incorrect" viewpoints. Unfortunately, actual reality doesn't bend to the whim of political reality.

    The "Google Memo" is a good example.

    One can argue that racism and sexism exist, and they definitely do, though this attacks a strawperson because the issue is censorship and story selection. Even affirmative-action law itself is premised on the notion that white men are never discriminated against. It's built into the formula: 15 percent women in STEM is a crisis and "goals" need to be set. 85 percent women in nursing is not a problem. That's bias that perpetuates the very stereotypes women seek to destroy.

    In construction, 6.9 percent female incumbency is "diverse" and the "goal." Why? Because incumbency is only 2.9 percen t female. Construction firms LOVE hiring women because of all the diversity points they score. One can argue why women aren't applying in large numbers there, but to do that might raise arguments deemed "sexist" that cost those who raise them their jobs (and land them on the dole with all day to continue spouting their views btw). Theis censorship0-by-threat-of-economic-ruin will alter search results in favor of the conversations which do happen, rather than those which don't.

    It's more likely that search results are merely a reflection of underlying bias in society, though the internet companies could certainly be providing a tailwind. The free market can and will solve this problem as it has since AOL tried to dominate the information superhighway in the 1990s. This post here is a good refutation of the claim that people can't get their message out. They most certainly can, even if the person running this site is a sniveling, pro-piracy a**hole.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      This second post, far more inflammatory than your first, spends much time off the topic of political bias in search results to grind against PC culture without a clear connection. As such, I want to flag it because it adds little to the discussion at hand.

      That said, while I feel your commentary is way off the mark, you do slip nuggets of real concerns in your commentary, even if your framing and understanding undermines your points (which was an issue with potentially substantive concerns in the Google memo).

      But then I remember you started out arguing that you can't argue with people who claim bias doesn't exist, something this article takes great pains to highlight is not what is being said, but that the evidence is being misunderstood about what is causing the bias.

      I could spend a lot of time on breaking down the language here, and addressing substantive concerns I do see, but You continue to insist that what I diagnose as a bleach allergy must be celiac, and explicitly stated you don't care what evidence I have to support my position, and if my position fits all your evidence. So have a flag for explicitly stating you don't want to engage in discussion on any of these issues.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:07pm

      Re:

      I didn't realize people other than racists and mysogynists were attacking others in the work place and embarrassing the companies they work for.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      How many liberals have lost their jobs recently for attacking conservatives?

      Well if they've physically attacked them then I would hope they lost more than their jobs and are hopefully doing some time in a room with iron bars. That's kind of against the law.

      How many minorities and women have lost their careers for posting "hate speech" towards white men?

      I don't know? How many? How many men have lost their careers for posting hate speech against anyone else? This is a non-point, not the least of which because hate speech is not a protected class. If you say vile and disgusting things about someone, your employer is absolutely within their rights to fire you.

      The rest of your argument contains an odd mixture of valid points but suffers from your overriding bigoted sexism.

      *the person running this site is a sniveling, pro-piracy a*hole.

      And your proof of this is????? Because the entire site actually proves you wrong. But you wouldn't know that because you are too bigoted to actually read the damn articles now aren't you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    JWK, 13 Sep 2018 @ 12:47pm

    Flags

    People here throw more flags than an official at a Serena Williams Tennis match...all to silence opinions you don't agree with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Flags

      No, we don't mind if you don't agree with us. There are many comments and commenters on here that disagree that have not been hidden.

      What we flag are trolls who don't just disagree but disagree using baseless vitriolic attacks and base their disagreement on blatantly false assertions that no rational person would ever accept. Not even conservatives. They add nothing to the conversation because they do not live in reality and/or are just here to make trouble.

      If you have a problem with that, then this is perhaps not the site for you.

      I hope you decide to stick around, as the debate on here is actually quite good and, aside from the occasional troll, is very civil.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JWK, 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:59pm

        Re: Re: Flags

        I've been on this site for almost 10 years now, and it has changed. I see plenty of vitriolic attacks that are from a leftist perspective that don't get silenced. While someone posting nothing more than a link to an ars technica article showing google execs openly stating a left wing bias gets flagged. This has become an echo chamber with people dismissing those who have a different opinion as nutcases.

        This is no longer a go to site for the intersection of technology and free speech, its become pretty radical.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: Flags

          While someone posting nothing more than a link to an ars technica article showing google execs openly stating a left wing bias gets flagged.

          Then perhaps you need to re-read the post that person made.

          That poster was attempting to use that article to prove that Google's search algorithms are deliberately biased against conservatives, and that video supposedly proves it. It does absolutely nothing of the sort and if the poster had actually read the Ars Technica article, they would have discovered that on their own before posting it on here and claiming it proves something that it actually doesn't and looking like a fool.

          This is no longer a go to site for the intersection of technology and free speech, its become pretty radical.

          Despite what you claim, this site very much is an intersection of technology and free speech, as proven by the vast increase in articles regarding said topics in recent years addressing attempts to stifle tech and free speech. If that's radical to you then perhaps you are the one who has changed, not the site, and this is definitely not the site for you.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 3:28am

          Re: Re: Re: Flags

          "I've been on this site for almost 10 years now, and it has changed. I see plenty of vitriolic attacks that are from a leftist perspective that don't get silenced"

          Do you have any examples? I see a lot of people making bare assertions, but they never link to a single piece of evidence. Almost as if it doesn't really happen, and the people getting flagged have to resort to false equivalence because they can't defend their own words.

          "While someone posting nothing more than a link to an ars technica article showing google execs openly stating a left wing bias gets flagged"

          That's not all he did. Besides, the link proves nothing about the subject at hand, unless you can also show that corporate policy extends to the algorithms they produce.

          "This has become an echo chamber with people dismissing those who have a different opinion as nutcases."

          No, we tend to dismiss the nutcases as nutcases. If someone has a non-nutcase way of stating a different opinion, they tend to get treated differently to the nutcases. Strange how that works, isn't it? It's not our fault that those people are far rarer than the loonies.

          Maybe you should try doing such a thing rather than whine that the room you're in doesn't agree with you?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:14pm

    The tech monopolies (and many other monopolies) need to be broken up. Its just as moronic to suggest people set up their own platforms as it is to suggest people could have set up their own phone companies to compete with MA Bell. We have laws against monopolies for a reason. Unfortunately the two arms of the corrupt war party who run our country have absolutely no incentive to upset their paymasters on Wall Street and do anything about it. Those defend these tech monopolies because their currently espouse similar ideological agendas will one day come to regret the fact that they did not oppose this concentration of power. The worm always turns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      I'm going to come at this from a different angle.

      How do you propose to break up Facebook? Or Google Search? Please explain how you could feasibly accomplish this in any rational or logical way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 1:38pm

        Re: Re:

        There are volumes and volumes written about breaking up monopolies, because it used to actually be done. Breaking up Facebook or Google certainly wouldn't be any more complex than breaking up Bell was in 1982. Its been well-understood for hundreds of years that markets cannot function when monopolies exist, which is why we passed laws against them well over a century ago. Its a hollow argument to tell someone whose been censored that they should simply create their own competition to mega-corps like Google and Facebook.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          AND..
          There are Volumes..
          Of data showing all the back doors, AFTER they break up Any monopoly on HOW to disguise it..

          BUT its rather STUPID that the internet is ????? Blank.
          How many other companies HAVE ANYTHING NEAR what google and FB have made??
          There is no competition, because NO ONE WANTS TO COMPETE..That way they can moan and groan and Bitch and complain,,,THAT they are a monopoly..

          How many chat services went up...GOT COMPLICATED, then DIED?
          I watched 4 Chat programs, Go back and forth, building an OVER BLOWN Chat programs that ALL...ened up doing the EXACT same thing..how to compete with the EXACT same thing?

          THEN, how to MONETIZE THEM.. Which was the BIG part of all of them.
          THAT is what the Other corps want to do.
          they ALL want their OWN CLOSED system, that restricts Users to only be able to BUY from their OWN GOODS/MARKETS...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You have not, nor will ever be censored here.

          That said, breaking up traditional monopolies typically involves splitting up their market segment by either dividing up their geographical market segment, forcing them into multiple smaller firms with competing products, etc...

          How do you plan to apply that to Facebook whose only product, is, well, Facebook? How do you force Facebook to compete against itself? For that matter, how do you force Google Search to compete against itself? There are already dozens of other competing social media platforms and search engines, but people gravitate to these two because they are the best.

          Your assertion is disingenuous because giant software/tech companies do not do business in the traditional sense of normal companies. You can't break up their geographical market segment, nor can you break them into smaller competing companies because of the specific product they sell.

          Could you break out Whatsapp and Instagram from Facebook? Sure, but that wouldn't solve anything because it's the Facebook product that is the giant here. Breaking Whatsapp and Instagram out from under ownership of Facebook isn't going to change what Facebook has to offer or how many people use it.

          It's the same with Google. Yeah you can force them to break out Youtube, G+, Android, and Search but to what effect? Google Search will still be the dominant search platform, Youtube will still be the dominant video sharing platform, Android will still be the only real competitor to iOS, and G+ will be.....well it will be.

          You talk a lot about how they are "supposed monopolies" and that they "need to be broken up" but they actually aren't monopolies and there really is no feasible way to break them up because of what they are and what they do.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 4:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's just plainly false. It would be relatively simple to break up Google into a slew of competing companies. Break off Youtube into its own company. Break off search. Break off Gmail. Alphabet (the parent company of Google) exists in countless divisions. People suggesting that its impossible to break up a monopolistic corporation either aren't very bright, or are engaging in obfuscation because breaking them up doesn't fit your agenda. Nothing is more dangerous to a free society than centralized information control, whether that control comes from a government, a corporation, or, worse of all, the collaboration of government and corporation (the situation we are in today). You have to be extremely shortsighted not to recognize the clear dangers.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Thad (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 4:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              In what way would that change the results that appear in a Google search?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:05pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Thanks for not actually reading my post. Because if you had, you would have seen I already addressed your exact concerns.

              But at the risk of repeating myself, splitting off Youtube, search, and gmail will do jack squat to their respective market dominance. Youtube will still be the dominant video hosting site, Google search will still be the dominant search engine, and gmail will still be the dominant email provider.

              So after you've broken them all up separately, what have you ultimately accomplished? Nothing. Jack squat. So this begs the question, if breaking them all off doesn't do anything to break their market dominance, are they really monopolies?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:11pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Not to mention, none of those offerings actually compete against each other, and they are in no way the only offerings out there.

                So, again, Google is not monopoly (seriously, how can you not understand this) and what exactly is gained by breaking all its individual offerings off?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Sep 2018 @ 5:47am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Big =/= monopoly. We have competition in the search and social media spaces so I don't see what the problem is.

                  I had this conversation on Twitter with a man called Ben who subsequently blocked me. Bottom line, he insisted without evidence that Facebook must be a monopoly and was therefore bad. We looked at several things, including:

                  *Competitors (lots! Unique selling points or the drift of certain types of people towards a platform doesn't make it monopolistic)
                  *Market share
                  *Anti-competitive practices
                  *Interfacing with other platforms

                  Even after I'd proved that FB has plenty of competitors, even with its market share, any anti-competitive actions it takes (i.e. walled garden where it can get away with it) don't actively stop people using other platforms. It interfaces with Twitter, for goodness's sake! It also interfaces with Disqus and other services.

                  The same applies to Google and Twitter.

                  This faux outrage is a thinly-disguised effort on the part of the far right to forcibly insert themselves into political discourse after failing to compete well in the marketplace of ideas. Too bad!

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 6:55am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    "We have competition in the search and social media spaces so I don't see what the problem is. "

                    It's simple:

                    a) there are some on the right wing who *love* their boogeymen, and pretending they're being persecuted is far easier than examining why their ideas are so abhorrent.

                    b) many of those people are also poorly educated and just don't comprehend the fact that they have complete freedom of choice, they just stick to where they know and whine when it doesn't conform to what they want.

                    c) taking action is *hard*, but whining endlessly is easy.

                    Combine all of those, and you have people who are too ignorant to know they have a choice, too lazy to even try and so stuck in their own echo chambers that they don't realise that their positions are in the minority. That it's reality that's telling them to stfu, not a left wing conspiracy.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • identicon
                      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Sep 2018 @ 7:10am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Yes, I've seen that.

                      What irks me the most is when anyone on either side of the aisle insists on sticking to failed ideological positions after reality itself has nuked them on principle.

                      If your ideology fails in practice, bin it.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:26pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          In other words, you don't know.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:57pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Bell was broken up by dividing it into smaller regional units which no longer had the power to dominate existing competitors. You can not break google's search dominance in that fashion. Google search is an algorithm, and other sites already use derivatives of the algorithm. whomever gets the google name just stays in power. Or if you bar the use of the name, people eventually just migrate to the west coast one whose algorthim actually has engineers the engineers still working on it. Geographical location is not a bar like it was for infrastructure.

          You can sever google search from google ads, but that just kills google search, and every other search engine.

          How you break up google is a fundamental question you need to actually answer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ECA (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 4:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            How to break up search engines??
            (we go for the one that works, out of the 100 from the past, we are NOW here)
            How to breakup a search engine using its OWN advert service??
            (allow Google to advert on Bing?? and the reverse??)

            Google has done the old way of finding markets..SHOTGUN.
            PUT up LOTS of different things and see what works, then get rid of the rest..REPEAT..
            Many of the other companies tend to DO 1 thing and let it SIT, until it dies..

            THERE IS 1 REAL BIG PROBLEM...
            How many countries ALLOW copyrights to PROGRAMMING?? not many..Until recent, the EU DIDNT..

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:40pm

      Re:

      Its just as moronic to suggest people set up their own platforms as it is to suggest people could have set up their own phone companies to compete with MA Bell.

      The two things aren't really analogous at all. The barrier to entry to creating a social networking site is far lower than the barrier to entry to creating a telephone company. Hell, I could set up a social networking site in a day -- rent a server and install Mastodon on it; boom, I've got a social networking site.

      The issue isn't setting up the infrastructure. It's attracting a customer base. So, again -- completely different problem from starting a telephone company.

      It is true that the difficulty of getting someone to switch off of Facebook is very high; even Google couldn't do it.

      So then the question is...is that really the best goal?

      Do you really want to be the next Facebook or Twitter?

      Or would it be better to design a site for a smaller community?

      I'm a big fan of the old messageboards. And I like the small community here at Techdirt. I think those are preferable to Facebook or Twitter; I don't use those sites. (I'm not saying that's a choice for everybody. If you've got a business to promote, you're probably going to have to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. But I prefer not to use them myself, and I'm fortunate enough to be in a place where I don't have to.)

      As for search, there are a number of alternatives to Google. I'm a DuckDuckGo guy myself. Microsoft has Bing. Yahoo is still around. I hear good things about Startpage.

      There are plenty of options. The problem is that most people just prefer to use Google. Getting them to switch to something else is tricky.

      And I get what you're saying: since Google is a dominant market player, we need to break it up.

      Well, okay, maybe. Let's say Alphabet gets broken up. Let's say Waymo, Android, Gmail, Doubleclick, and Google (the search engine) are all different companies now.

      So how does that change the order of the search results on google.com?

      It will, presumably, change the sponsored results, since Google and Doubleclick are no longer the same company. But how does it change the main results?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:44pm

      Re:

      "The tech monopolies (and many other monopolies) need to be broken up."
      - Why? Which ones? And what makes you think they are a monopoly?

      Platform != Phone Company (come on - really?)

      Heh - what are you smoking?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 13 Sep 2018 @ 2:00pm

    The mighty..

    DUH, department..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Some other guy, 13 Sep 2018 @ 5:35pm

    Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

    One example out of many: sometime in roughly the last year Google hardcoded bias against the well-known politically-incorrect weblog SBPDL (Stuff Black People Don't Like) to make people think it no longer exists. A search for "SBPDL" used to return links to and into that weblog. Now a search for "SBPDL" (try it!) returns results for the 'South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited' == "SBPDCL" (an electric utility in India) instead, even though no one in North America has any interest in nor even gives a damn about the South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited.

    To give useful-idiots ammunition to claim that Google isn't biased, Google provides a little link "Did you mean SBPDL?" near the bogus search results that you can click for real search results, bless them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 6:48pm

      Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

      "hardcoded bias"

      if (IdontLike) then {CensoreIt}

      Something like that?

      Who claims there is no bias in google search results? Someone on this blog? If so, please point it out as I am curious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 8:10am

        Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

        "Who claims there is no bias in google search results? Someone on this blog? If so, please point it out as I am curious."

        Yes, someone on this blog: blog author Tarleton Gillespie on Tuesday September 4th:

        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180830/17464440547/theres-reason-that-misleading-claims-bias -search-social-media-enjoy-such-traction.shtml

        He emitted a long rant on the subject, but it lacks credibility. For example, Gillespie lumped search engines and social media platforms together then asserted (citing no evidence) that they are quite free of bias-- that anything which appears biased is an accidental side-effect of a neutral algorithm.

        Gillespie just ignores all evidence to the contrary, preferring to expound his own fantasy of how other people run their businesses.

        One fresh example to contradict him (from a day or two ago, after Gillespie wrote the piece linked in this comment) was Twitter banning* the legal term (yes, it appears directly in current law and in many court opinions) "illegal alien."

        Twitter did that to suppress discussion of immigration law from a non-leftist perspective. That's one important way (the "Orwellian" way) that search engines and social media sites enforce their own political views: they ban words and phrases used to express ideas they (i.e., their managers) don't like. That is not the emergent result of an unbiased algorithm, it's straightforward censorship.

        Imagine if Google were to ban the term "pro-choice" as hate speech but endorse (by allowing it) the term "baby-killer." Would that bother you? Yes? Then why do you think "illegal alien" should be banned but not "undocumented worker?" (If you reply "because 'illegal alien' really is hate speech," you may lack the critical faculties often thought prerequisite to intellectual discussion.)

        *Ban later rescinded after public outcry.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 8:43am

          Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

          "Twitter banning* the legal term (yes, it appears directly in current law and in many court opinions) "illegal alien." "

          No, it really didn't, although a bunch of right-wing morons were quick to jump on the lie. They did decide not to promote tweets (i.e. did not run ads) containing the term, but that's not the same thing you're claiming.

          Why is it that when you people try jumping in to "correct" people, you always come up with bigger bullshit than the thing you're trying to correct?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 8:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

          Yes, someone on this blog: blog author Tarleton Gillespie on Tuesday September 4th:

          Perhaps you should re-read the post then, since what he ACTUALLY claimed is that there is no deliberate political bias in search results. That is a far cry from "no bias period".

          He emitted a long rant on the subject, but it lacks credibility.

          Much like your rant?

          For example, Gillespie lumped search engines and social media platforms together then asserted (citing no evidence) that they are quite free of bias-- that anything which appears biased is an accidental side-effect of a neutral algorithm.

          No, actually he made no such claim whatsoever. Perhaps you need to re-read the article?

          Twitter banning the legal term..."illegal alien."*

          You are being dishonest. Twitter didn't ban anything. They refused to allow groups to receive paid promotion of a couple of tweets containing that term, but the term itself is not banned across the whole of Twitter.

          that search engines and social media sites enforce their own political views: they ban words and phrases used to express ideas they (i.e., their managers) don't like

          This is blatantly false and easily disproven by doing a simple search for such "banned words" on either Google, Twitter, or any other platform.

          That is not the emergent result of an unbiased algorithm, it's straightforward censorship.

          Again, you have less than no proof this is actually happening, therefore your claims are literally false.

          Then why do you think "illegal alien" should be banned but not "undocumented worker?" (If you reply "because 'illegal alien' really is hate speech," you may lack the critical faculties often thought prerequisite to intellectual discussion.)

          I happen to think no words should be banned, and, so far, search engines and social media largely agree with me.

          *Ban later rescinded after public outcry.

          It was never a ban to begin with.

          My only conclusion is that you are being deliberately misleading, if not outright lying, to promote an absurd agenda that tech companies are somehow conspiring against you and those who think like you, and they should be forced to promote your views and help you brainwash the rest of the world with your idiotic nonsense.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 9:07am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

            "My only conclusion is that you are being deliberately misleading...

            Now, now, let's not jump to conclusions. He might honestly just be this stupid.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 11:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

            They didn't "ban," oh, not at all, they just "demonetized" or "reduced the salience of..."

            Motte and bailey, the same tired old playbook.

            Like Twitter earlier this year claiming in June that they definitely don't "shadowban," they just prevent your tweets from going to your followers! (And hide your name from search results.) And then in September Jack Dorsey admits that, after all, they do impose ideological shadowbans:

            https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/twitter-ceo-says-shadow-ban-not-impartial

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 1:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

              They didn't "ban," oh, not at all

              Nope. They did not. Not in any sense of the word.

              they just "demonetized"

              That is correct. They refused to offer paid promotion for those specific tweets, not the accounts as a whole.

              "reduced the salience of..."

              Not sure exactly what you're getting at here but I would say no, they didn't even reduce the salience of the tweet since everyone who follows those organizations still saw it.

              Motte and bailey, the same tired old playbook.

              Whatever, SOG.

              Like Twitter earlier this year claiming in June that they definitely don't "shadowban,"

              No, they didn't. Because shadow banning still involves something to be actually banned. Nothing was banned.

              they just prevent your tweets from going to your followers!

              That never happened. So, proof or GTFO.

              (And hide your name from search results.)

              This also never happened.

              What did happen was certain accounts didn't get displayed in AUTOCOMPLETE, but if you hit enter and ACTUALLY performed the search, they would show up.

              September Jack Dorsey admits that, after all, they do impose ideological shadowbans:

              That article literally doesn't say anything close to that. You need to work on your English reading comprehension.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 11:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

          He emitted a long rant on the subject, but it lacks credibility

          Someone else debunked most of this comment already, but I should note that Gillespie is one of the most respected academic researchers on this field and just published an entire book about it (which is mostly CRITICAL of social media platforms). Yet you claim he lacks credibility and hasn't done any research. He's done more research on this topic than basically anyone alive. But, alas, you're not here to state facts, just to misrepresent things.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2018 @ 7:18pm

      Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

      None of this means what you think it means. It is far more likely that the power company website is simply more popular than than a racist website, and as such has more traffic and subsequently ranks higher in Google's search results.

      Try some logic and less paranoia. I hear it does wonders for your mental health.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 3:52am

        Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

        It could also mean that they got a lot of complaints from people trying to find the power company and being confronted by racist idiots instead. Google are known to have processes whereby they can remove or prioritise specific search results if people complain about them.

        But, even if these people are correct about bias in general search results, whining that it's harder for them to be racist is hardly a winning argument.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Sep 2018 @ 5:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

          Indeed. Since platforms are private enterprises there's a fine line they must walk in terms of:-

          *fiduciary responsibility to shareholders
          *providing an open space for people to communicate and share information
          *compliance with the national and international laws governing their conduct as a company


          The Overton Window is a factor: what people are willing to accept as the norm and to tolerate on principle tends to influence the legislation that the platforms are subject to. Their own TOS is about maintaining an open service with the widest reach possible. It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that the demand-side has pushed governments to force platforms, etc., to moderate their content.

          The same goes for search engines. People got fed up of being bombarded with misinformation in the search results and asked their representatives to Do Something. So they did. If the number of people pushing for search engines to clear out misinformation, racist cant, and outright filth outnumber the bug-eyed right wingers and perves who want to leave it to individuals to decide what they consider worthwhile reading and viewing, welcome to market forces: the system works!

          As I said before, if those pseudo-conservative racists object to not being placed front and centre in the search results, too bad. The people have spoken.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

        (a) Google itself is happy to tell you that Americans seek the real SBPDL, not SBPDCL: What is the SBPDL/SBPDCL ratio? In many weeks you will get a divide-by-zero error!

        https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=sbpdl,sbpdcl

        (b) Logic? I suggest a glance at a mirror before you start flinging insults.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 9:02am

          Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

          Well your logic (and comment) doesn't make any sense. So, back at you?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 9:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

            He's saying that when he's looking for his daily dose of racism, he's too stupid to bookmark or remember the URL and is outraged that Google tries showing him something associated with brown people first. Specifically, according to his own link, he's outraged that they are returning the most popular worldwide result for the term he's searching for rather than the one that appeals to local racists like him.

            A strange thing to be obsessed over, but those straws aren't going to grasp themselves.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 11:38am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

              "Specifically, according to his own link, he's outraged that they are returning the most popular worldwide result for the term he's searching for rather than the one that appeals to local racists like him."

              You are exhibiting ideological dyslexia. The Google Trends report shows that Americans do NOT want the obscure electric utility in India.

              Also, you keep calling me a racist. That reinforces the impression that you can't read (or else you are just another SJW who wants to suppress all discussion of your means and motives). If you think that anyone who mentions a site you don't like to illustrate how Google censors sites you don't like is therefore a "racist", you come out looking pretty bad.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 2:10pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

                You are exhibiting ideological dyslexia. The Google Trends report shows that Americans do NOT want the obscure electric utility in India.

                No, you're the one with dyslexia. Google Trends do not show anything about what Americans WANT, it only shows what they search for. And they could very easily be searching for the one, when in reality they want the other.

                you keep calling me a racist

                I didn't, but you do keep defending a racist site, so either you're a hardcore 1st Amendment guy or you really like them.

                If you think that anyone who mentions a site you don't like to illustrate how Google censors sites you don't like is therefore a "racist", you come out looking pretty bad.

                Well since that's not actually what anyone has done, the only one looking bad here is you. Not to mention the fact that we have taken great pains to show you that Google is not censoring anything. Especially since you can still find it in their search results. If it was TRULY censored, it wouldn't show up at all.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 2:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

                  "If it was TRULY censored..."

                  More motte and bailey. If there is one copy of the blasphemous book left, locked up in the vaults of the Inquisition, the book has not been TRULY burnt...

                  As for your suggestion that Americans "really want" the website of an obscure electric utility in India but *search* for an American political website instead... well, I hope you can hear the echo of a million skeptics laughing.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2018 @ 2:36pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

                    More motte and bailey. If there is one copy of the blasphemous book left, locked up in the vaults of the Inquisition, the book has not been TRULY burnt...

                    Correct. Good job. And just like that, since you can still find it in the search results, it hasn't been censored.

                    As for your suggestion that Americans "really want" the website of an obscure electric utility in India but search for an American political website instead...

                    It's not a political website. It's a piece of racist garbage. If you want to defend it, go ahead, but that will say more about you than me.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 15 Sep 2018 @ 7:50am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

                "The Google Trends report shows that Americans do NOT want the obscure electric utility in India."

                However, it does show that the worldwide preference is massively in favour of the Indian company. You're just whining that you weren't ghettoised correctly and were instead treated the same as everyone else.

                "Also, you keep calling me a racist"

                Who else would be so concerned that they cannot easily access racist blogs?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Some other guy, 14 Sep 2018 @ 8:30am

      Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

      Those of you who "flagged" the original post to suppress it appear to be either left-wing speech-suppressing activists or else hypocrites. You should feel shame, not triumph.

      The original post **does not contain anything racist**. Sure, it *mentions* a weblog which some people call "racist," but the *original post* is actually about **how Google behaves**.

      No reasonable person would think it "racist" to discuss the way Google sometimes hardcodes its political biases while providing a concrete example to avert the charge of speculation.*

      *Techdirt contributor Tarleton Gillespie emits tendentious speculation, but I don't see that as something to emulate:

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180830/17464440547/theres-reason-that-misleading-claims- bias-search-social-media-enjoy-such-traction.shtml

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 9:05am

        Re: Re: Google *does* deliberately hardcode left-wing bias

        appear to be either left-wing speech-suppressing activists or else hypocrites.

        If that is what you think than you don't understand what you're talking about.

        You should feel shame, not triumph.

        Um, I feel neither?

        The original post does not contain anything racist. Sure, it mentions a weblog which some people call "racist," but the original post is actually about how Google behaves.

        You weren't flagged for being racist. You were flagged for being a troll and an idiot.

        Techdirt contributor Tarleton Gillespie emits tendentious speculation, but I don't see that as something to emulate:

        Yeah I just eviscerated that argument in a comment above. Please have a look.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 5:20am

    If you have lived your whole life in water you would never know what the sensation of being dry is.

    For some people they honestly don't know when something is happening despite other people trying to tell them it's happening. Because they have never experienced such a thing they cannot accept it exists.

    How would you describe colour to a blind person, or music to a deaf person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 7:18am

    Perhaps the search engines could provide an opt-in parameter allowing the user to set some sort of political leaning slider , I suggest a scale of 1 to 10.

    This could easily be implemented via a cookie, which is read by the search engine upon search initiation. This setting would then instruct the engine to only return results that fit the desired political lean.

    Everyone would be happy .... LOL, not! Because they would find some other silly pos to complain about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Sep 2018 @ 7:59am

      Re:

      Of course they would. Once they are able to specify the exact tone of their echo chamber, anything that challenges their preconceived world view would be heresy - especially facts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2018 @ 6:43pm

    I still find it amusing to be told the same thing three times in about a week. Still not going to buy it because it sounds increasingly desperate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Other One, 15 Sep 2018 @ 7:09am

    I think both CNN and Donald Trump are full of shit. They don't research anything beyond a cursory glance and they both serve their own selfish agendas. They've both proven themselves to be terrible and untrustworthy at handling their respective jobs and performing the duties that the public expects of them.

    So, where does that put me? Is there any room for the existence of a viewpoint such as mine in the narrow, myopic, downright binary representation of the public that this article puts forth?

    Please stop making this about "Trump fans" vs. the world. You're being divisive again, Mike. This can't be helping your readership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2018 @ 2:38pm

      Re:

      Please stop making this about "Trump fans" vs. the world.

      He's not, but you are.

      You're being divisive again, Mike.

      No, that would be you.

      This can't be helping your readership.

      It's not hurting it since people like you continue to read and comment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        The Other One, 15 Sep 2018 @ 3:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Did you read the article? I did.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        The Other One, 15 Sep 2018 @ 4:08pm

        Re: Re:

        > NO U
        > NO U
        > YOU'RE STILL COMMENTING, THAT MEANS YOU'RE INVESTED FOREVER
        > YOU SAID "MIKE" IN A CRITICAL POST, THAT MEANS I MUST ATTACK YOU TO SHOW HOW LOYAL I AM TO THE TRIBE

        Did you know that's what you sound like? To me, at least, for what it's worth.

        People like you, as well as articles like this, are making it easier for me to remove TechDirt from my RSS feed reader and give up on this site entirely. I've been on the fence about whether or not I should, but this helps me make my decusion that much more easily.

        You know what, fuck it. That's precisely what I've done. Enjoy your echo chamber, I won't disturb your time within it any longer. You win! You helped chased me off TechDirt! Congratulations!

        Trump Derangement Syndrome has ruined this place. I may consider checking this place out again in about two to six more years, if you know what I mean, to see things have changed for the better. Until then, I'm gone.

        My partner will probably keep reading and commenting here for a little while longer, she has a bit more of that "benefit of the doubt" in her than I do, but I know she's beginning to question whether or not she's wasting her time on here as well.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          The Other One, 15 Sep 2018 @ 4:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          s/decusion/decision

          I refuse to go down with an uncorrected typo! I have standards, damn it!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2018 @ 9:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Did you read the article? I did.

          I did and nowhere in it does it make this about Trump fans vs the world.

          Did you know that's what you sound like? To me, at least, for what it's worth.

          Sorry, I thought I had made it clear I was pointing out your hypocrisy.

          Enjoy your echo chamber, I won't disturb your time within it any longer. You win! You helped chased me off TechDirt! Congratulations!

          Am I supposed to be saddened or hurt by this? If you don't want to accept facts and logic, then perhaps this is not the site for you. (Though I think you would benefit from it) Taking the time to constantly explain to you and others like you is time that could be spent having productive conversations. Instead we end up having to point out that you are wrong with facts that you should have already known. So if you don't like us pointing out reality to you, then perhaps it is in both our best interests for you to leave. So again, am I supposed to feel bad about this?

          Trump Derangement Syndrome has ruined this place.

          Then perhaps you should tell Trump to get his act together and stop being a moronic tyrant who throws childish temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way, and we'll stop pointing out all the dumb and stupid stuff he does, while endlessly mocking him for not knowing better.

          My partner will probably keep reading and commenting here for a little while longer, she has a bit more of that "benefit of the doubt" in her than I do, but I know she's beginning to question whether or not she's wasting her time on here as well.

          As long as she is willing to civilly engage in discussion (even if she disagrees with us), she will absolutely be welcome. It is only those who refuse to accept reality or indisputable facts, and when called out on it, insult and berate the rest of the community that our tolerance reaches its breaking point. I think most of us enjoy a spirited debate, even against someone who holds a view 180 degrees from us. It is only when they become derogative, insulting, and willfully ignore facts, logic, and reality that our patience wanes.

          Since, by your comment above, you seem to both be incapable of accepting facts and reality and when called out on it lash out with insults and childish tantrums, then I do think it's best if you leave this site. If your partner is willing to engage civilly and discuss reality and facts, then she will be welcome.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            The First One, 16 Sep 2018 @ 8:44am

            I still see no genuine desire in understanding the other side from you in this comment thread, just "talking down" or "shut the fuck up already" in a wordy way.

            Why should I address any kind of talking points when you're only interested in saying how my reality isn't my reality? That's saying that someone's crazy for believing what they believe without saying it.

            If I'm ultimately thought of as a "deluded AC racist, misogynist, far-right/alt-right, nazi shit-disturber", I don't care. But calling me those things makes you feel better, doesn't it? It makes you feel very right and very good.

            Keep it up, don't hold back on my account. Have fun doing it to all the people who stand in your way. Because you're the good person, not me, that's why I'm over here and you'll always be on the right side of history... right?

            I'm not playing this tribalism game anymore, but you'll be back... I won't read your inevitable last word. Enjoy writing that comment and looking reasonable to everyone else who will think you've been so fair and calm to the psychopath who should just shut up and accept what the media says uncritically.

            Because that's what it's really all about, no matter what kinds of points I bring up or whatever I say.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Capt Obvious, 16 Sep 2018 @ 9:23am

              Re:

              In summary, you refuse to listen as you are right and those who disagree are wrong. I think most here understand your position - it's all about you.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2018 @ 7:31pm

              Re:

              I still see no genuine desire in understanding the other side from you in this comment thread, just "talking down" or "shut the fuck up already" in a wordy way.

              You've made it clear you will never agree with us on here, no matter how much evidence we present to you. In that case it is probably best for everyone if you do leave, as you've already stated. I'm merely agreeing with you, albeit in a wordy way.

              Why should I address any kind of talking points when you're only interested in saying how my reality isn't my reality?

              Because the facts don't line up with your reality. That's why. I can't help it that you refuse to accept them.

              That's saying that someone's crazy for believing what they believe without saying it.

              You reject facts and live in a false reality. Therefore, I call you crazy. What's your problem?

              If I'm ultimately thought of as a "deluded AC racist, misogynist, far-right/alt-right, nazi shit-disturber", I don't care. But calling me those things makes you feel better, doesn't it? It makes you feel very right and very good.

              I never called you any of those things. UNLESS, you're really John Smith posting under another user name. Then yes, I did call you all those things because those are the behaviors you displayed in our conversations. So the question is, do you admit to being John Smith? Or did you just lie about me calling you those things?

              that's why I'm over here and you'll always be on the right side of history... right?

              As long as you keep denying facts and reality, then yes.

              I'm not playing this tribalism game anymore

              Goodbye.

              but you'll be back

              Here I am!

              I won't read your inevitable last word.

              Don't care.

              Enjoy writing that comment

              Ah, so enjoyable.

              looking reasonable to everyone else who will think you've been so fair

              Or at least living in reality.

              the psychopath who should just shut up and accept what the media says uncritically.

              Never said you were a psychopath. Delusional, yes, psychopath, no. And you should never accept anything blindly, but you seem intent on rejecting everything blindly.

              Because that's what it's really all about, no matter what kinds of points I bring up or whatever I say.

              No, it's really about the fact that you can't be bothered with actual facts and throw childish tantrums when people present them to you, because then you would have to admit you were wrong.

              Sorry we disagree and you can't accept facts and reality. You're welcome to come back anytime, preferably after you've come back to live in reality.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2018 @ 8:21am

      Re:

      Comparing CNN to Trump .. why?

      So, where are you? idk.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion ... in any base,
      be it binary, octal, decimal or even hexadecimal.

      How does one make something appear to you as tho it were a Trump fans vs. the world situation? Perhaps this pov is driven by the fact that donny continues to paint himself into corners - do not blame the walls as they were there first.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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