You can always tell when it's mid-term season. Things that have been broke forever finally start getting fixed, smear stories appear left and right and here in the internet age you can also count on some dirty tricks coming from cyberspace as well. A couple days ago, Vice magazine revealed how Google was listing "Nazism" as one of the planks of the California Republican Party.
Google in turn blames Wikimedia, the company in charge of Wikipedia. They, in turn, put the blame on "vandalism." Just what we need, more hackers in our elections, right? Wikimedia claims that issues like this are generally caught in moments, but evidently, this was one of those cases that slips through the cracks.
Google has an automated algorithm that grabs info from supposedly "reliable" sources and for whatever reason, Google considers the user-edited encyclopedia at Wikipedia reliable. Now supposedly, Google has safeguards that are meant to prevent information being culled even from reliable sources if there are signs of hacking or "vandalism." Once again, for whatever reasons, this little error slipped through the cracks.
And you know, I might just let a little something like this slip through the cracks if it hadn't been for the fact that it's not the only place that it's happening. The Goldwater just reported on North Carolina State Senator Trudy Wade coming up on searches at Google with the word "bigot" showing up across the bottom of the Google Knowledge Panel. So from the sounds of it, both Wikimedia/Wikipedia and Google supposedly have multiple safeguards in place to protect from this.
Google offered a statement to Vice about the situation:
"This was not the result of any manual change by anyone at Google. We don't bias our search results toward any political party," said a Google spokesperson in an emailed statement. "Sometimes people vandalize public information sources, like Wikipedia, which can impact the information that appears in search. We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that's what happened here. This would have been fixed systematically once we processed the removal from Wikipedia, but when we noticed the vandalism we worked quickly to accelerate this process to remove the erroneous information."
Former employee at Google, James Damore was fired for arguing for ideological diversity at Google. According to Damore anyone who doesn't subscribe to the de facto progressive politics of Silicon Valley. Twitter has been busted multiple times by Project Veritas throttling conservative opinions, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled before Congress on several subjects including how fairly the platform manages to balance political expression.
If Google is to be trusted, then how is it this situation occurred back to back and at such a sensitive time. If we are to believe that a few thousand dollars worth of Facebook ads are all it took to tilt the 2016 election then shouldn't exploits like these be considered as potentially dangerous to democracy?