Initially, the founders of Google saw their algorithm as an unbiased reflection of the internet itself. It used an analysis called PageRank, named for co-founder Larry Page, to determine the value of a website by rating how many other websites were linked to it as well the quality of these other websites based on the number of linked websites. you.
The philosophy was: “We did not interfere with the search in any way. If we start interfering with search results, we will become a one-way street towards a healed internet and will no longer be neutral, ”said Danielle Citron, law professor at the University of Virginia. A decade ago Citron lobbied Google to prevent so-called “revenge porn” from showing up when searching for a person’s name. The company initially resisted.
Google made its position in a 2004 statement explaining why its search engine appeared on anti-Semitic websites in response to searches for the word “Jewish”.
“Our search results are generated completely objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google,” said the company’s statement, which it deleted a decade later. “The only sites we skip are those that we are required by law to remove or that try to maliciously manipulate our results.”
Google’s early interventions in its search results were limited to things like spam and pirated movies and music, as required by copyright law, as well as compromising financial information such as social security numbers. Recently, the company has been hesitant to take a more active role in cleaning search results for people.
The most notable case occurred in 2014 when European courts established the “right to be forgotten”. European Union residents can request that what they believe to be inaccurate and irrelevant information about them is removed from search engines.
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Google unsuccessfully fought the court ruling. The company said its job is to make existing information accessible and does not want to get involved in regulating the content that appears in search results. But because it was established as a law, Google was forced to remove millions of links from search results for personal names.