The moral bias behind your search results | Andreas Ekström

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The moral bias behind your search results | Andreas Ekström

Search engines have become our most trusted sources of information and arbiters of truth. But can we ever get an unbiased search result? Swedish author and journalist Andreas Ekström argues that such a thing is a philosophical impossibility. In this thoughtful talk, he calls on us to strengthen the bonds between technology and the humanities, and he reminds us that behind every algorithm is a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more. Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at Follow TED news on Twitter: Like TED on Facebook: Subscribe to our channel:

Comments to the video: The moral bias behind your search results | Andreas Ekström

Hoo- Rei 2 months ago
Google absolutely bias eg: Google Israel & Palestine. Very pro Israel or China or Russia. Very negative responses to questions. Etc. alternatively very vague responses.
アメリカとその市民私は愛してる 5 months ago
President Trump is right about Google
HuntingTarg 10 months ago
I remember the days when one could (in fact, almost had to) use search parameter syntax in order to get relevant results. I got cleverly good at it - then one year (about 2008) it all stopped working 'right'. The odd quirky things I got good at researching got harder and harder to research, and way more 'popular' results kept showing up, to the point that I started to disbelieve the blanket (over-)statement If you can remember it, its on the internet. So yes, once I figured out that it wasn't all the databases in the world that changed, it was just Google (and those who tried to copycat Google), I got disillusioned. So much for the 'New Enlightenment.'
Uncle Nuts 1 year ago
Use google images and search sexy girl. You are scrolling a looooong time before you see a black woman. So much for diversity, right, Google?
Avalanche2 1 year ago
Eleonora Ilieva 1 year ago
Google is pushing The New Left Press Syndicate articles first always
Eleonora Ilieva 1 year ago
Yandex
wilecatrexy 1 year ago
I google a polical topic and always get liberally biased news sites at the top of the list.
Shutter Eff3ct 1 year ago
Maybe Google is right in this.
HuntingTarg 10 months ago
Google is so pervasive and influential as of the TenTechTitans that by virtue of that degree of control and influence they HAVE moral responsibility De Facto. What some are accusing Google of is abusing that responsibility and engaging in social engineering.
Mork 666 1 year ago
BIAS:EVERYONE,TRY THIS:SEARCH GOOGLE IMAGES FOR EUROPE HISTORY AND YOU'LL GET A PAGE FILLED WITH NEGROES!! SEARCH: HAPPY AMERICAN FAMILY ALL YOU GET ARE INTERRACIAL COUPLES,THAT MY FRIENDS IS THE REAL BIAS,THE FUCKIN' LEFTIST PROPAGANDA STARTS IN GOOGLE,GOES BY FB AND YOU TUBE ,WE ARE ALLOWING OUR CHILDREN TO BE TAUGHT WRONG THINGS FOR THE SAKE OF POLITICS,FOR THE SAKE OF POLITIC CORRECTNESS!!
Rulya Ard Mhacha Farley 1 year ago
Tommy Sotomayor pointed out Google's hypocrisy in images & the next day, literally the next day, all the images on the same subject were completely changed in favor of the left's agenda.
Rulya Ard Mhacha Farley 1 year ago
TED is fantastic. ❤❤❤
Rulya Ard Mhacha Farley 1 year ago
Google are worse now. 50 times worse now. They've become fascist thought police.
chirag jain 1 year ago
Got the point but stupid comparison. In both cases, what Google did was justified. And they are also not going to intervene for every search, only where its making controversies
HuntingTarg 10 months ago
Not true. Google is being sued by former employees and third parties for engaging in discriminatory treatment, 'shaming' practices approved by management, censure, and censorship.
Vincent Campaert 10 months ago
If I were to make a movement where WE would morph Donald Trump's head into a monkey, Google would not intervene. If I were to make a movement where WE would morph Michelle Obama's head into a monkey, Google will ( and has ) intervene(d). Everyone has their own agenda to push, some have more power than other. It's a simple fact.
陈玥茏 1 year ago
An amazing talk, as a Chinese, I use baidu more than google due to the constrain and I always thought that the results from google are more correct than the same thing from baidu. It is like a Chinese old story which is 'The people escape in 50 steps laugh at those escape in 100 steps'. Maybe we really need a more fair engine , as we are asking the true instead of a made up true.
HuntingTarg 10 months ago
I am an American who got to use Google when it was new, before all the filtering algorithims. I, got above-average good at using search syntax to create my own made-to-order 'search filters'. Now most of that syntax doesn't work or have any major effect on my results, because Google has taken that power out of the hands of the end user. This was done for two reasons: One was that the free markets demanded it. People who didn't know how computers worked (and didn't want to) had been made all sorts of promises about technology, and got frustrated when they discovered that the magical results they were expecting came from operating intellectual machinery, they didn't want any part of learning how to operate the machinery, they just wanted the results. So the tech companies dutifully kept or hired more talent in order to make products that the purchasing public would actually want to use (case in point: Apple Computer ). The other reason was that like many others, Google realized that instead of leaving that power in the hands of the user, if they took it, automated it, and were able to custom-create and sell information profiles to advertisers and market analysts, they could make way more money than just by being a good search engine, way more than even by being the BEST SEARCH ENGINE ON THE PLANET. In other words, they took the most influential abilities of technology away from the end-user and sold them to third-party private interests, often to-order or at the highest bidder. I miss the old, 'new' Google and am vehemently repulsed at the cruel, capricious leviathan it has become. The new Tech Giants are, in my estimation, in no way morally or ethically superior to their Industrial predecessors.
Moe Soliman 1 year ago
great points that lots of people have intentionally ignored
kawii Turtle 2 years ago
Webmaster of the Internet creates singularity accelerant seo aka GoogleBot HiJacked
CIA 2 years ago
4:21 It was very lieky 4chan, specifically the /pol/ board
Gustavo Symonds 2 years ago
I think by Google making human decisions to expose us to certain things that are right ,that are keeping society just where they want. shshsh.
CzechRiot 3 years ago
Everyday a new person rediscovering the wheel.
Shutter Eff3ct 1 year ago
yep
Lavender Ocean 3 years ago
that's why reddit and 4chan is the way to go
buddy77587 3 years ago
wow
Christina Birdsong 3 years ago
We are our own moral lens. While all media comes through a biased corporate filter based on who owns the station ( re: republican or democrat), we alone hold the views that will shape the lens we ingest and digest it through.
HuntingTarg 10 months ago
That's true, but that's not ultimately what it's about. There's another TED talk by Eli Parisier on Filter Bubbles (which, I might add is five years older than this one) which explains how technology can shape our views by shaping what information and POVs we are and are not exposed to. Put another way: What if Правда or the LA Times-Mirror were turned into a set of machine-intelligent algorithms?
Jazzy Waffles 3 years ago
Wait, that happened in 2009? Huh. Guess I completely missed it.
Argonanth 3 years ago
Google is a tool. Just like every other tool you should understand when to use it. I've never typed into google a non 'fact' question because that's not what it is for. I've found that google is very good at pointing me at the specific information I need so that is what I use it for.
Rum Dreg 3 years ago
Ixquick mustard rice!
Ohad Asor 3 years ago
Tau-Chain will change it all. Decentralized search engine, all data in everyone's hands, with knowledge rather facts only.
Mayur Purohit 3 years ago
u did a great job man.!! 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌
Émilia Tokes 3 years ago
beautiful.
xphilli 3 years ago
This started off as an advert for a possible alternative search engine that was better, and then it became about two extreme examples of where Google has and hasn't intervened. These examples were then related to power? If the examples were based on instances where google had regularly intervened to hide the truth from the public as if they were a big brother entity then fine. Overall there was no premise for this tedtalk, just filler for tedtalk's ever watered-down content.
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
That's a remarkably good talk. I have no problem with either of the cases given, my instinct would be to do much the same. Yet it does illustrate a bias.
B Free 3 years ago
So is he taking up for a terrorist? Wow so he's basically saying that because the guy did wrong in the eyes of Google, they didn't bother cleaning up his image. And that is a bad thing? I don't get ppl smh. The crazy part is that to this day ppl refer to that Michelle Obama pick calling her a monkey. Most idiots are too idiotic to realize the picture was distorted and photoshopped. They actually think she looks like this! Smh. People I tell ya!
john smith 3 years ago
So is he taking up for a terrorist. if that's what you got from this whole talk then you should go back to school
Other Mark 3 years ago
+B Free No, he's saying that you shouldn't believe that search results haven't been adjusted based upon moral views. To establish that point, he took two examples that were based on the same method of tricking the search engine and the uneven response by Google, presumably based on their moral views. He's not arguing the moral views themselves, just arguing that they (could) exist when you google something, for better or worse. He does this because people he's talked to believe that they are getting the best, unbiased search result. He doesn't state that his unstated belief is that the search engine is for searching what is simply out there and not for acting as a Wikipedia/fact-checker itself, although I think he would prefer that.
Silk Williams 3 years ago
We're all salves to the system that dictates & tells us how to think and act!
G3M1N1 3 years ago
hypocrisy is indestructible
AvangionQ 3 years ago
The personalization of search combined with the human predilection for confirmation bias has lead to the polarization of our politics. If you want an unbiased search result, I could make a suggestion, switch a search engine which doesn't spoon feed you, such as . getting over your confirmation biases and becoming a true skeptic who follows the evidence regardless of any painful conclusions, that will take much more work. Also, there's a clear moral difference between racism and a protest against racism, terrorism and violence.
Harshit Mishra 3 years ago
i think anyone who know lil seo and lil about how mind works how evolution works do know about what this guy is saying (Y)
Roee Wachter 3 years ago
as a true swidsh, he had to mention the israeli-arab conflict, thousands of conflics around the world and he had to stick a finger in the face of Israel, why? i have no idea
wilecatrexy 1 year ago
Israel in many ways has a strong influence in the US. Which distorts our media and manipulates the minds of the American people.
joel. arnelo 2 years ago
+Roee Wachter it was just an example, god..
Rob Smith 3 years ago
+Roee Wachter Well because Israel is an apartheid country.
Mr. Stonefallow 3 years ago
It would have been much better to see an example of actual deception taking place, not something that was obviously a joke made to insult a terrorist.
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
+CzechRiot LOL. I tried to chat up Alice once. I can believe 7 impossible things before breakfast.
CzechRiot 3 years ago
+Kneedragon1962 Oh. people in power have biases that favor them??? What a preposterous idea! Unthinkable!!
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
+Mr. Stonefallow It s not a case of deception, it s a case of not being an impersonal algorithm. It indicates personal moral bias. Now while Google is being nice and civilised, that s perhaps not a huge problem, but what would happen if they started to hold extreme racial or political views? The point is there s an incredible amount of power, in terms of influence, in being able to direct and modify people s search results. And what he s just shown, is that Google DO modify those search results. So far, that isn t a catastrophe, but it is something we very much need to be aware of. [edit]. and while I think of it. The core piece of Google's algorithm, the thing that made them successful and keeps them so, is the idea that they prioritise search results on the basis that lots of other pages point at this one. The more other pages there are on the web, that have a link to this page, the higher this page will appear in search results. Now Google do not make the decision about how many other people put up a website with a link that points to (let's say) Satan_Is_Boss.com. That once more, is a personal decision, the decision of people who publish webpages.
Mat Broomfield 3 years ago
Worse still, it's a moral bias from an American perspective. I don't see a huge amount of morality in most American business or politics at the moment. So much for freedom of speech.
BipedalP314 3 years ago
+Mat Broomfield Search engines are by their very nature open to bias the only question is whose bias it's most influenced by - the programmer or the users. This is in no way related to the freedom speech. We still have free speech but if you expect that Google as a company has to give you an avenue for you to exercise your free speech you're expecting something you're not entitled to. Google doesn't have an obligation to display everything you want to see on their website just like I don't have an obligation to let you plaster your opinions on the side of my house.
Mat Broomfield 3 years ago
+roidroid Because one's speech is impeded when the index of that speech distorts access to it according their own political agenda and moral biases.
roidroid 3 years ago
+Mat Broomfield > So much for freedom of speech. Why did you say this sentence? What does freedom of speech have to do with your comment?
Ferenc Kocsis 3 years ago
+Mat Broomfield That's right! I agree with that!
rawstarmusic 3 years ago
It's true that it starts small but gets bigger when things gets important. Theoretically there is right & wrong and above them is Google.
MakoSDV 3 years ago
I liked it better when Google and other search engines were dumb. The results are too biased these days. This is exacerbated by so many sites presenting the same regurgitated information. It's often very hard to really find information especially about things of political importance.
BariumCobaltNitrog3n 3 years ago
1:20 *makes my skin crawl or *makes my hair curl skin doesn't curl.
JF Lewis 3 years ago
From this speech, I conclude an intelligent, informed realist made some valuable points. Thank you, JF
ntdonat 3 years ago
+Jeremy Smith i bet the informed realist who made some valuable points would disagree.
Jeremy Smith 3 years ago
You literally said nothing of value
TesserId 3 years ago
Clustering is what I turn to when Google fails. This includes Carrot and Yippy (formerly Clusty). But, manipulating search engines is a major issue--one that won't go away. And, I appreciate the ideas in this video.
actionmethod 3 years ago
I wonder if it's not more a question of ontology than bias. Clearly Google has an agenda and I think most people are aware, and judgement should be passed accordingly. They are who they are and make decisions as such.
Remy Lebeau 3 years ago
Interesting that he didn't say anything about privacy concerns when searching on google. There is now a better search engine you can use that claims to be the worlds most private search engine. The name is StartPage.
Remy Lebeau 3 years ago
+IsYitzach But how can you bring up morals and ignore government or businesses spying on people?
IsYitzach 3 years ago
+Remy Lebeau But his talk wasn't about privacy. It was about the moral bias of the results. Not saying it isn't a concern, just not the topic.
יוסף ישראל גורן 3 years ago
NO! what they did yo michelle obama was raceicem, wille what they have done ageinst that terrorist was an anti terrorist campain, those are very diffrent things, you can not just say that it was a matter of personal opinion like that. also there have been only 2 examples in this talk and that is really not what needed to prove anything. so as much as i agree about what he seid, the example of google that he has shown simpley dose not stand.
Jack Winterheld 3 years ago
My personal opinion is that Michelle Obama is a monkey. As you can see, this is both insulting and personal opinion, so racism is not a valid card to play here. It might have been a photo of a flower or a honeybee aswell.
SockTaters III 3 years ago
London?
DocLarsen44 3 years ago
This all seems very logical except for two glaring unanswered questions: who is it that is deciding who the honorable person is and who is deciding the scoundrel?? The answer to those questions can make a world of difference. For example: if that person is himself a scoundrel a lie maybe foisted upon the public. That is much the way politics works.
Vincent Campaert 10 months ago
(((they))) decide
applepie 3 years ago
Can't stop staring at his head.
Ceaderf 3 years ago
His students are morons.
Oste 3 years ago
Thank you now l can control google
Bill Garthright 3 years ago
This is interesting, but it isn't a reason not to use Google. At most, it's a reason to have multiple search engines, I guess. But a bad example would have been more effective. IS there a bad example? Google doesn't do everything right (just look at the YouTube comment system!), but they seem to do pretty well with search engines. I used to use other search engines, but I got in a rut, I suppose. Still, Google seems to work fine (especially since I rarely search about controversial issues).
Rulya Ard Mhacha Farley 1 year ago
Bill Garthright Look at Google now. It's 50 times worse now.
Dustin Broussard 3 years ago
+Dustin Broussard also i think that's a pretty powerful bad example
Dustin Broussard 3 years ago
right, i don't think he was trying to convince us not to use google.just reminding us of the power it has to influence perception and to remember to be wary of false objectivity
P 3 years ago
+Bill Garthright Well, he wasn't arguing not to use a search engine--only for the searchers (us) to know our bias, the search engine's bias, and to adjust our perspective accordingly.
Cleodel 3 years ago
Is it just me, or have google search results narrowed since around 2008 or so?
P. Rourke 3 years ago
Great speech. But the question is; Is it Google's responsibility to provide unbiased results to its users? Google is a company that offers its service to people - you don't have to use Google if you don't want to, you are merely borrowing its search power within relatively restrictive terms and conditions - so should we hold Google accountable? Is it even possible for search engines to be both effective and unbiased?It's all very tricky and I don't have the answers myself but I think it's important to look at the issue from different critical perspectives.
P. Rourke 3 years ago
Those are good points too, and I do personally think that Google should make an effort to inform their users as to how their algorithm works. However, I have to say that from a technical point of view, Google is not hiding the facts either. With a quick internet search, you can learn that the results Google digs up for us are ranked on the basis of popularity (amongst other things) - which is biased in essence. It seems like, as technologies become more and more embedded in our lives, we (as users) get the sense that we own the internet - that Google is a public space - which is totally normal, that's how it is being marketed to us. But if we aim to talk about biases or the promotion/demotion of ideologies (like in this video), let's not forget that Google is private company with a primary focus on profit. Profit is biased. Maybe the solution is to hold ourselves responsible as much as we hold the company responsible for what we believe in or choose to believe in. As I said before, I don't claim to have the answers but I think discussion and knowledge is key here.
Jarful of Love 3 years ago
+P. Rourke I love me a good libertarian argument. I agree that google has no obligation to be unbiased, but if that is the case, I believe they have the obligation to clearly and visibly state that they have biases, and to declare said biases, otherwise the user, by definition, cannot make an informed decision whether to use google's services or not, and therefore cannot give informed consent when accepting google's terms and conditions. Because informed consent is the cornerstone of a voluntary agreement between consenting parties, by not allowing for informed consent, google has forfeited the right to autonomously enter voluntary agreements with other consenting parties, and as such, society now has a right to moderate google's interactions with its members, if only to the extent of enforcing full disclosure to the public.
Roenie 3 years ago
+P. Rourke Great lips. Great point. Do Google say anywhere that the results they provide are supposed to be unbiased? I did not find anything of the sort in a quick browse through their website. I would imagine that's a statement they'd prefer not to touch with a 10 foot pole, for obvious reasons. (Imagine the shitstorm.) If the people are biased, then google will be biased and that's not even something they can control. To google, Michelle Obama's case was likely just them rectifying an issue with their service being intentionally broken by a small group of people. Nothing more, nothing less. No political or ethical agenda. After all, when you search Michelle Obama pictures, you want Michelle Obama pictures, not monkeys. The fact that it happened with Breivik was probably not even on their radar, and if it wasn't, then that is just the result of society not making a big fuss over the civil rights of a bad guy.
Akinventor 3 years ago
DuckDuckGo is the solution.
roidroid 3 years ago
+Kneedragon1962 this reply does not appear to relate to my comment
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
+roidroid (shrug) I don't know. According to Mint's community page there's about 5,000 Mint users in the US, which is by far and away the biggest population.
roidroid 3 years ago
+Kneedragon1962 Made to? DuckDuckGo is not on American soil
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
. more. this is not a US domestic issue. It's everywhere. I am an Australian. We have a government telling ISPs to get ready to retain metadata for two years or something. ISPs are saying they don't get or keep or log that info. Government is saying Start. Or find yourself out of business. You obey the laws we write or you can go open a lemonade stall. You want to be an ISP, this is what is now required of you.
Kneedragon1962 3 years ago
Blackberry are getting out of Pakistan, completely. The Government told them to install a back door they could use, or go home. They flipped Pakistan the Bird and came home.
nicekid76 3 years ago
I love when TED speakers say something I can use in my research paper! Thank you I'm asking you to remember that behind every algorithm is always a person, a person with a set of personal believes that no code can ever completely eradicate .I believe that we've reached a point in time when it's absolutely imperative that we tie those bonds together again tighter the humanities and the technology tighter than ever.
Roenie 3 years ago
+nicekid76 Cool, good luck. I'll find my cheque in the mail then. I'm so gonna make bank on this.
MilkaC 3 years ago
lol, smart! Make sure you quote and site your sources well and don't plagiarize.
nicekid76 3 years ago
lol i know it. lol the thing is. research papers are sometime a means to show that other smart people agree with you. Don't be shocked if I quote you in my paper.
Roenie 3 years ago
+nicekid76 and that is why education is mostly just jumping through hoops. It's'not exactly a new concept, that digital communication connects people so they can interact. That's what it's always been for. I can't imagine one coder being alive today that doesn't understand that already. IT engineers connect people. Real people. Duh! So did the telephone.
Ferenc Kocsis 3 years ago
What if google didn't even notice the Breivik pictures in the first place? Michelle Obama has got a lot of followers and fans compared to a terrorist even though he is famous to some extent. Media would likely pick up the monkey pictures of a first lady rather poo pictures of a terrorist. Just a thought! What if google has found the mistake, just rather late? If they did nothing then we would still see those poo pictures but actually we don't.
Ferenc Kocsis 3 years ago
+Roenie I agree! However, that does not mean that google left it there intentionally!
Urudrim 3 years ago
this is justification of moral bias manipulation. i don't want a corporation deciding what is moral for me. i will decide. google was both despicable and hypocritical.
Urudrim 3 years ago
+Jeremy Smith he did. 5:10
Jeremy Smith 3 years ago
+Urudrim he wasn't.
Urudrim 3 years ago
+Cat the Turtle i was more concerned about this guy condoning that behavior as if he's a google shill.
P 3 years ago
+Urudrim Pretty sure almost everything we interact with has been filtered through someone else's moral compass. It's inescapable. I think it's naive to think we can be free from moral bias manipulation. The best we can do is be aware of it and avoid it as much as we can.
Stitch The626th 3 years ago
I use Google because Bing sucks. LOL, no; Google is way better at truly appealing to my search and productivity needs with gmail and calendar integration. And besides. Android. :P
B. Roland 3 years ago
Lol michelle obama is an honorable person^^ if you say so
B. Roland 3 years ago
+Scarletpooky and that is a real problem for us
Scarletpooky 3 years ago
+Basil Roland And you just proved his point. Google made the moral judgement that she's an honourable person worth defending. They have the power to alter search results based on their personal judgement.
Hrothgal 3 years ago
I read his book as a Swedish assignment. It's actually quite interesting. Googlekoden (The Google Code)
Hazdude 3 years ago
There was another really interesting talk on this channel about the impact of Facebook's newsfeed algorithms on what information about the world people received. It's another branch of the increasing compartmentalisation and separation of different beliefs, views and groups that the internet today makes very possible. There's nothing that can stop likeminded people coming together of course, and it can happen in the real world too, but companies that control the flow of information, like Facebook and Google and even Youtube, should start waking up to this and think carefully about how they shape the world view of their users. Good talk.
Ismaiel Aden 3 years ago
They need more comedians on ted talk to discuss their ideas behind their comedy and how they construct them. They can call it Comediolgy: The study of comedy
Ismaiel Aden 3 years ago
+Phoenix Zappa lol
I P 3 years ago
Instead of comediology, how about comedy
Benjamin Zaugg 3 years ago
google comcast for pictures. another example
Jack Kanoff, M.D. 3 years ago
kek
Abdullah Moiz 3 years ago
Powerful message
Dai Roberts 3 years ago
Adoro esses vídeos.Pena que nem todos tem legenda :(
SoundBias 3 years ago
great message
Adam Boyd 3 years ago
Wow, an amazing talk. Very powerful, short, sharp and to the point.
Karol Haltenberger 3 years ago
+Berelore He highlighted the moral distinction made by Google between those two people. He did not claim it the same way you did not even though you said in in your comment.
Mystic Boltz 3 years ago
Very Smart Man
Berelore 3 years ago
+Adam Boyd yea except when he said Michelle Obama was honorable.
Adam Boyd 3 years ago
I like my profile picture, it makes me smile. :)
Koarpse 3 years ago
+Adam Boyd Damn, change your profile picture.
Root3264 3 years ago
Interesting video on an interesting topic! (:
Rohan M 3 years ago
2nd!
Jordan Kloosterman 3 years ago
Great video.