LEAKED EMAILS: Senior Google Search Engineer Advocates for Censorship of ‘Terrorist’ Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

LEAKED EMAILS: Senior Google Search Engineer Advocates for Censorship of ‘Terrorist’ Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). By Allum Bokhari.

Congresswoman Blackburn and General Petraeus in 2008

The topic of discussion was Rep. Blackburn’s Fox News op-ed … which urged Silicon Valley companies to address bias against conservatives on their platforms.

Blackburn, who has herself been the target of social media censorship, has been a vocal critic of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter during her time in Congress. …

Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer at Google … [said] the public is being “lied to” by Blackburn, he went on to accuse the Tennessee representative of “causing the deaths of people she claimed to protect” — something he attributed to her work on the anti-trafficking bills FOSTA and SESTA.

“We certainly shouldn’t acquiesce to the theatrical demands of a legislator who makes political hay by intentionally reducing the safety of the people who she claims to protect,” said Lemoine. “I’m not big on negotiation with terrorists.” …

Lemoine is named in this story because he occupies a key position in the company’s influential search team, as a technical lead on Google’s search feed, formerly known as Google Now. The Google feed’s most distinctive feature is that it sends information to users proactively, using personal data to predict what information users want before they search for it.

According to Lemoine’s LinkedIn, he also works on “research pertaining to fairness and bias in machine learning,” making his own biased comments particularly relevant.

Lemoine also indicated that he supports censorship on social media: he defended Twitter’s decision to temporarily censor one of Rep. Blackburn’s pro-life campaign ads on the platform, arguing that the takedown was not, in fact, censorship.

“Taking down libel is not censorship,” said Lemoine. …

Although Lemoine caveated himself by stating “not all Republican ads are lies,” a question that Lemoine did not address is whether his own bias affects what he sees as “lies,” and whether that bias affects the decisions he makes in his role overseeing a key element of Google search.

Marsha Blackburn’s campaign spokesman, Abbi Sigler, provided the following statement: “These emails are despicable. Marsha Blackburn is a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a dedicated public servant, a pro-life champion, an ally for veterans, and an advocate for lowering our taxes and cutting regulation. To call her a terrorist is offensive and degrading. These emails are indicative of the bias conservative women in the political arena face every day. Liberals do not want them to have a voice in the public arena, and too many social media employees carry their bias to work with them.” …

Independent research acknowledged even by the anti-Trump Washington Post, found that Google search results tended to favor Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Research conducted prior to the 2016 election also found that if Google deliberately skewed its search results to favor particular candidates, it could shift the votes of undecided voters by margins of 20 percent or more. Lead researcher Dr. Robert Epstein also says that Google could potentially manipulate its search results without leaving a paper trail, as there is currently no system of monitoring or oversight to detect bias in the platform’s hyper-personalized search functions.

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my main search engine for a year now, and find it better than Google in some ways, worse in others (I still use Google for localized searches, such as when I want to buy something), but on the whole about as good — but it doesn’t tie into to Google’s ad network or store my searches.

hat-tip Charles, Scott of the Pacific