March 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — What is the best source for determining truth? With some crucial adjustments to its “PageRank” project, Google hopes to take on the role.
Currently, Google ranks any given page for its search results based on how many other sites link to that page. But that may change: According to CNN Money, “Google has come up with a new truth-seeking algorithm” that “draws on Google's 'Knowledge Vault' – a collection of 2.8 billion facts [sic] drawn from the Internet.”
“By checking pages against that database, and cross-referencing related facts, the research team believes the algorithm could assign each page a truth score. Pages with a high proportion of false claims would be bumped down in the search results.”
But conservatives, Christians, and others who are pro-life and pro-marriage may take issue with Google choosing what is true.
One media watchdog finds Google's ambition disturbing. Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center, told LifeSiteNews that “[t]his is potentially very dangerous. I know right now Google is just studying this idea. But the power Google has to impact results and determine what it considers to be absolute truth is 1984-ish.”
In the first place, Google has a history of supporting the redefinition of marriage and the erosion of the traditional family. The tech giant came out against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2011 and, the following year, launched an international campaign to spread a homosexual agenda in countries it deemed “homophobic,” including Poland and Singapore. Google also opposed Proposition 8, which aimed to codify in California's constitution the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, in 2008. In the ad realm, Google has been accused of rejecting conservative advertisements, censoring pro-life content, and restricting Christian viewpoints.
Google also recently backpedaled on a plan to remove pornographic blogs from its search results through Blogger. Since “the new algorithm is in the research stage,” it cannot yet be determined whether pornographic sites would be subject to PageRank's “false claims” scrutiny – nor what Google might determine “true” when it comes to porn.
Google warrants concern more generally as well. The company featured prominently in the PRISM scandal, in which the U.S. federal government was revealed to be spying on internet users via direct access to Google's and other companies' internal servers.
Wendy Wright, vice president of C-Fam, a pro-family and pro-human dignity organization monitoring the U.N., called PageRank “a worthy endeavor” but took issue with the concept of truth “com[ing] down to human judgment.” Wright asked LifeSiteNews, “Who will be the final arbiter of what is true? Will it be Google, which has shown its own bias in the past? … Web surfers will still need a healthy dose of skepticism and an authority higher, and with a better track record, to rely upon than human beings.”
Pro-family advocate and professor Robert Oscar Lopez, author of Jephthah's Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family 'Equality' and manager of English Manif, cited “the gap between perception and reality” as a major problem with Google determining truth. “I see my students relying on Google as if it gives them an objective panoramic view of the world as it is. … They don't account for the fact that people with thoughts and opinions designed the algorithms, or that real people with political connections run the company and might be pressured.”
The internet is already replete with less influential sites claiming to sort fact from fiction, with PolitiFact, Snopes, and the Washington Post's “Fact Checker” (famous in political circles for its rating scale of one to four “Pinocchios” for truthfulness) prominent among them. But such sites are often accused of bias and misrepresentation – PolitiFact, for example, presented as fact the extremely contentious claim, rebutted by multiple studies, that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.
So Google's endeavor is far from unprecedented, and it seems to have drawn more eye-rolling than admiration. Even the commentators at the CNN Money story expressed skepticism about Google's reliability: “First, I want to see what their definition of 'truth' is.”