Tag: bias

Trump accuses Google of biased searches

By Darlene Superville and Barbara Ortutay for WWayTV3 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google and other U.S. tech companies of rigging search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” He offered no evidence of bias, but a top adviser said the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation.

Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t so: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

The president’s tweets echoed his familiar attacks on the news media — and a conservative talking point that California-based tech companies run by CEOs with liberal leanings don’t give equal weight to opposing political viewpoints. They also revealed anew his deep-seated frustration he doesn’t get the credit he believes he deserves.

The president, who has said he runs on little sleep, jumped onto Twitter before dawn Tuesday to rehash his recent complaints about alleged suppression of conservative voices and positive news about him.

Related Article: Las Vegas shooting leaves GOP-backed gun bills in limbo
He followed that up with vague threats in Oval Office comments.

“I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing. That’s a very serious charge,” Trump said, adding that Google, Twitter, Facebook and others “better be careful, because you can’t do that to people.”

Trump claimed that “we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. … So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, told reporters later that the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google searches should be subject to some government regulation. That would be a noteworthy development since Trump often points proudly to his cutting of government regulations as a spur for economic gains.

In his tweets, Trump said — without offering evidence — that “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” He added, again with no evidence, that “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.”

A search query Tuesday morning, several hours after the president tweeted, showed stories from CNN, ABC News, Fox News and the MarketWatch business site, among others. A similar search later in the day for “Trump” had Fox News, the president’s favored cable network, among the top results.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said its aim is to make sure its search engine users quickly get the most relevant answers.

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company said in a statement. “Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Experts suggested that Trump’s comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.

Google searches aim to surface the most relevant pages in response to a user’s query, even before he or she finishes typing. The answers that appear first are the ones Google’s formulas, with some help from human content reviewers, deem to be the most authoritative, informative and relevant. Many factors help decide the initial results, including how much time people spend on a page, how many other pages link to it, how well it’s designed and more.

Trump and some supporters have long accused Silicon Valley companies of being biased against them. While some company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias.

Media analyst Ken Doctor said it doesn’t make sense for mass-market businesses like Google to lean either way politically. He characterized the complaints as a “sign of our times,” adding that, years ago, if the head of General Electric was supporting a Republican candidate, people who disagreed wouldn’t then go out and boycott GE products.

“The temperature has risen on this,” Doctor said.

Steven Andres, who teaches about management information systems at San Diego State University, said people often assume that if you give a computer the same inputs no matter where you are that you “get the same outputs.”

But it doesn’t work that way, he said. “You’re seeing different things every moment of the day and the algorithms are always trying to change the results.”

Trump didn’t say what he based his tweets on. But conservative activist Paula Boylard had said in a weekend blog post that she found “blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets” in search results.

Boylard based her judgments on the political leanings of media outlets on a list by Sharyl Attkisson, host of Sinclair Television’s “Full Measure” and author of “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, Think, and How You Vote.” Sinclair is a significant outlet for conservative views.

Trump began complaining about the issue earlier this month as social media companies moved to ban right-wing “Infowars” conspiracy theorist Alex Jonesfrom their platforms. The president also argues regularly — and falsely — that the news media avoid writing positive stories about him and his administration.

Jones is being sued for saying the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur and has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because he was acting as a journalist.

Trump has praised Jones’ “amazing” reputation.

The issue is also of concern on Capitol Hill, where the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., recently announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to testify before the panel on Sept. 5 about the platform’s algorithms and content monitoring.

Under labour law employees have the procedural right to a fair hearing before being disciplined or dismissed for misconduct or poor performance.

The following is a checklist of employee rights that employers holding disciplinary hearings must adhere to – the right to:

• prepare for the hearing
• the assistance of a representative
• an interpreter
• bring witnesses
• cross examine witnesses brought against them
• an impartial presiding officer chairing the hearing.

Other than under a few isolated exceptional circumstances these rights are strongly entrenched.

More employers are starting to afford employees some of these rights but are still falling short as regards the employees’ right to an impartial hearing chairperson. The reasons for this include:

• The employer’s intention is to hold a kangaroo court and get the employee fired regardless of the consequences OR
• Those employees assigned the task of chairing hearings are not properly trained OR
• The employer does not understand what constitutes bias.

There are in fact a number of factors that may suggest that the hearing chairperson could be biased. These include, amongst others, situations where the chairperson:

• Has previously had a clash with the accused employee
• Has prior knowledge of the details of the case
• Is a close friend of the complainant bringing the charge on the employer’s behalf
• Unreasonably turns down requests from the employee for representation, witnesses, an interpreter or other requirements
• Makes a finding that is unsupported by the facts brought before the hearing.

What does not necessarily constitute bias is the refusal of the chairperson to:
• Allow legally impermissible evidence,
• Hear irrelevant testimony or
• Allow unjustified adjournments.

However, it is extremely difficult for a hearing chairperson to distinguish fairly between reasonably and unreasonably turning down the accused’s request for a witness, representative, adjournment or other requirement. The ability to make rulings in this regard that will stand up in court can only be acquired via substantial formal training and solid experience of the hearing chairperson.

In the case of FAWU obo Sotyato vs JH group Retail Trust (2001, 8 BALR 864) the employee confessed to having stolen two bottles of beer from the employer and to drinking one of them during working hours. The arbitrator did not accept the confession as valid and also found that the chairperson of the hearing was biased. This was because the chairperson had caught the accused employee with the beers and had been involved in drawing up the charges. This created a reasonable apprehension of bias and rendered the dismissal procedurally unfair. The employee was reinstated with full back pay.

In SACCAWU obo Mosiane vs City Lodge Hotels Ltd (2004, 2 BALR 255) the employee was dismissed for stealing an item belonging to a guest of the hotel that employed the accused. The arbitrator found the dismissal to be substantively and procedurally unfair because the chairperson of the hearing had been biased and reinstated the employee.

In order to ensure that employers do not lose cases due to chairperson bias or alleged bias at disciplinary hearings employers must ensure that:

• Hearing chairpersons have no involvement in or knowledge of the case prior to the hearing

• Hearing chairpersons have a solid understanding as to what constitutes apprehension of bias

• They contract in a labour law specialist to chair hearings where the employer has no internal official with the necessary qualifications and knowledge to carry out the task properly.

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting 

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