Biased News Media, Tech Organizations, and Search Algorithms

abstract business code coding

The picture you see above is not necessarily an algorithm. Rather the code you see are conditional statements that have the potential to directly affect an algorithm. Computer language conditional statements are logical statements, also called code, that give a program choices if certain conditions are met. This depends on the type of data that is input into the program. Conditional statements are comprised of if, then, or, else, and while. Basically IF the input data meets this criteria it can THEN filter its way here or there throughout the rest of the program.

Algorithms are somewhat different. The basic structure of an algorithm is

(int = a; a < 100; a++)

where int means integer and has the capability of being stored in a certain place in memory so that it can be recalled and used later, if need be. a is called a variable and is DECLARED in the first portion of the algorithm. Basically the variable a is being made an integer, can be any number less than 100, and is capable of being stored when input into the program.

The second portion of the algorithm means that whatever number is input and assigned to a, that is what the counting and incrementing algorithm will begin with. This will work as long as the number is less than 100. The third part of the algorithm a++ basically increments the number plus 1 each time it cycles through the algorithm, after, not before.

There are different types of algorithms. There are search, sort, selection sort, and algorithms named after some very smart people that perform a specific function or purpose. Adding algorithms to conditional statements makes the program at least twice as complex. This is not to mention that average programs have at least roughly a million lines of code and are disseminated and completed by a team of programmers. The programmers or developers are overseen by a project or programming manager.

There has been a lot of controversy about Big Tech giants being politically biased in the news. I’ve stated previously that Google says “search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.” However, they could be or they could not be politically biased. But let me make a few points.

A computer program is not politically biased in and of itself. This means that the types of algorithms, functions, and conditional statements are nothing but pieces an portions of a certain programming language. Computer programming languages their conditional statements and algorithms can be configured to handle various types of data. Two examples are called “strings” and “integers”. Strings are words or sentences. If anybody hears the term “String Stream” this means that the program is configured to handle an input of words and sentences.

Take the increment algorithm for example. Suppose the program begins by asking the user to input any number from 0 to 100. The user puts in a random number and then taps enter. The program should show an additive increment counter up to 100 starting from the number that was entered. If a different number is entered then the program will begin with and then display what was entered. However, if the same number is entered each time over and over the user will continuously get the same results until a different number is entered.

I know that Googles algorithms are protected as a trade secret. I do not know nor have I seen any of their code. But as a programmer I understand how these programs work in general. Each technology company might use the same programming language for what they do, but the difference is how the program is configured and the various functions it performs.

Google has an Equal Opportunity statement at the bottom of their Careers page that explains “At Google, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, we support it, and we thrive on it for the benefit of our employees, our products, and our community. Google is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace and is an affirmative action employer.” Apples Equal Opportunity statement explains “Our most recently filed Federal Employer Information Report EEO-1, representing employees as of December 2017, is available for download below. We make the document publicly available, but it’s not how we measure our progress. The EEO-1 has not kept pace with changes in industry. We believe the information we report elsewhere on this site is a more accurate reflection of our progress toward diversity.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission basically explains “Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” Even though Apple makes a statement on their EEO-1 accountability they do not have a definitive statement similar to Googles. Their webpage explains everything else that they do without making a single definitive statement on Equal Opportunity Employment. Compare the previous EEO quotes with the more clearly defined statement quote from the Army Deputy Chief of Staff’s Equal Opportunity page “The Equal Opportunity (EO) program formulates, directs, and sustains a comprehensive effort to maximize human potential to ensure fair treatment for military personnel, family members, and civilians without regard to race, color, gender, religion, or national origin, and provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior.”

The U.S. Military calls their program Equal Opportunity and in the Civilian sector they call theirs Equal Employment Opportunity. The U.S. Military also facilitates and implements an EEO program for civilian sector employees.

James Damore was fired from Google by speaking out against the corporate culture and atmosphere at Google. According to Fox News this happened after he sent a memo about the company “pushing diversity“. That statement could be taken several ways. But this sounds like Damore did not fully understand what workplace diversity means as compared to what the current workplace environment was like before he was fired. Or he did understand but he did not know how to express himself in the way he really wanted to.

However, was the workplace environment volatile? Did the employees receive EEO training periodically to better help them understand and how to deal with diversity in the work place? Were the employees trained on how to deal with a volatile workplace environment and how to properly report EEO violations? Diversity is good and it is a positive for everybody. However, if there is a minority general consensus within the workplace where certain diverse groups are favored over other groups that could also be considered as “pushing diversity”.

EO and EEO do not cover a political point of view. But if it just so happens that an employee falls into an EO or EEO category AND they have an undesirable political view, based on the minority general consensus, they could be gone after much like the Liberal media attacks President Trump. It is a common business practice for hiring managers to look at a potential employees social media profiles for desirable and undesirable qualities. It just so happens that among the displayed qualities managers are looking for, there might be a persons political views. But within reason, do we as a nation really expect people to not be able to express or espouse their political views for fear of not getting hired or fired? Granted, there is a time and a place to express ones political views. On the other hand a persons political views are among or closely related to our values, principles, and morals. They define us and influence certain decisions and how we present ourselves. If the opposition wins compared to our own political views that means that they will be able to do certain things that we might be against. It is therefore natural to think and feel the way we do in espousing our political views.

Back to the Big Tech Giant companies and Liberal media manipulating algorithms. Putting these two explanations together we have something. In a previous bog post “Fake News Vs Trump News” I explained that news or media companies could have figured out how to manipulate Googles algorithms by repeatedly saying the same things over and over. Compare this idea to the increment algorithm example I provided. What is consistently fed into the algorithm is what we will get, see, or hear. On the other hand if the work place culture is such that there is a minority general consensus they could configure the program algorithms in such a way much like the news looks for exciting stories. A programmer could write a program to recognize certain words over other words depending on the Customer Relationship Management information that is evaluated. CRM information is basically what the public or customers want the most based on surveys, accepting cookies, click stream data, or search history. However, this type of information is usually evaluated by higher level managers and is not directly accessible to a programmer sitting among his or her peers.

Based on Apples EEO Consolidated Report there are more White Males and Females that work for them. But the question is how many among those are either Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative? The Big Tech Giants do not and are not required to report on this type of information. The type of controversy that stems from these companies involves workplace culture.

The dynamics described previously amounts to a sort of recycling effect that has seemed to gain momentum and weight. On the outside Liberals and Democrats have screamed the loudest as pertaining to their agendas and what they want. The media takes in this information and it gets sifted, sorted, and then spit back out for the public by News media and  Big Tech Giants, such as Google, in various ways. The information does not always go directly to organizations such as Google because Google doesn’t report on interesting events. Google News provides a platform that hosts various news sources by aggregating it much like an RSS. Their programs search for the information on other organizations webpages. The information is taken in and systematically put in their information system databases waiting for somebody to retrieve it by searching for it. Even News organizations search for information this way so that they will be able to back up their news with facts. That is, if they choose to do so.

Simply put, exciting events happen, the news reports on them and say what they say, the news information gets spit back to the public on various platforms, search engines search for the information, then people and media in turn search for the information on search engines, and then the people talk about the information and the news either reports on the facts or doesn’t.

Basically if you are a person or group that is screaming louder, you are a Big Tech Giant organization, you include your political bias in certain decisions, and they are the same as the loud group, what we end up with is a lot of controversy and a big ethics problem. Everybody knows the News reports on what is exciting or important. That’s what they do in general. There is a difference between Conservative and Liberal News businesses that are either ethical or not. But Big Tech Giants go where the money is according to a Deloitte survey. If controversy and excitement means more money and viewership, well, I think we need an ethics lesson and there is such a thing as ethical programming and news reporting.

 

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