Google algorithms blamed for giving California voters a biased look at ballot initiatives – POLITICO

Google algorithms blamed for giving California voters a biased look at ballot initiatives – POLITICO





An illuminated sign of the Google logo.

An illuminated sign of the Google logo. Google algorithms are being blamed for producing biased excerpts from California’s official election guide. | Jens Meyer, File/ AP Photo

Updated


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California officials this week raced to address a quirk in Google algorithms that can give voters a skewed look at ballot measures by producing biased excerpts from the state’s official election guide.

Google searches for seven of the state’s 12 ballot proposals have surfaced campaign arguments from the state voter guide instead of neutral “snippets,” said former cybersecurity executive Tom Kemp. He said those search results could sway voters who rely on those first impressions to understand what the measures do, on subjects ranging from stem cell research to commercial property taxes.

His findings about Google — a de-facto roadmap for voters making their way through lengthy ballots — suggest that algorithms can turn even neutral sources into biased ones, a problem that could extend well beyond the nation’s tech capital.

The California secretary of state’s office confirmed Friday that it had resolved the issue
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