John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Google: No, Government Investigations Have Not Frozen Our Manual Search Tweaks

A report claiming that updates to Google’s search results have been limited to algorithmic changes only due to possible government investigations is untrue, the search sovereign says.

“This report is completely unfounded and false, and nothing has changed in our approach,” a Google spokesperson told AllThingsD.

Published to the Launch Conference blog, the report alleged that Google had forbidden manual adjustments to its search results since its infamous “Panda” algorithm update ostensibly because of “multiple government investigations–and possible investigations.”

According to Google, that’s not at all the case. Its search methods are unchanged since Panda, a measure against the “shallow or low quality content” being driven into the company’s search results by content farms.

“Computer algorithms are the most scalable way to deliver relevant results,” the spokesperson said. “However, manual controls are necessary to improve the user experience in very limited cases, such as security concerns, legal issues and spam.”

In other words, Google denies that a government investigation has caused it to adjust its search approach and, further, that it hasn’t adjusted that approach at all.

But have government investigators asked it for examples of manual, non-algorithmic changes to its search results?

Google won’t say. “We don’t discuss the details of our conversations with government officials,” a spokesperson said.

Still, Launch and its founder, Jason Calacanis–who operates Mahalo, a “human-powered search engine” severely impacted by Google’s Panda update–hold firm to their allegations.

“We stand by our story,” Calacanis said. “Google search teams are behaving differently by laying off manual changes–which they admit doing in the case of spam–because government investigations are asking for examples of manual changes. They, of course, need to take the public position that nothing has changed.”

“No one expects them to say, ‘We used to make a lot of manual adjustments to make search better–you know the obvious stuff that any intelligent person would make–but now that the government is investigating our search results we’re being diligent about not handing them ammunition to regulate us.'”

FURTHER READING: Google and the Evolution of Search

  1. Human Evaluators — Google Engineering director Scott Huffman
  2. Cheating the System — Google software engineer Matt Cutts
  3. What’s Next in Search? Much, Much Better Search — Google Fellow Amit Singhal

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald