Politics tends to be filled full of weird and crazy people, from my point of view those people tend to be members of the Labour party. That view got a new light in the article ‘Labour calls for closer scrutiny of tech firms and their algorithms‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/18/labour-calls-for-regulation-of-algorithms-used-by-tech-firms). Now, there are two sides to any equation, so let me give you the two that I have.
1. I believe that tech companies have been facilitators for too long, many will not accept any responsibility for way too much. On the other side, I do believe that the only working internet is a free one. So when I read the words from Shadow minister Chi Onwurah, I honestly did not regard her to be anything more than a person seeking the limelight. It is equally important to realise that she is using last week’s amazon debacle in Scotland, with questions how that relates to regulating algorithm, it’s a mere application of employment law, is it not?
From the quote: “The outcomes of algorithms are regulated – the companies which use them have to meet employment law and competition law. The question is, how do we make that regulation effective when we can’t see the algorithm?” I feel slightly cautious to call Chi Onwurah a joke, there is a chance that some of this was lost in translation, if not, she has a larger problem to deal with. That problem will be clearly visible when she decided to look into a mirror. So why to look at my point of view?
You see, there are no regulations on algorithms, they are basically formulas with a solution. In addition she states: “greater scrutiny of the mathematical formulas that now control everything from the tailored news served to Facebook members to the speed at which workers are required to move around an Amazon warehouse“. I think that we need to look a little closer at the last statement. You see, it is highly likely that any staff members would need to meet a certain amount of jobs for shipment and delivery. Yet how feasible is that requirement? I can’t tell from the description that was given a week ago, too many variables missing, that does not make the approach regulated. Yet like in any job, workers have ‘responsibilities’, yet more important, they have rights. These are clearly set in most countries of the Commonwealth, so how does that equate to apparent regulated algorithms.
2. The openness of any system will silently advocate the abuse of it. A not so good example was given by the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook), where we see ‘Google, democracy and the truth about internet search‘. We get Carole Cadwalladr with the quote ‘and this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this‘, which started with typing 7 letters ‘are Jews’, which is an issue from character one onward. She then tries to dilute the issues by setting the image of the search of ‘are women evil’, probably to ease the tension, but the damage is done, short-sighted (as I see it) she continues. So whilst she wastes two paragraphs on titles of the slightly anti-Semitic nature, which she then sets in an atmosphere as “I feel like I’ve fallen down a wormhole, entered some parallel universe where black is white, and good is bad. Though later, I think that perhaps what I’ve actually done is scraped the topsoil off the surface of 2016” and she ends with “This isn’t a secret Nazi cell lurking in the shadows. It’s hiding in plain sight“. As I personally see it, she is the person who has been standing behind an iron for most of her life and now she sees her first microwave, a cliché if I ever saw one.
You see, the article goes on for some time and there are really good parts in it too, although the spatial map is a bit of nerdy space we could have gone without, the issue I never see properly addressed is that the term ‘are women evil’ and on number one is a WordPress blog, literally with the link ‘sheddingoftheego.com/2015/06/25/are-women-evil/’ and the title ‘Are Women Evil?‘ literally a perfect match for what the person was seeking. Google worked perfectly. What is ignored and what influences many sights, especially on how Google Rankings are influenced. Now Google has a way to counter it, yet this is not immediately done and it is not perfect either. Places like Reddit are actively working on posting whatever they need to raise their ranking and the rankings of their customers. It is interesting that the Guardian, the Huffington Post and Forbes take absolutely ZERO time to explain the games that SEO’s are playing to influence ranking through scripts. because it is in the end what someone was seeking for, yet the fact that this is the direct value for SEO’s and terms like ‘Tips on how to improve your website’s ranking on Google’s search engine results’ were also ignored in these articles giving rise to the one sided and unbalanced view the press is giving, whilst those in the digital media all know that this is done and those who are doing it usually have a massive tag list ready to add to EVERY story they write.
So when we see the quote “Many search results are now reinforcing extreme views, with articles denying the holocaust or disparaging women increasingly appearing at the top of the rankings“, we need to wonder Chi Onwurah should even be allowed to be Shadow Minister of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, or Just the elected MP for Sesame Street. By the way, what I did not know is that this department is also responsible in the area of Intellectual Property, so if Labour ever wins, we need to get scared fast.
The software engineering reality (historically speaking) is that the Google search results and Google ranking was filed in 1998 with a priority in 1997. Lawrence Page realised that the content on the internet would be growing exponentially and as others were concentrating on corporations and corporate views the founders of Google looked at a much bigger picture, so finding anything would sooner rather than later become a massive issue.
In an age when the ‘great’ internet companies were about image and looking cool, Google started to get professional. In the days of Yahoo, Yahoo was the search engine of choice. Alta Vista, later Excite and a few others were garbage from week 1 whilst never catching up in any novel way. Yahoo started in 1994 and they were leaders for a while, and in the 90’s as Yahoo grew its value, they started to lag behind. Now the irony is that Yahoo got started at Stanford and the Google rank patent was designed and invented at Stanford too. By the time someone started to ask the right questions it was already too late and the Google patent for ranking gave them exclusivity which will last a little while longer, but others are now considering the consequence that Google Rank patent will still be in effect when G5 starts, as the issue of ranking is still growing near exponentially as more and more files are added and with G5 it will take on an additional dimension.
now we see the issues that are brought to the foreground in what I regard as a half-baked shadow ministers approach, asking ‘questions’ and implying regulations, all this whilst a below par informed level of knowledge is shown in the articles they set to press. One of the issues is actually shown in one paragraph in the Huffington Post “Finally—and this is the key point—even without human intervention, Google’s algorithm, while doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, routinely boosts one candidate higher in search rankings simply because of normal “organic” search activities“, which is the cornerstone. As we know, organic search (what you type in the google search bar) is used, yet what happened when this is done through scripting? What if a few of the 200 parameters gets influenced from outside though scripted actions, again and again? That part was never clearly mentioned, but it is the bread and butter of nearly every SEO, to get the position and ranking of their clients to the very top, in every possible way and method and the shadow minister does not give any visibility to it, the visibility it requires and deserves.
That is the flaw in all this and this is the need to rephrase a minder, a minder who as I saw it never understood the plot, or she did know and she was misinforming the readers to some extent, yet how much requires misinformation and was that not what she was accusing social media of? So as we await Labours industrial paper, we will have a few more options to have fun of labour especially as they define supervision whilst again not getting any results in proper corporate tax legislation, not even as suggested proper corporate tax legislation.
So should we see the taxation algorithm for large firms where x is the taxable amount, b is revenue and a is tax deductible options, you know that it is not just the regulations of algorithms she got wrong.
I’ll let you decide.