A week ago today, we wrote about a fairly controversial topic. We titled that article, Google, The Unbiased Company, Has CEO Backing Obama. In short, we asked our readers, should Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt have publicly come out and support Barack Obama?
Clearly, every US citizen has a right to support a candidate or not. But, Schmidt, being in his position, and signing off the public support under the title of Google's CEO, should he have supported one candidate over the other? That was our question.
I personally felt he should not have, for the sake of Google. Why? Google's whole premise is to be perceived as unbiased. The key word here is perceived. By the CEO of a company taking sides on a very political manner, it may come off as the company as a whole having a bias towards one view versus another. Google has had so many challenges in the past, with Google News, with organic search and even with AdWords, to educate the public that the search algorithms they use, for virtually all their properties are unbiased in nature.
I know many people who won't read certain newspapers or watch certain channels due to their bias towards one view versus the next. Why do they feel the channel has a bias? Either due to the leadership of that channel or due to the reporting nature.
Google does an outstanding job educating the public that they and their services are algorithmic and unbiased. But if an ordinary guy hears a public endorsement of one view over the next from the CEO of Google, that may be perceived as a company's bias. Do I believe Google would ever show bias on that level in their services? No, I never think Google would skew the search results towards a bias. Why do I believe that? I know several folks at Google and I truly believe they would quit their jobs if they were asked to do something like that. The people are good. So this is not about if Google would or would not bias their products. It is about Google being perceived by searchers as doing such.
Of the 188 responses, fifty-five percent or a 104 respondents felt Schmidt should not have publicly endorsed a candidate, while forty-five percent or a 84 respondents felt Schmidt did nothing wrong by endorsing a candidate. Pretty close. I am sure some of those votes are skewed by people who were upset he supported one candidate or not. But overall, it is an interesting discussion. Typically, we try to stay away from topics that might cause a stir, but with regards to this topic, we felt was interesting to point out and bring up.
Personal note from me, I rarely share my personal views on controversial topics - so I hope people don't take offense to my views on this. Again, it is not like I feel Google would ever bias results. But I do feel that people might think Google would and that perception is bad for Google, which is ultimately bad for search.