Masterclassing Connect

Google to face grilling from House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technology Committee

David Murphy

The UK’s House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technology Committee, chaired by Lord Puttnam, will take evidence next week from Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and Katie O’Donovan, Google’s head of UK Government Affairs and public policy, in a session that will cover its use of algorithms and the controversy over its misreporting of ad spending in the recent UK General Election.

The evidence session will start at 12:30pm on Monday 9 March. It will cover issues including whether Google believes in ‘objective truth’ and if anyone outside of Google should have confidence in its algorithm’s ability to identify a trusted source of information.

It will also investigate how Google ensures that its algorithmic choices do not disadvantage certain groups of people; in what ways would the Google Search and YouTube user experience be affected by increased algorithmic transparency? What work it has done to find ways of allowing external audit of its algorithms without this negative effect?

Other topics for discussion include: The role of human moderation in improving online experiences. How can these processes be made more transparent and consistent? What more can be done to share data between technology platforms and independent researchers? Is Google doing enough to improve its API so that legitimate research bodies can extract large amounts of data?

On the misreporting of ad spend during the UK election, the Commmittee will ask why Google initially reported inaccurate totals for spending in the recent UK general elections and then refused to correct its mistake? What efforts it is making to ensure that does not happen again? What limits should be placed on online political advertising and why Google choose the restrictions it did? What has been the impact of the change on small NGOs and candidates in local elections? And whether Google will lead in helping create a cross industry consensus on what political adverting is and how it should be treated?

The Committee will also hold further evidence sessions next week on Tuesday 10 March, looking at how digital technologies can support and facilitate democracy. The Committee will hear evidence across two sessions in Committee Room 2.

The evidence session is open to the public. Anyone wishing to attend is advised to go to Parliament’s Cromwell Green Entrance and allow time for security screening. Alternatively, a live stream of the session can be viewed at www.parliamentlive.tv