Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Big Tech Lawyer Earns His Paycheck Arguing Google Doesn't Dominate Search - Gizmodo

Big Tech Lawyer Earns His Paycheck Arguing Google Doesn't Dominate Search - Gizmodo


Big Tech Lawyer Earns His Paycheck Arguing Google Doesn't Dominate Search - Gizmodo

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 03:37 PM PDT

Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty)

Today is a big day in Silicon Valley because of a hearing happening in Washington, D.C.

Congress opened its long-awaited antitrust investigation of American tech giants on Tuesday with the first of several hearings. This one focused on the impact of companies like Google and Facebook on the U.S. press.

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How did it go? Most of the time was taken up by people from the news media describing the decaying state of the industry, particularly the harms to local news outlets. There was only one representative of tech there and, at the risk of the understatement of the century, he was intent on playing hardcore defense.

When it was his turn to talk, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline from Rhode Island asked Matthew Schruers, vice president of the tech trade group Computer and Communications Industry Association and the tech industry's man in the room, if they could agree on some baseline facts.

No, they could not.

Cicilline confronted Schruers with the numbers that told the tale of Google's dominance in search. Schruers, intent on earning his paycheck, insisted up, down, and sideways that search is a competitive market.

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As his first example of a competitor, Schruers offered Apple's Siri. The thing is, Siri searches the web with Google by default.

Here's the strange exchange in full:

Cicilline: "Mr. Schruers, I want to start with you. Google captures 88 percent of the U.S. online search market, 94 percent of all searches on smartphones, 78 percent of the search ad tech market, and 59 percent of the third-party display ad party market. I take it you agree that these at least on their face don't appear to be competitive markets?"

Schruers: "Which precise market are we talking about?"

Cicilline: "Let's start with searches on smart phones. Ninety-four percent of the market controlled by one platform. You would agree that's not competitive under any definition?"

Schruers: "Well, I think I would say 94 percent of a relevant market would be something worthy of considering but…"

Cicilline: "You think mobile search ad market is not a relevant market?"

Schruers: "I think the relevant market in that case would be what economists tell us compete with that. I know that searching on the phone in browser, I can also search on my phone by asking Siri or search with a digital assistant, a smart speaker in my room. There are a lot of places a user can go to get answers that extent beyond the browser search experience. These are increasingly pageless tools that don't require a search engine. So I think economists might not agree that desktop search is a discrete market…"

Cicilline: "I actually don't know any economist that doesn't agree that that is not a competitive market. I guess I'm asking you, do you agree that's not a competitive market when it's operating 94 percent of the market share."

Schruers: "I think 94 percent of a relevant market is something that's worth consideration. The question is whether that's a market."

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Is mobile, the world's most popular computing platform by far, a relevant market?

"Relevant market" is a loaded legal term. In short, it's the market in question as defined for antitrust purposes. For instance, is social media broadly the market in question or is social video the market? The answer could mean a great deal for YouTube in the antitrust battles to come.

Mobile search, however, is a different animal entirely: It accounts for nearly three-fourths of all search revenue and, as Cicilline illustrates above, Google is singularly dominant. Siri is not a competitor because it uses Google by default; Echo is hardly a competitor because it uses Microsoft's Bing for search, and Bing has somewhere from 2 to more than 30 percent market share, depending on whose numbers you believe. Either way, Bing is no Google.

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And then there was the press.

The first witness to speak was David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a group representing over 2,000 media organizations. The NMA came out with an eye-catching study this week saying that Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018.

That kind of number gets headlines, specifically in a newspaper like the New York Times (a member of the NMA), but the methodology beneath it is questionable. The big number appears to be based on an off-hand comment by Marissa Mayer, then a Google VP, in 2008 saying that Google News was then worth $100 million to Google. The $4.7 billion number is calculated, almost entirely, because Google is now worth more and, therefore, you can accurately calculate how much money it's making from the news industry... Huh?

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Here's the report to read for yourself.

Anyway, having already earned a big New York Times headline, Chavern opened the hearing with this number that just raises more questions than answers. Maybe the real number is higher, maybe it's lower, but the $4.7 billion is ultimately a big guess dressed up as a factual grievance. It was a bad way to start.

Even further away from Silicon Valley, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim was in Tel Aviv on Tuesday where he delivered a speech that in no uncertain terms laid the antitrust crosshairs on American tech giants by citing the country's long history of gargantuan industry breakups and laying out arguments the Justice Department could wield against big tech.

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"The current landscape suggests there are only one or two significant players in important digital spaces, including internet search, social networks, mobile and desktop operating systems and electronic book sales," Delrahim said.

Delrahim's forceful speech, which you can read here, comes just one day after Senator Elizabeth Warren called on him to step down from his position as antitrust chief due to what she argues is a conflict of interest. A little over a decade ago, Delrahim was a paid lobbyist first for Apple and then Google in Washington, D.C.

"Your past work as a lobbyist for two of the largest and most scrutinized tech companies in the world creates the appearance of conflict of interest," Warren wrote in a letter to Delrahim. "As the head of the antitrust division at the DOJ, you should not be supervising investigations into former clients who paid you tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government."

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You can read Warren's letter here and you can watch the full congressional hearing here:

Tools to record the (virtual) world, clean up your Google searches and quiet your phone when you need to focus - Poynter

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 05:48 AM PDT

Tools to record the (virtual) world, clean up your Google searches and quiet your phone when you need to focus – Poynter

Google’s search tool falsely called Mueller report ‘fiction’ - The Washington Post

Posted: 10 Jun 2019 09:52 AM PDT


Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice in May. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

People who searched on Google for the Mueller report have been told the document is "fiction," a baffling falsehood that highlights the fallibility of and threat of misinformation from the world's most influential search engine.

Searches for "Mueller Report," which details the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Russian interference and President Trump's conduct in the 2016 election, showed an information box at the top of the results that classified the 448-page report's genre as "fiction."

In response to questions from The Washington Post, Google said the search result was an error and would be fixed shortly. The company did not immediately say why the search tool returned that result, how long that answer had been there, or how many people had been shown the false result.


A Google search for the Mueller report, as of June 10.

By 1 p.m. Monday, a few hours after The Post notified Google, the search had been corrected to call the report "non-fiction."

Google is the Internet's most visited website and the starting point for most searches online. The "fiction" classification was found in an information box from Google's Knowledge Graph, which relies on software to automatically generate potentially relevant context or information.

The Knowledge Graph system, unveiled in 2012, has been criticized for returning false information and for giving few details as to where its answers come from.

Google spokeswoman Lara Levin said in a statement to The Post: "The Knowledge Graph is our systems' understanding of the people, places and things in the world. While we strive to always present accurate information, errors can occur. When we're made aware of inaccuracies, we work to fix them quickly."

The Google algorithms scour a vast range of online sources, such as news sites and Wikipedia, making it difficult to know where the false information first arose. The Wikipedia page for the Mueller document calls it an official report.

The search error comes amid a growing tide in Washington of distrust for tech giants, where lawmakers have questioned whether websites are doing enough to tamp down misinformation.

The Mueller report has become both a political battlefield and a popular search topic by the general public. Print editions of the free report, sold by The Washington Post and other publishers, have climbed in bestseller lists.

But Google and its video giant YouTube have sometimes offered an inconsistent portrayal of the probe.

In April, one week after the Mueller report was revealed, YouTube automatically sent hundreds of thousands of recommendations to viewers that they watch a video decrying the investigation as a conspiracy theory. The video was created by RT America, the U.S.-focused division of the media network funded by the Russian government.

'Abortion' Google searches reach record highs - News - Akron Beacon Journal

Posted: 09 Jun 2019 08:56 PM PDT

More than a dozen states this year passed laws to either restrict or expand access to abortion, with a flurry of activity happening within the past few weeks alone.

In Ohio, lawmakers approved legislation in April banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally around six weeks into pregnancy. Opponents have filed a lawsuit to overturn the law scheduled to take effect July 11.

Reaction to the changes has dominated cable news networks and social media platforms. It also seemingly spurred record-breaking Google searches for words related to abortion.

On May 14, the Alabama Senate passed a bill banning nearly all abortions. The same day, more than a half-million people searched the phrase "Alabama abortion law" on Google — the fourth-highest query of the day behind "Tim Conway," "the Warriors," and "NBA draft lottery," according to the internet search engine's statistics.

The next day, when Alabama's governor signed the bill, a single word — "abortion" — ranked No. 2 for trending searches in America with more than 200,000 hits, according to Google Trends.

Owned by the search engine for which it's named, Google Trends uses "an unbiased sample" of its users' search data to provide snapshots of queries dating back as far as 2004.

The site displays the number of hits for top search terms each day. It also tracks search terms' popularity over time based on an index of 1-100. Not provided are most of the demographics behind the searches. So it's impossible to speculate on who is fueling the spike in abortion-related queries or why.

But Google Trends does show where searches originated. And Southern states generally ranked on top for abortion-related searches.

The phrase "abortion clinic near me," for example, reached an all-time high in May. It was most popular in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Maryland, the site showed.

Because Google Trends takes random samples, state rankings sometimes fluctuate with each query of the search term.

Searches for the above phrase and its plural counterpart "abortion clinics near me" have both increased overall in recent years.

Searches related to the topic of abortion also reached a record high last month but showed little variation in the location of those who Google it.

"The abortion issue is in many ways unique among social issues in how long it has been the focus of attention. It has been at the forefront of many national and local-level conversations for decades," said Ziad Munson, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University. "This sustained attention does wax and wane a little bit, and in the last few months there's been a lot more attention than in some previous periods."


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trends.embed.renderExploreWidget("TIMESERIES", {"comparisonItem":[{"keyword":"abortion clinic near me","geo":"US","time":"2004-01-01 2019-05-31"}],"category":0,"property":""}, {"exploreQuery":"date=2004-01-01%202019-05-31&geo=US&q=abortion%20clinic%20near%20me","guestPath":"https://trends.google.com:443/trends/embed/"});
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Abortions fall

The abortion rate dropped to a decade low in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 — a 26 percent decline from 2006.

The fertility rate among same-aged women in 2015, by comparison, was 62.5 births per 1,000.

Despite this, searches for "pregnancy center near me" in the past year are significantly lower overall than the number of searches for "abortion clinic near me."

That could be because many women who discover pregnancy centers find them by searching information about pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, said Andrea Trudden, director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers in the United States.

Google recently changed its policy for advertisements related to the topic.

Due to confusion over pregnancy centers using misleading language in advertisements, Google now automatically generates "in-ad disclosures" for certified advertisers saying they either do or do not provide abortions.

While abortion-related Google searches spiked, some pregnancy-related queries are on the decline. "Am I pregnant" has trailed off since its peak in August 2012. "Pregnancy symptoms" reached its peak 13 months earlier but has tanked since then.

States searching

Mississippi-based internet users ranked among the top source for both those search terms, according to Google Trends.

Mississippi also generated some of the highest number of searches for "abortion clinic" in May — the same month a federal judge temporarily blocked the state's new bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other top states for that search term were Georgia, which recently passed a similar law, as well as Alabama.

Searches for "Planned Parenthood near me" also reached an all-time high in December. The nonprofit women's health care organization provides women's health care and abortions in clinics across the country and is well-known for its lobbying efforts for abortion access. The second-highest peak for that search term was last month.

At the same time, searches for "how to get an abortion," reached a 90-day peak on May 16, as did searches for "abortion pill."

Some of the Google queries might reflect confusion about recent legislation and what it means for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. For example, searches for "where abortion is legal" reached a 15-year peak last month.

"It's certainly an increased fear and anxiety we've been noticing," said Alison Dreith, deputy director of the Hope Clinic for Women, an abortion provider in Granite City, Illinois.

The clinic is near the Illinois-Missouri border — just 10 miles from St. Louis — and serves women from both states, as well as those coming from elsewhere in the country.

Missouri lawmakers last month banned abortions after eight weeks, and the state's sole abortion provider is operating only thanks to a judge's order. Illinois, meanwhile, passed a law protecting abortion rights.

"We've been fielding a lot more calls than we normally do and getting messages on social media saying, 'I made my appointment before these bans, can I still get my procedure?'" Dreith said. "They are seeing these headlines and news and worried about how that affects their procedure."

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trends.embed.renderExploreWidget("TIMESERIES", {"comparisonItem":[{"keyword":"pregnancy center near me","geo":"US","time":"today 12-m"},{"keyword":"abortion clinic near me","geo":"US","time":"today 12-m"}],"category":0,"property":""}, {"exploreQuery":"geo=US&q=pregnancy%20center%20near%20me,abortion%20clinic%20near%20me&date=today 12-m,today 12-m","guestPath":"https://trends.google.com:443/trends/embed/"});
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Abortion searches reach record highs: The topic was a top Google trend twice last month - Waxahachie Daily Light

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 07:51 AM PDT

More than a dozen states this year passed laws to either restrict or expand access to abortion, with a flurry of activity happening within the past few weeks alone.

Reaction to the changes has dominated cable news networks and social media platforms. It also seemingly spurred record-breaking Google searches for words related to abortion.

On May 14, the Alabama Senate passed a bill banning nearly all abortions. The same day, more than a half million people searched the phrase "Alabama abortion law" on Google — the fourth-highest query of the day behind "Tim Conway," "the Warriors," and "NBA draft lottery," according to the internet search engine's statistics.

The next day, when Alabama's governor signed the bill, a single word — "abortion" — ranked No. 2 for trending searches in America with more than 200,000 hits, according to Google Trends.

Owned by the search engine for which it's named, Google Trends uses "an unbiased sample" of its users' search data to provide snapshots of queries dating back as far as 2004.

The site displays the number of hits for top search terms each day. It also tracks search terms' popularity over time based on an index of 1-100. Not provided are most of the demographics behind the searches. So it's impossible to speculate on who is fueling the spike in abortion-related queries or why.

But Google Trends does show where searches originated. And Southern states generally ranked on top for abortion-related searches.

The phrase "abortion clinic near me," for example, reached an all-time high in May. As of June 6, most of the searches came from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. Searches for the phrase and its plural counterpart "abortion clinics near me" have both increased overall in recent years.

Texas ranked second, behind only the 100-index ranking given to Georgia, with a score of 91 in online searches for "pregnancy center near me."

The Lone Star State was also tied for 10th in the ranking of searches on the general topic of abortion by a state or district with an 86-index score, matching Michigan and Virginia.

The District of Columbia led the group with a perfect 100-index score, followed by Mississippi (97) and Georgia (89). Louisiana, Indiana and Kentucky all tallied an 88, while Maryland, West Virginia and Alabama recorded an 87.

The data found that 52 percent of abortion-related Google searches in Texas were related to finding a "pregnancy center near me," while the other 48 percent were for general abortion topics or "abortion clinics near me."

Searches related to the topic of abortion also reached a record high last month but showed little variation in the location of those who Google it.

"The abortion issue is in many ways unique among social issues in how long it has been the focus of attention. It has been at the forefront of many national and local-level conversations for decades," said Ziad Munson, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University. "This sustained attention does wax and wane a little bit, and in the last few months there's been a lot more attention than in some previous periods."

Searches spike but abortions fall

The abortion rate dropped to a decade low in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 — a 26 percent decline from 2006.

The fertility rate among same-aged women in 2015, by comparison, was 62.5 births per 1,000.

Despite this, searches for "pregnancy care center near me" in the past year are significantly lower than the number of searches for "abortion clinic near me." The top number of searches for the former came from Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.

That could be because many women who discover pregnancy care centers find them by searching information about pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, said Andrea Trudden, director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers in the United States.

Google recently changed its policy for advertisements related to the topic.

Due to confusion over pregnancy care centers using misleading language in advertisements, Google now automatically generates "in-ad disclosures" for certified advertisers saying they either do or do not provide abortions.

While abortion-related Google searches spiked, some pregnancy-related queries are on the decline. "Am I pregnant" has trailed off since its peak in August 2012. "Pregnancy symptoms" reached its peak 13 months earlier but has tanked since then. Mississippi-based internet users ranked the No. 1 source for both those search terms, according to Google Trends.

Mississippi also generated the highest number of searches for "abortion clinic" in May — the same month a federal judge temporarily blocked the state's new bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other top states for that search term were Georgia, which recently passed a similar law, as well as Alabama and South Carolina.

Searches for "Planned Parenthood near me" also reached an all-time high in December. The nonprofit women's health care organization provides women's health care and abortions in clinics across the country and is well-known for its lobbying efforts for abortion access. The second-highest peak for that search term was last month.

At the same time, searches for "how to get an abortion," reached a 90-day peak on May 16, as did searches for "abortion pill." Illinois ranked No. 1 for searches on "how to get an abortion" made between January 1 and the end of May.

Some of the Google queries might reflect confusion about recent legislation and what it makes for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. For example, searches for "where abortion is legal" reached a 15-year peak last month.

"It's certainly an increased fear and anxiety we've been noticing," said Alison Dreith, deputy director of the Hope Women's Clinic, an abortion provider in Granite City, Illinois.

The clinic is near the Illinois-Missouri border — just 10 miles from St. Louis — and serves women from both states, as well as those coming from elsewhere in the country.

Missouri lawmakers last month banned abortions after eight weeks, and the state's only abortion provider is operating only thanks to a judge's order. Illinois, meanwhile, passed a law protecting abortion rights.

"We've been fielding a lot more calls than we normally do and getting messages on social media saying, 'I made my appointment before these bans, can I still get my procedure?'" Dreith said. "They are seeing these headlines and news and worried about how that affects their procedure."

____

Additional reporting by Travis M. Smith/Daily Light.

Big Tech Lawyer Earns His Paycheck Arguing Google Doesn't Dominate Search - Gizmodo


Big Tech Lawyer Earns His Paycheck Arguing Google Doesn't Dominate Search - Gizmodo

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 03:37 PM PDT

Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty)

Today is a big day in Silicon Valley because of a hearing happening in Washington, D.C.

Congress opened its long-awaited antitrust investigation of American tech giants on Tuesday with the first of several hearings. This one focused on the impact of companies like Google and Facebook on the U.S. press.

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How did it go? Most of the time was taken up by people from the news media describing the decaying state of the industry, particularly the harms to local news outlets. There was only one representative of tech there and, at the risk of the understatement of the century, he was intent on playing hardcore defense.

When it was his turn to talk, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline from Rhode Island asked Matthew Schruers, vice president of the tech trade group Computer and Communications Industry Association and the tech industry's man in the room, if they could agree on some baseline facts.

No, they could not.

Cicilline confronted Schruers with the numbers that told the tale of Google's dominance in search. Schruers, intent on earning his paycheck, insisted up, down, and sideways that search is a competitive market.

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As his first example of a competitor, Schruers offered Apple's Siri. The thing is, Siri searches the web with Google by default.

Here's the strange exchange in full:

Cicilline: "Mr. Schruers, I want to start with you. Google captures 88 percent of the U.S. online search market, 94 percent of all searches on smartphones, 78 percent of the search ad tech market, and 59 percent of the third-party display ad party market. I take it you agree that these at least on their face don't appear to be competitive markets?"

Schruers: "Which precise market are we talking about?"

Cicilline: "Let's start with searches on smart phones. Ninety-four percent of the market controlled by one platform. You would agree that's not competitive under any definition?"

Schruers: "Well, I think I would say 94 percent of a relevant market would be something worthy of considering but…"

Cicilline: "You think mobile search ad market is not a relevant market?"

Schruers: "I think the relevant market in that case would be what economists tell us compete with that. I know that searching on the phone in browser, I can also search on my phone by asking Siri or search with a digital assistant, a smart speaker in my room. There are a lot of places a user can go to get answers that extent beyond the browser search experience. These are increasingly pageless tools that don't require a search engine. So I think economists might not agree that desktop search is a discrete market…"

Cicilline: "I actually don't know any economist that doesn't agree that that is not a competitive market. I guess I'm asking you, do you agree that's not a competitive market when it's operating 94 percent of the market share."

Schruers: "I think 94 percent of a relevant market is something that's worth consideration. The question is whether that's a market."

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Is mobile, the world's most popular computing platform by far, a relevant market?

"Relevant market" is a loaded legal term. In short, it's the market in question as defined for antitrust purposes. For instance, is social media broadly the market in question or is social video the market? The answer could mean a great deal for YouTube in the antitrust battles to come.

Mobile search, however, is a different animal entirely: It accounts for nearly three-fourths of all search revenue and, as Cicilline illustrates above, Google is singularly dominant. Siri is not a competitor because it uses Google by default; Echo is hardly a competitor because it uses Microsoft's Bing for search, and Bing has somewhere from 2 to more than 30 percent market share, depending on whose numbers you believe. Either way, Bing is no Google.

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And then there was the press.

The first witness to speak was David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a group representing over 2,000 media organizations. The NMA came out with an eye-catching study this week saying that Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018.

That kind of number gets headlines, specifically in a newspaper like the New York Times (a member of the NMA), but the methodology beneath it is questionable. The big number appears to be based on an off-hand comment by Marissa Mayer, then a Google VP, in 2008 saying that Google News was then worth $100 million to Google. The $4.7 billion number is calculated, almost entirely, because Google is now worth more and, therefore, you can accurately calculate how much money it's making from the news industry... Huh?

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Here's the report to read for yourself.

Anyway, having already earned a big New York Times headline, Chavern opened the hearing with this number that just raises more questions than answers. Maybe the real number is higher, maybe it's lower, but the $4.7 billion is ultimately a big guess dressed up as a factual grievance. It was a bad way to start.

Even further away from Silicon Valley, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim was in Tel Aviv on Tuesday where he delivered a speech that in no uncertain terms laid the antitrust crosshairs on American tech giants by citing the country's long history of gargantuan industry breakups and laying out arguments the Justice Department could wield against big tech.

Advertisement

"The current landscape suggests there are only one or two significant players in important digital spaces, including internet search, social networks, mobile and desktop operating systems and electronic book sales," Delrahim said.

Delrahim's forceful speech, which you can read here, comes just one day after Senator Elizabeth Warren called on him to step down from his position as antitrust chief due to what she argues is a conflict of interest. A little over a decade ago, Delrahim was a paid lobbyist first for Apple and then Google in Washington, D.C.

"Your past work as a lobbyist for two of the largest and most scrutinized tech companies in the world creates the appearance of conflict of interest," Warren wrote in a letter to Delrahim. "As the head of the antitrust division at the DOJ, you should not be supervising investigations into former clients who paid you tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government."

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You can read Warren's letter here and you can watch the full congressional hearing here:

Tools to record the (virtual) world, clean up your Google searches and quiet your phone when you need to focus - Poynter

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 05:48 AM PDT

Tools to record the (virtual) world, clean up your Google searches and quiet your phone when you need to focus – Poynter

Google’s search tool falsely called Mueller report ‘fiction’ - The Washington Post

Posted: 10 Jun 2019 09:52 AM PDT


Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice in May. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

People who searched on Google for the Mueller report have been told the document is "fiction," a baffling falsehood that highlights the fallibility of and threat of misinformation from the world's most influential search engine.

Searches for "Mueller Report," which details the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Russian interference and President Trump's conduct in the 2016 election, showed an information box at the top of the results that classified the 448-page report's genre as "fiction."

In response to questions from The Washington Post, Google said the search result was an error and would be fixed shortly. The company did not immediately say why the search tool returned that result, how long that answer had been there, or how many people had been shown the false result.


A Google search for the Mueller report, as of June 10.

By 1 p.m. Monday, a few hours after The Post notified Google, the search had been corrected to call the report "non-fiction."

Google is the Internet's most visited website and the starting point for most searches online. The "fiction" classification was found in an information box from Google's Knowledge Graph, which relies on software to automatically generate potentially relevant context or information.

The Knowledge Graph system, unveiled in 2012, has been criticized for returning false information and for giving few details as to where its answers come from.

Google spokeswoman Lara Levin said in a statement to The Post: "The Knowledge Graph is our systems' understanding of the people, places and things in the world. While we strive to always present accurate information, errors can occur. When we're made aware of inaccuracies, we work to fix them quickly."

The Google algorithms scour a vast range of online sources, such as news sites and Wikipedia, making it difficult to know where the false information first arose. The Wikipedia page for the Mueller document calls it an official report.

The search error comes amid a growing tide in Washington of distrust for tech giants, where lawmakers have questioned whether websites are doing enough to tamp down misinformation.

The Mueller report has become both a political battlefield and a popular search topic by the general public. Print editions of the free report, sold by The Washington Post and other publishers, have climbed in bestseller lists.

But Google and its video giant YouTube have sometimes offered an inconsistent portrayal of the probe.

In April, one week after the Mueller report was revealed, YouTube automatically sent hundreds of thousands of recommendations to viewers that they watch a video decrying the investigation as a conspiracy theory. The video was created by RT America, the U.S.-focused division of the media network funded by the Russian government.

'Abortion' Google searches reach record highs - News - Akron Beacon Journal

Posted: 09 Jun 2019 08:56 PM PDT

More than a dozen states this year passed laws to either restrict or expand access to abortion, with a flurry of activity happening within the past few weeks alone.

In Ohio, lawmakers approved legislation in April banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally around six weeks into pregnancy. Opponents have filed a lawsuit to overturn the law scheduled to take effect July 11.

Reaction to the changes has dominated cable news networks and social media platforms. It also seemingly spurred record-breaking Google searches for words related to abortion.

On May 14, the Alabama Senate passed a bill banning nearly all abortions. The same day, more than a half-million people searched the phrase "Alabama abortion law" on Google — the fourth-highest query of the day behind "Tim Conway," "the Warriors," and "NBA draft lottery," according to the internet search engine's statistics.

The next day, when Alabama's governor signed the bill, a single word — "abortion" — ranked No. 2 for trending searches in America with more than 200,000 hits, according to Google Trends.

Owned by the search engine for which it's named, Google Trends uses "an unbiased sample" of its users' search data to provide snapshots of queries dating back as far as 2004.

The site displays the number of hits for top search terms each day. It also tracks search terms' popularity over time based on an index of 1-100. Not provided are most of the demographics behind the searches. So it's impossible to speculate on who is fueling the spike in abortion-related queries or why.

But Google Trends does show where searches originated. And Southern states generally ranked on top for abortion-related searches.

The phrase "abortion clinic near me," for example, reached an all-time high in May. It was most popular in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Maryland, the site showed.

Because Google Trends takes random samples, state rankings sometimes fluctuate with each query of the search term.

Searches for the above phrase and its plural counterpart "abortion clinics near me" have both increased overall in recent years.

Searches related to the topic of abortion also reached a record high last month but showed little variation in the location of those who Google it.

"The abortion issue is in many ways unique among social issues in how long it has been the focus of attention. It has been at the forefront of many national and local-level conversations for decades," said Ziad Munson, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University. "This sustained attention does wax and wane a little bit, and in the last few months there's been a lot more attention than in some previous periods."


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Abortions fall

The abortion rate dropped to a decade low in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 — a 26 percent decline from 2006.

The fertility rate among same-aged women in 2015, by comparison, was 62.5 births per 1,000.

Despite this, searches for "pregnancy center near me" in the past year are significantly lower overall than the number of searches for "abortion clinic near me."

That could be because many women who discover pregnancy centers find them by searching information about pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, said Andrea Trudden, director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers in the United States.

Google recently changed its policy for advertisements related to the topic.

Due to confusion over pregnancy centers using misleading language in advertisements, Google now automatically generates "in-ad disclosures" for certified advertisers saying they either do or do not provide abortions.

While abortion-related Google searches spiked, some pregnancy-related queries are on the decline. "Am I pregnant" has trailed off since its peak in August 2012. "Pregnancy symptoms" reached its peak 13 months earlier but has tanked since then.

States searching

Mississippi-based internet users ranked among the top source for both those search terms, according to Google Trends.

Mississippi also generated some of the highest number of searches for "abortion clinic" in May — the same month a federal judge temporarily blocked the state's new bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other top states for that search term were Georgia, which recently passed a similar law, as well as Alabama.

Searches for "Planned Parenthood near me" also reached an all-time high in December. The nonprofit women's health care organization provides women's health care and abortions in clinics across the country and is well-known for its lobbying efforts for abortion access. The second-highest peak for that search term was last month.

At the same time, searches for "how to get an abortion," reached a 90-day peak on May 16, as did searches for "abortion pill."

Some of the Google queries might reflect confusion about recent legislation and what it means for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. For example, searches for "where abortion is legal" reached a 15-year peak last month.

"It's certainly an increased fear and anxiety we've been noticing," said Alison Dreith, deputy director of the Hope Clinic for Women, an abortion provider in Granite City, Illinois.

The clinic is near the Illinois-Missouri border — just 10 miles from St. Louis — and serves women from both states, as well as those coming from elsewhere in the country.

Missouri lawmakers last month banned abortions after eight weeks, and the state's sole abortion provider is operating only thanks to a judge's order. Illinois, meanwhile, passed a law protecting abortion rights.

"We've been fielding a lot more calls than we normally do and getting messages on social media saying, 'I made my appointment before these bans, can I still get my procedure?'" Dreith said. "They are seeing these headlines and news and worried about how that affects their procedure."

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Abortion searches reach record highs: The topic was a top Google trend twice last month - Waxahachie Daily Light

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 07:51 AM PDT

More than a dozen states this year passed laws to either restrict or expand access to abortion, with a flurry of activity happening within the past few weeks alone.

Reaction to the changes has dominated cable news networks and social media platforms. It also seemingly spurred record-breaking Google searches for words related to abortion.

On May 14, the Alabama Senate passed a bill banning nearly all abortions. The same day, more than a half million people searched the phrase "Alabama abortion law" on Google — the fourth-highest query of the day behind "Tim Conway," "the Warriors," and "NBA draft lottery," according to the internet search engine's statistics.

The next day, when Alabama's governor signed the bill, a single word — "abortion" — ranked No. 2 for trending searches in America with more than 200,000 hits, according to Google Trends.

Owned by the search engine for which it's named, Google Trends uses "an unbiased sample" of its users' search data to provide snapshots of queries dating back as far as 2004.

The site displays the number of hits for top search terms each day. It also tracks search terms' popularity over time based on an index of 1-100. Not provided are most of the demographics behind the searches. So it's impossible to speculate on who is fueling the spike in abortion-related queries or why.

But Google Trends does show where searches originated. And Southern states generally ranked on top for abortion-related searches.

The phrase "abortion clinic near me," for example, reached an all-time high in May. As of June 6, most of the searches came from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. Searches for the phrase and its plural counterpart "abortion clinics near me" have both increased overall in recent years.

Texas ranked second, behind only the 100-index ranking given to Georgia, with a score of 91 in online searches for "pregnancy center near me."

The Lone Star State was also tied for 10th in the ranking of searches on the general topic of abortion by a state or district with an 86-index score, matching Michigan and Virginia.

The District of Columbia led the group with a perfect 100-index score, followed by Mississippi (97) and Georgia (89). Louisiana, Indiana and Kentucky all tallied an 88, while Maryland, West Virginia and Alabama recorded an 87.

The data found that 52 percent of abortion-related Google searches in Texas were related to finding a "pregnancy center near me," while the other 48 percent were for general abortion topics or "abortion clinics near me."

Searches related to the topic of abortion also reached a record high last month but showed little variation in the location of those who Google it.

"The abortion issue is in many ways unique among social issues in how long it has been the focus of attention. It has been at the forefront of many national and local-level conversations for decades," said Ziad Munson, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University. "This sustained attention does wax and wane a little bit, and in the last few months there's been a lot more attention than in some previous periods."

Searches spike but abortions fall

The abortion rate dropped to a decade low in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 — a 26 percent decline from 2006.

The fertility rate among same-aged women in 2015, by comparison, was 62.5 births per 1,000.

Despite this, searches for "pregnancy care center near me" in the past year are significantly lower than the number of searches for "abortion clinic near me." The top number of searches for the former came from Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.

That could be because many women who discover pregnancy care centers find them by searching information about pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, said Andrea Trudden, director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers in the United States.

Google recently changed its policy for advertisements related to the topic.

Due to confusion over pregnancy care centers using misleading language in advertisements, Google now automatically generates "in-ad disclosures" for certified advertisers saying they either do or do not provide abortions.

While abortion-related Google searches spiked, some pregnancy-related queries are on the decline. "Am I pregnant" has trailed off since its peak in August 2012. "Pregnancy symptoms" reached its peak 13 months earlier but has tanked since then. Mississippi-based internet users ranked the No. 1 source for both those search terms, according to Google Trends.

Mississippi also generated the highest number of searches for "abortion clinic" in May — the same month a federal judge temporarily blocked the state's new bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other top states for that search term were Georgia, which recently passed a similar law, as well as Alabama and South Carolina.

Searches for "Planned Parenthood near me" also reached an all-time high in December. The nonprofit women's health care organization provides women's health care and abortions in clinics across the country and is well-known for its lobbying efforts for abortion access. The second-highest peak for that search term was last month.

At the same time, searches for "how to get an abortion," reached a 90-day peak on May 16, as did searches for "abortion pill." Illinois ranked No. 1 for searches on "how to get an abortion" made between January 1 and the end of May.

Some of the Google queries might reflect confusion about recent legislation and what it makes for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. For example, searches for "where abortion is legal" reached a 15-year peak last month.

"It's certainly an increased fear and anxiety we've been noticing," said Alison Dreith, deputy director of the Hope Women's Clinic, an abortion provider in Granite City, Illinois.

The clinic is near the Illinois-Missouri border — just 10 miles from St. Louis — and serves women from both states, as well as those coming from elsewhere in the country.

Missouri lawmakers last month banned abortions after eight weeks, and the state's only abortion provider is operating only thanks to a judge's order. Illinois, meanwhile, passed a law protecting abortion rights.

"We've been fielding a lot more calls than we normally do and getting messages on social media saying, 'I made my appointment before these bans, can I still get my procedure?'" Dreith said. "They are seeing these headlines and news and worried about how that affects their procedure."

____

Additional reporting by Travis M. Smith/Daily Light.

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