Kristie Anna Canegallo is the head of Trust and Safety at Google. If you’ve ever found your content suppressed by Google with an explanation that explanation probably came from Trust and Safety. Trust and Safety is the preferred term used by Google to justify content removal or suppression on their platforms. The name “Trust and Safety” is intended to instill in consumers a sense of trustworthiness and imply that they are looking out for your safety, but the truth is that the term “Trust and Safety” means just the opposite when used to support censorship in light of Google’ corporate mission statement. A company cannot claim that censoring information makes them a trustworthy source of information after saying, “Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” When viewed in light of how Google became the world’s leading search engine in the first place, censoring and suppressing search results is an especially untrustworthy and hypocritical practice. In this article we will discuss how Google’s violated the public’s trust and what we know about Canegallo.
During the 2000s the search engine industry was very competitive. The decade began with Yahoo leading the pack with Google a not so close second (see Top Search Engines from 2002 to 2005). Google overtook Yahoo in 2004 because they developed a way to better help people find what they were looking for online. They developed an innovative algorithm known as PageRank which used backlinks to determine the quality of pages and rank they accordingly. At the time PageRank was launched other search engines still used a directory approach. People would have to sift through large quantities of content to find what they were looking for until Google’s PageRank came along to save them time. Google made search great.
Google made search great because users could trust them to provide the most useful and relevant information. When someone searched for the name of a person or a business they could find everything available about those topics on Google. When some of that information turned out to be negative and in some cases false that led to a public outcry blaming Google for ruining reputations. Google initially responded appropriately to such criticism by pointing out that their algorithm did nothing more than objectively serve users relevant content ranked accordingly. Google would point out that under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 they were not responsible for content created by others. Then they directed people to address alleged inaccuracies with the sources of the information. That was the appropriate response because manual intervention would have violated the public’s trust by compromising the integrity of their search results and making it harder for people to find what they’re looking for.
Had Google manually intervened early on they would never have been able to take over the search engine market. Yahoo developed an algorithm similar to PageRank in 2004, so Google had some real competition. Google could’ve only engaged in so much censorship before people said, “don’t use Google because they won’t show you everything you’re looking for.” If that became common knowledge they wouldn’t be what they are today. Google had to take over the market before they could afford to violate our trust. Google had to make using their search engine exclusively normal for most people. They had to gain our trust so that most people don’t think to questions the first pages of search results for any given term and if they do not to become dissatisfied enough to use a different search engine. Today Google controls 90% of the search engine market with Bing a distant second at 2.3% (see Search Engine Market Share in 2021). Google users rarely think to ask if Google search results really are the whole picture let alone conduct a Bing search to see what Google isn’t showing them because their trust has been misplaced due to many years of trustworthy behavior by Google. It is a shame to see a company that built itself on trust become so untrustworthy when they finally gain control over people.
Not all of Google’s decisions to suppress content have been bad. People learned how to manipulate the PageRank algorithm to make low quality content rank well. Google has done a lot over the years to combat that type of manipulation. They’ve also taken steps to keep information they know to be false from ranking well. Those decisions are not why we are here today. We are here today because Google went beyond merely ranking higher quality relevant content better than low quality content. For instance, when Google went out of their way to manually suppress information about COVID-19 they knew to be false they were not betraying anyone’s trust. That was no different than updating their algorithm to rank reliable medical websites higher for medical terms.
We are here because Google began suppressing and in some cases outright censoring content they know to be negative without any proof of it being false or in some cases knowing that its true but choosing to suppress it anyway based on claims of emotional distress by its subjects. That pattern of behavior contradicts Google’s mission statement and is the first step towards turning Google into a directory.
We are here because Google has chosen to make some types of content harder to find. When people search for information about a person or a business they usually do so with an open mind. That open mind is typically receptive to any information they find whether its positive or negative. Sometimes all they find are social media profiles that look good and think “that’s nice.” Other times they find arrest records, negative reviews, or allegations of a personal nature and think, “I’m glad I know that.” Google is actively working to deny the latter useful information. Today users are more likely to find a sanitized version of search intended to make them think, “that’s nice” when the real version would make them think, “I’m glad I know that.”
This behavior gained notoriety in 2013 when Google suppressed mugshots. Google used to be a great place to research a person because you’d find out fairly quickly that they have an arrest records at no cost to you. Today you’re likely to finish your Googling completely clueless as to who your subject really is. To find what you’re looking for you will need the presence of mind to use a paid background check service. Today’s search results are not nearly as trustworthy as they were a decade ago because someone at Google though it would be safer to cost users time and money. Google’s problem had nothing to do with accuracy since the arrest records in question came from accurate public databases. Google simply responded to stories from mainstream media outlets like sissies. Rather than simply explain that suppressing arrest records would contradict their mission statement by making search less accurate they decided to appease arrestees claiming emotional distress as a result of true facts being widely available on Google (see Mugged by a Mugshot). This was the beginning of the end as far as Google being a trustworthy source of information, but unfortunately due to network effects Google was already growing too fast for anything like this to slow them down.
Information of Questionable Accuracy
Google has devolved from an objective broker of information to a moderator that treats unproven claims as false. A decade ago Google would serve users with content containing negative allegations against people and businesses like any neutral third party should. They showed them the content and let them figure things out for themselves. Users could trust Google to show them everything relevant to their search even if some of the content might contain false information. Human beings being what they are it is their responsibility to respond appropriately to what they read online. It is not Google’s responsibility to shelter them from anything they might react inappropriately to. Google has claimed in recent years in the name of Trust and Safety that they’ve taken steps to protect users from content by suppressing it in search results or removing it entirely. They claim it makes their search results more trustworthy by limiting exposure to negative and in some cases false information, but such claims really prove the opposite because Google earned their trust by being an objective broker of information. Today people cannot trust Google search results. Today people must sift through countless pages of irrelevant information to find what they are looking for. Google is going in the opposite direction.
What Google Should Do
Google should serve users with more information to help them make educated decisions. We have proposed a reasonable compromise in our manifesto. That compromise involves applying warning labels to search results so that users will use their minds. Those labels would tell people if a relevant result is unverified, disputed, or misleading. They wouldn’t have to page through irrelevant results to find relevant information just because Google wants to avoid public relations issues associated with negative search results. People would find what they are looking for and learn not to react inappropriately. Google would restore their results to a reliable state. Search would be great again.
Make Search Great Again
Google is moving backwards by moving away from algorithmic search and back towards the era of directories. We fear that if Google continues down this path that their search engine will become nothing more than a directory of sites manually approved by Google employees. Manual manipulation of rankings is illegal due to statements made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Google cannot be trusted to tell Congress the truth under oath. They freely admit that their CEO committed perjury and package proof of his crime as an internet safety improvement. To truly regain the trust of the American people, Google must restore the status quo to what it was before they began moving backwards. They must restore search to what it was before employees manually manipulated it for political reasons. The must secure our future access to information. They must make search great again.
Who is Kristie Canegallo?
Kristie Anna Canegallo is a 41 year old resident of San Francisco, California. She grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts before attending Colgate University and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In 2008 she served with the National Security Council at the Pentagon. In 2014 she became White House Deputy Chief of Staff under Barack Obama. As Deputy Chief of Staff she was considered one of Obama’s top aids. Google hired her in 2018.
As head of Trust and Safety it is her job to protect users from abuse while ensuring that Google remains a trusted source of information. She is failing at that job by prioritizing the former over the latter so much so that Google is no longer a trusted source of information. She does not have a tech background, so her job is all about making policies. The polices that have emerged under her watch seem aimed at suppressing information not in line with the personal views of Google employees such as herself. They have suppressed conservative speech because they tow the liberal line and believe the opinions of others they disagree with to be false information. They’re the same type of people that banned classic books in public schools. At least our compromise proposal is more like slapping trigger warnings on books. Trigger warnings at least tell readers what they’re getting themselves into while allowing them access to information.
“He who controls the past controls the future; He who controls the present controls the past.”– George Orwell
We fear that Canegallo’s policies are intended not to maximize our access to information, but to trick us into thinking that we have such access because Google historically did maximize our access to information. By convincing people that they are a trustworthy source of information, Google has almost taken control of the past in a manner clearly intended to control the present and future. If you read Canegallo’s policies you can see that just about everything she calls a success is really a failure to fulfill her company’s mission.
Where She Lives
A public records search revealed that Canegallo’s last known address is 884 De Haro Street, San Francisco, California 94107-2706. As you can see below, the Google Earth image of the property has been blurred. That is a common practice employed by high value targets trying to protect their privacy.
We also linked her to the email address [email protected]. There were a couple other addresses attributed to her in recent years including 261 CREEKSIDE DR PALO ALTO, CA 94306 and 1626 DEVONSHIRE WAY SALINAS, CA 93906.
Kristie Canegallo’s betrayal of trust in the name of Trust and Safety threatens to turn Google into nothing more than a directory. A directory where the only sites left ranking are the ones they approve of. Now that there are few alternatives to Google, they can abuse their position to control what we see.