Related link: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=failure
Let’s do an experiment. Go out to Google, type “failure” into the search box, make a prediction about what the top hit should be, and then choose “I’m feeling lucky.”
Ok, maybe you’re outraged or maybe you’re happy based upon what you just saw. But did you notice that the site that came up was the official site and that the word “failure” didn’t appear anywhere in the source or metadata of the document? For historical purposes, here is what you get at the time of this post.
Now, believe me, I know that it can be (and is often) the case that accurately organized page rankings need not have the actual search text contained anywhere in them — consider an image search for example — but it really begs the question of how influential search engines can/could be/have been in shaping public opinion. Think about it. How many times do you use a search engine each day? How much of your research do you base on the first page or so of hits? Do you implicitly assume that information you get in the first page of hits is non-partisan or accurate? Does this shape your thinking in any way? Just some things to consider as you go about your searching.
A very powerful man once said, “It doesn’t matter who votes, what matters is who counts the votes.” In another context, he might have said, “It doesn’t matter what you search for, what matters is who ranks the results.” I’m not trying to assert that Google or any other search engine has any particular political agenda or that there’s any conspiracy at all behind page rankings, but sometimes you really do have to wonder how pages get racked and stacked and whether or not such organizations could/would use their highly influential power as a political arm — especially during tumultuous political times. Ever considered the effects of geo-targeting swing states during an election? How much money would it take to buy that “service?” Again, it’s just something to consider.
But let’s face it, everyone does have an agenda, and there’s really no such thing as being completely unbiased or non-partisan. Bias is inevitable. The questions then become if/when an agenda shapes policy, whether or not we’re savvy enough to recognize it, and what we could/should do about it.
Is it fair to consider search engines part of the mainstream media?