How Google Interferes with It's Search Algorithm
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Google controls a staggering 87.8% of the search market in the United States of America . That means almost 9 out of every 10 American's depend on the service for their information; more than the 52% who depend on Facebook, the 28% who rely on YouTube, or the 17% who rely on Twitter . These numbers equal power. Real, measurably power. The question is, how is Google using that power?
How They Do What They Do
Google was built upon the idea that algorithms, complex equations, could be used to help people find useful information on the internet. Google's programs send out digital spiders across the internet, read every page they find, send the information back to Google, and then repeat the process on all subpages. Once the information gets back to Google their algorithm, which is not disclosed to the public, sorts and ranks websites for their users to find.
What They Claim They Do
Google claims that they "do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page. Rather, [they] have automated systems that are able to quickly find content in [their] index--from the hundreds of billions of pages [Google has] indexed by crawling the web--that are relevant to the words in your search" .
When pressed Google claims they do not interfere with searches but a study conducted by the Wall Street Journal finds that not to be the case.
What They Actually Do
According to the investigative reports of the Journal, Google has bowed to pressure from business, outside interest groups, and governments around the world ostensibly pivoting away from organizing the worlds information to determining what information people get to see at all .
Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBay Inc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action.
Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.
Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results.
In auto-complete, the feature that predicts search terms as the user types a query, Google’s engineers have created algorithms and blacklists to weed out more-incendiary suggestions for controversial subjects, such as abortion or immigration.
What We Should Do About What They Do
Some censorship by a private company is to be expected. Obviously no one wants criminal material being found by a minor or terroristic entities being readily available to would be extremists. However, in an era where "Fake News" is the battle cry of the day, should we not take a closer look at who is watching the watchmen, at who is deciding what we get to see and how often?
Algorithms are only getting better. These complex formulas are able to predict what many people, usually voters, are thinking and how they will react. We have even seen in recent years the weaponization of information in a way that was previously only theoretical to influence and effect elections.
Google's algorithm remains a closely guarded secret but maybe it should not be. Maybe it is just too important to be kept out of the public eye.