Do search engines need better regulation?

"Demystifying Search Engine Optimization [viz notes] #wcyvr" by giulia.forsythe is marked with CC0 1.0

With the massive increase in the number of web sites at the end of the 20th century, search engines emerged. It means the appearance of a new kind of network information interaction. (Seymour et al., 2011) At the same time, the development of search engines has brought about a series of social changes. Many people have discovered the economic effects brought about by search engines to obtain huge profits or realized that its advantage about information searching or collecting and used to obtain benefits. However, in the absence of effective supervision and related laws, some people have suffered losses from the search engine.

In the article I will make a summary of the development history of search engines and introduce how search engines have changed from a development requirement to a part of people’s daily life today. And its position in modern network media will also be introduced. Then article will analyse the impact of search engines on people’s daily life. The economic, political, and social significance of search engines will be further evaluated. Discuss the significance of the multi-faceted transformative impact brought by the emergence of search engines for beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries will be placed in the important part of the whole article. Finally, I will make a general summary based on my own life experience to explore how search engines affect ordinary Internet users.

Backgroud and development

In the 1990s, the prototype of search engine with the function of retrieving information has appeared. In the early web development process, the first tool that people developed to deal with the constantly online web servers was called Archie. After that, this program continuously optimizes the search and index function that is used on the Internet. The earliest search engine available on the Internet was WebCrawler developed by Brian Pinkerton in 1994. (Halavais, 2013)This is a sign that a search engine has entered the Internet, and it is also a sign that it has begun to participate in communications media or information management. The predecessor of the commercial search engine was a pay-per-click plan provided by Open Text in 1996. Two years later this plan became, and in 2001, was renamed Overture, and then Yahoo! Acquired the Overture. However, whether it is Yahoo or Google search, during the time the search engine business that has just started, they all got profit by advertising on search engines. The concept of search engine marketing is therefore put forward. (Seymour et al., 2011)

The current search engine has surpassed the Internet itself. It has begun to become a part of the entire media ecosystem. (Halavais, 2013)The information in people’s neglected life will be recorded by search engines. You can use search engines to search for knowledge on the Internet or find the person you want from thousands of mobile phone contacts, and you can find the keywords you need in tens of thousands of emails, you can even use the search function of the electronic library to quickly find the documents you need, which is far more efficient than people going to the real library to find the materials they need. Search engines have played an irreplaceable role for modern people who cannot leave electronic devices. The information database of modern human civilization is in the process of continuous expansion. The era of knowledge explosion means that humans need more convenient tools to extract what they want from massive amounts of knowledge, and constantly update search engines to become the biggest information management challenges.

Benefit or not?

This video introduce the SEM (search engine market)

“Escalating click prices, increases in the number of search advertisers, and a surge in overall click volume have all combined to take a relatively new business to well over $10 billion in 10 years.”(Lee& Seda,2009)

Based on the development of search engine marketing, advertising inserted in search engines has become a huge industry. Paid search advertisements provide companies with an effective way to get in touch with people who may be interested in their products and services. According to the big data analysis of user population search, search engines can find out the needs of the population and place relevant advertisements to stimulate consumers’ desire for consumption. The success rate of such product promotion far exceeds that of traditional media advertising. From an economic point of view, this is a win-win situation. Search engine development companies receive advertising costs, and the value created by advertisements is much more than the advertisements costs. And consumers can also get what they need. (Lee& Seda,2009)

But from a social point of view, people who benefit from search engines are far fewer than those who lose profit. As an Internet industry, search engines have their corresponding flaws. In search economics, user data has become a commodity in the advertising market, but in a sense, user data is a kind of personal wealth created by users, and database forcibly collecting data is the theft of personal property. Today the world’s largest search engine company Google has done this kind of “violent” behaviour.(Jarrett,2014)

twitter from

“Noble joins a small but growing cadre of scholars leveling critiques at the myth of the objectivity or neutrality of “big data” technologies” (Ticona,2019)

The social disappointment of search engines is not just the leakage of personal data. The current search engine has even become a place for the development of racism and sexism. For example, if you search for black girls on Google search, pornographic content will appear in the search results.(Noble,2018) Such results are not determined by humans but represent Google’s algorithmic problem. As we all know, the ranking method of search engines is generally based on the degree of popularity received, which is a disturbing fact. This is a vicious circle, search results full of racial discrimination occupy the forefront of the page and more people will be able to see it. Sorting methods based on popularity and relevance can certainly help people find the most needed search content, and it also contributes to the evil thoughts of these modern civilized societies. Whether they are targets of racial discrimination or gender discrimination, they are all disadvantaged groups in society, which means that their rights cannot be guaranteed, especially on the internet.

Image by ThinkVegan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Many people feel that they get objective results when they use search engines, but they are actually determined by the architecture and algorithms designed by search engine engineers, but in fact the architecture of search engines is mainly designed by white male engineers. Their perceptions is undoubtedly likely to be biased. And the search engine they designed will also cater to their group.(Rollman,2018)


For me, the emergence of search engines is very helpful to my academic study. First of all, the academic search engine is an indispensable part of my daily homework. For example, google scholar has a lot of free documents for reference. Of course, the academic search engine provided by my school is also very helpful. It gives us permission to find some restricted sources. The academic search engine means that students no longer need to search for the information they need in the nearly 100,000 books in the real library in order to write academic works. You only need to search for the corresponding keywords in the search box. Then you can find the corresponding academic materials, which is very convenient and efficient.

In addition to academics, daily life search engines are also very practical. It is no exaggeration to say that the carrier of human civilization in the 21st century has been transferred from the library to the Internet. You can search for most of the practical knowledge you need through search engines.For example, If I want to raise a cat but don’t know how to do it, it’s very simple. Googling, you can find thousands of cat owners’ experiences on the website. Or when I want to see a dentist if my tooth hurts, I just need to search for a dentist in the search box, and hundreds of dentist clinics will appear on the map.

“Voice Search” by Johan Larsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

But the search engines also brought trouble to my online surfing. Some search engine advertisements are malicious. If you refuse to close this advertisement, it will block your sight and make your surfing experience very bad. What’s even more unsatisfactory is that when you try to close these nasty floating window advertisements, you will find that you have entered some dangerous-looking links. This situation is very common in China’s Baidu search engine.


All in all, the emergence of search engines has benefited people’s lives. Although there are still many problems, it is undeniable that it is an important part of modern information media life. People get convenience and speed from the use of search engines. Manufacturers who place advertisements gain market, and search engine operating companies receive advertising fees. Search engines have gradually appeared in our lives in the past 20 years, such as academic search, map navigation search, mail search, contact details search, and big data search. It is all aspects of life and has become an indispensable part of the information society.


1 Halavais, A. (2013). The engines. In Search engine society (pp. 5–31). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity.

2 Noble, S. U. (2018). A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism (pp. 15–63). New York University.

ISBN: 9781479837243

3 Jarrett, K. (2014). A database of intention. In Society of the query reader: Reflections on web search (pp. 16–29). Amsterdam: Institute of networked cultures.

4 Seymour, T., Frantsvog, D., & Kumar, S. (2011). History of search engines. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 15(4), 47-58. Retrieved from

5 Lee, K., & Seda, C. (2009). Search engine advertising : buying your way to the top to increase sales (2nd ed.). New Riders.

6 Digital Garage. (2019). The SEM auction.Retrieved from The SEM auction:

7 giulia.forsythe. (2020). Demystifying Search Engine Optimization [viz notes]. Retrieved from

8 ThinkVegan. (2020). racism sexism speciesism. Retrieved from

9 Ticona, J. (2019). Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. Contemporary Sociology, 48(4), 455–456.

10 Rollman, H. (2018, Jan 30). Don’t google it! how search engines reinforce racism. PopMatters, Retrieved from

11 Larsson, J. (2020). Voice Search. Retrieved from Voice Search:


About Xingwei Zhou 2 Articles
Im a student now learning in Sydney union My major is data science and minor is digital media. And im a video gamer lol