Search engines have had a significant impact on the way that individual users view issues within society. In this article, I will analyse how search engines have a significant effect on the way that people view certain issues in society such as political, economic, social, and cultural. I will focus predominantly on google and how its autocompleted search engines highlight already existing societal prejudices. Overall, this article will highlight how search engines are doing more harm to society than good, and through providing real-life examples I will illustrate this. Search engines are a product of the attention economy. The attention economy is a term that is used to describe the supply and demand of an individual’s attention. This is exactly what search engines do, as, through search engines, people’s access to information is increased significantly which means that their attention is also being used significantly. Additionally, in this article, I will explore how search engines and their transformative effects have benefited some and not others.
Explanation and a brief history of search engines
Search engines are an information retrieval system that assists users in finding the keywords in their search which essentially helps them to narrow down their search results to the best option (Halavais, A. (2013)). Below is a diagram of how the typical search engine works.
Page 15, figure 1.1. Halavais, A. (2013). The engines. In Search engine society
Throughout the 1990s, there was a significant increase in the advancement of search engine technology. The competition between different search engines stemmed from the overall size of its database and the efficiency of the information that is uploaded. Majority of the search engine companies such as SavvySearch begun to incorporate something called metasearch. The metasearch was the ability to see various search engines at the same time. (Halavais, A. (2013)). Later on, other companies started to develop their search engines such as Ask Jeeves who attempted to make search results more user-friendly, and AltaVista who begun to refine some results from search. In 1998, Google begun to provide some impressive search functions which essentially is what brought it to be the top, most popular competitor in search engine businesses.
Search engines were originally invented in response to a problem within society. Today, search engines are helping us better understand our society as they are portraying already existing societal prejudices through businesses like Google who strategically control the search results that appear.
Who has benefited from its transformative effects in a political-economic and social sense, and who has not?
Search engines do more damage to society than they do provide benefits to it. Through search engines’ transformative effects, it is clear that it has benefited some more than others. Search engines in most instances, especially when looking at Google’s autocomplete search engines, benefit certain political agendas, economic and social. Politically, search engines have been seen to benefit certain political groups. In an article published by The Guardian, they highlight how Google autocomplete search engines spread false and misleading information that is predominantly right-wing bias. (Solon & Levin, 2016). In an article published by The Guardian, we can see how some political agendas have benefited more than others from search engines’ transformative effects. Through autocomplete search engines such as Google, the business is able to control the type of information that is being distributed to users on the internet. Through doing this google search algorithms have the ability to select what results appear as number one, once the user has typed in their search. In the article, it is made apparent how search engines such as Google can manipulate certain search results in order to propagate a specific ideas or views to the user. This is evident throughout the article where it highlights how Googles prioritizes right-wing sites. An example of this is in the image below, where we can see the autocomplete search engine prioritize right-wing ideologies on climate change.
Google image that highlights the right-wing bias results that appear in Google’s search engine.
Furthermore, search engines are affecting the way that individuals view certain aspects in a society which is additionally benefiting political agendas and essentially affecting society. I believe that search engines are not benefiting society in any way as the search engine algorithm works to produce information that it believes to be of utmost importance. However, in many instances, the results are biased which then has the ability to shift the user’s opinions to believe the results that they are seeing.
Overall, google itself has benefited from search engines and other large companies that have been advertised and appear as the number one search result. In October this year, the United States justice department sued google over the belief that the company is taking advantage of its dominating search engine and search advertising.
Justice Dept. expected to file antitrust lawsuit against Google today, setting off a legal war that could affect entire tech industry https://t.co/L0Mo8ZQX70
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 20, 2020
This post illustrates that the transformative effects of search engines have definitely benefited Google and some large companies. The file accused google of not providing a fair market for other competitors to compete as Google was acting as a “gate keeper” to the internet by making business deals with certain companies that essentially block out any other competition. (Rushe & Paul, 2020). This is an example where we can see how search engines have benefited some and not others, in this example it is evident that still to this day Google and other large companies are benefiting from their transformative effects and society is not.
Video on Google’s bias and the problem behind it
Overall, search engines have had a significant impact on the information that users and society receive. Through my use of search engines, I believe that it has affected my study and work as the results that appear when I am looking for information are sometimes bias. Throughout this article, I have analysed how search engines are affecting the way people view issues in society through companies like Google who have the ability to monitor and control the information that users see when using their search engine. Through providing examples from Twitter and Google search itself it is evident that there are significant issues within Google’s search engine algorithm. Further, search engines are a way of portraying prejudices within society which has in turn shifted the views and opinions that individual users have on issues within society.
Noble, S. U. (2018). A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism (pp. 15–63). New York University.
Solon, O., & Levin, S. (2016). How Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias. Retrieved 13 September 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/16/google-autocomplete-rightwing-bias-algorithm-political-propaganda
Halavais, A. (2013). The engines. In Search engine society (pp. 5–31). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity.
Rushe, D., & Paul, K. (2020). US justice department sues Google over accusation of illegal monopoly. Retrieved 25 October 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/oct/20/us-justice-department-antitrust-lawsuit-against-google
December 11, 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf-htF0nRno