Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Google cranks up its censorship capacity

I don't fully understand this but it sounds ominous:
"Google this week admitted that its staff will pick and choose what appears in its search results. It's a historic statement - and nobody has yet grasped its significance. Not so very long ago, Google disclaimed responsibility for its search results by explaining that these were chosen by a computer algorithm.

A few years ago, Google's apparently unimpeachable objectivity got some people very excited, and technology utopians began to herald Google as the conduit for a new form of democracy. Google was only too pleased to encourage this view. It explained that its algorithm "relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. "

It wasn't surprising, then, that when five years ago I described how a small, self-selected number of people could rig Google's search results, the reaction from the people doing the rigging was violently antagonistic. Who lifted that rock? they cried.

But what was once Googlewashing by a select few now has Google's active participation. This week Marissa Meyer explained that editorial judgments will play a key role in Google searches. It was reported by Tech Crunch proprietor Michael Arrington - who Nick Carr called the "Madam of the Web 2.0 Brothel" - but its significance wasn't noted. The irony flew safely over his head at 30,000 feet. Arrington observed:
"Mayer also talked about Google's use of user data created by actions on Wiki search to improve search results on Google in general. For now that data is not being used to change overall search results, she said. But in the future it's likely Google will use the data to at least make obvious changes. An example is if "thousands of people" were to knock a search result off a search page, they'd be likely to make a change.

Now what, you may be thinking, is an "obvious change"? Is it one that is frivolous? Or is it one that goes against the grain of the consensus? If so, then who decides what the consensus must be? Make no mistake, Google is moving into new territory: not only making arbitrary, editorial choices - really no different to Fox News, say, or any other media organization. It's now in the business of validating and manufacturing consent: not only reporting what people say, but how you should think.



Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to returning web pages based on the relevance of the search terms, and training users (via trial and error) in how to construct a targeted search for the information they wanted?

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to allowing a company to run its business as it sees fit? Let the market dictate if their business model choice works or not.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to leaving things alone and letting people search for whatever it is they're looking for, without "politically-motivated" interference?

We are entering the age of "true" censorship, not the phony kind the Left always whines about. But, since we already tolerate massive manipulation of facts in the so-called news industry, why should this bother anyone.

Anonymous said...

If you think G**gle is evil, try

Anonymous said...

"Whatever happened to allowing a company to run its business as it sees fit? Let the market dictate if their business model choice works or not."

Nice in theory, but in this case it won't work.
G**gle has gotten too big, and can now actively control what people learn about its business practices.
So they can suppress this knowledge that they're doctoring search results from almost everyone, while feeding those people the same old story that they're completely impartial.

Next you know, you have utterly one-sided reporting where the vast majority of people only get a single extremely narrow set of information, information that is biassed towards a certain far-left political agenda.
Sounds familiar? It's what the Soviet state propaganda ministery did, what their Chinese counterpart still does.

Anonymous said...

Gee, do you think the fact that Al (we've only got days to live) Gore is one of their "major" shareholders has anything to do with this? (lol)

Some day, perhaps not in our lifetimes, but some day, Amerika will wake up. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

I think I've just received my clarion call to short Google as heavily as I dare when the market turns down again in earnest. Boy will it be extra fun profiting from the decline of those pompous pricks.