Google’s Selective Results

Some years ago I noticed that my search results in Google seemed skewed to the left.  I’d search for a phrase, typed verbatim, that I’d read on a prominent right-wing blog like “Power Line” and Google would come back with no results – that kind of thing.  There’s just no way the most prominent right-wing blogs are not being cataloged by Google; I’d get “near miss” results from leftish blogs with single-digit traffic, but not the right-wing ones with traffic to rival the Daily Kos – and Kos links were frequent.

I got fed up when I found that my search for the CIA’s posting of the “Statement on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq Survey Group” was nowhere to be found after searching down hundreds of links.  Sure, left-wing blogs with near-zero traffic were there, what with a handful of hits on a few of the keywords, but the report itself, on the CIA website, had been linked-to by multiple right-wing blogs.

I was reminded of this when I saw this blogpost; I have a personal interest in the case, so I had created a set of Google Alerts for various keyword combinations.  I’d already gotten a Google Alert for the Pittsburg Tribune-Review article before Drudge or Hot Air had linked to it, and the Hot Air piece contained keywords sufficient to generate an alert.  None came, so I checked my Google Alerts.  The one that would have triggered it had been set to “Only the best results” instead of All Results – but that’s not how I’d set it.

Of course, I might have mistakenly set it incorrectly, and mistakenly not noticed when I doublechecked the search parameters.

2 responses to “Google’s Selective Results

  1. Hey, at least they’re doing no evil!

    I’ve had numerous occasions to notice the effect you describe, firsthand (having seen it referenced in various such Right-leaning blogs). It is chilling in the extreme that such a ubiquitous resource for information-seeking should filter (or by omission of action allow to be filtered) the information that people might use to formulate an opinion on matters of consequence.

    I can scarcely fathom anything more profoundly UNdemocratic.

  2. Well, they like us to think they’re doing no evil. That was their motto from the beginning, back when the founders probably meant it, but it’s a big company now and employees know that they can advance themselves by doing things not-quite-evil but ok-kinda-unethical. Not that I have personal inside knowledge of Google, but the larger companies get the more they seem to tend towards that kind of behavior. As a company, they’ll tend to support legislation which helps them or disproportionately hinders their competition. Companies founded by shysters stay hinky forever, but companies founded by the principled tend to stray over time, at least from time to time.

    At any rate it’s hard to say how they, as Liberals, might define “evil” in the first place.

    I think it’s important to note that Google is a privately owned enterprise, and as such they’re entitled to their own ideological warp and bent. Unlike the left-leaning MSM which claims to be ideologically neutral, Google makes no such claims so we can’t rightly take them to task on those grounds either. They have no obligation to provide the unfiltered public resource we’d like, thus fulfilling a promise they never made. What’s more, this is more likely the result of ideologues in their websearch division rather than secret company policy, and from my experience the filters have varied over time (i.e., accusations of bias are directed at what amounts to a moving target).

    So I’m somewhat ticked off, and wary of Google when politics might influence a product of theirs that I use.

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