The Quantum Pontiff

Google Polarizes America?

The techno wonder pundits say that the internet revolutionizes democracy by leveling the playing field (everyone can be an ass online, oh yeah!) But what I find more fascinating about the internet and politics is the role that search plays in polarizing politics. I mean, sure there are dissenting voices all over the internet, but google “John McCain” or “Obama” or “Sarah Palin” or “Joe Biden” and you won’t discover a single dissenting opinion about any of these candidates on the front page of the search results (the exceptions to this rule are probably the small news items that Google includes: but these tend to be main stream media fluff pieces.) If the world is full of dissent but the main lens by which people view the world never reveals this, does this really make a positive impact on democracy? Indeed if I were totally crazy, I might even argue that Google was aiding tyranny when it decided to combat google bombing.

In other words what I’m saying is that I’m tired of blaming the white male voter for going against my political leanings and today I’ve decided it would be fun to pick on Google instead :) (And yes I picked Google arbitrarily. If by “picked arbitrarily” you mean decided because it was most dominate search webite.)

Update: In a related note, has anyone tried Spinoculers?

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    September 11, 2008

    What you have demonstrated is that Google has limitations when you are searching on people’s names. When they are very famous, as prominent politicians always are, there will be many pages devoted to discussing them, especially during a campaign. I strongly suspect (though I haven’t done the research and don’t know of anybody who has) that sites favoring a candidate are much more likely to mention the name than those favoring a different candidate.

    It’s hardly the only problem with using Google to find out information about people. Have you ever tried to Google somebody who happens to have the same name as a famous person? Sites referring to the latter will crowd out the references to the person you are looking for.

    For example, I have occasionally looked myself up on Google Scholar. Yes, it finds my papers, but it also finds papers by somebody who was active in the 1920s in a completely different field. I may not be a young scientist anymore, but I’m not that old.

  2. #2 Dave X
    September 11, 2008

    Did you try adding “sucks” to your queries?

    I don’t think this feature is specific to Google, but it is one of those famous internet traditions and works for all non-prudish search engines.

    I think it works because sites favoring the target term are unlikely to have “sucks” in the text.

  3. #3 arby
    September 11, 2008

    Re: spinoculars. Language Log had a good post on it. The gist seemed to be craptacular, phony. No link, but I guess you could use some search engine or other. “Spinspotter unspun” from Sept 10. The NTY fell for it, that should be a clue. rb

  4. #4 arby
    September 11, 2008

    That would be NYT. rb

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