You are here
Google's Search Rankings Exposed as Subjective
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Sat, 2011-02-26 18:55
Media and antitrust scrutiny of Google's public representations -- that its search rankings are unbiased and objective -- will increase greatly for two reasons:
As the glare of public and investigative scrutiny focuses on Google's "black box" search ranking algorithm, its mystery and mystique fade away, because people come to understand that a search algorithm is just mass automation of the application of subjective variables/biases, subjective judgements of "quality" content and "quality links," subjective judgements of intent, and subjective human ratings of websites and content.
Google is unabashed that it was subjectively demoting "low quality" content in its latest changes to its search algorithm that affected 12% of all searches.
Pejorative Subjectivity: Google pejoratively characterizes content it wants to demote in rankings as "spam," "low quality," or "cheaters," and that assessment depends largely on Google's subjective judgement. It also has the the effect of discouraging an objective assessment of the content in question.
Why questions of Google's objectivity will continue is because Google as so much motive and opportunity to subjectively rank information to benefit Google or Google's world view.
We've learned from the Google-Overstock episode that .edu links are given super rank status over commercial links. Agree with it or not, Google has subjectively decided that not-for-profit links to information should always have more "authority" and weight than for-profit brand links. (This bias for free content over paid content also massively favors Google's free content advertising model and disfavors Google competitors' paid subscription business models.)
Subjective Self-Dealing: We've learned from the various antitrust suits and outstanding detailed quantitative research bythat Google:
Subjectivity of Human Raters: What we don't know is what the subjective rating guidance is that Google's army of "human raters are given by Google's leadership to subjectively determine what "quality" is.
Adding to Google's problem of impairing or degrading certain content's access to Google's monopoly world-wide Internet audience is that Google is well-known as the corporate champion of net neutrality -- i.e. that broadband providers would economically-discriminate against particular content unless preemptively regulated by the FCC to prevent it.
The Googleopoly itself argued that competitive broadband providers should not be able to discriminate against content, or prioritize content based on their own ownership or financial interest in the content. Google argued that only users should be able to prioritize content.
Let me be clear, as I have long said, my problem with Google is not that in discriminates against content in its ranking process, my problem is that it has consistently and blatantly misrepresented to the public that their search results were objective and unbiased when they knew they were not objective or unbiased -- all to build up trust of an unsuspecting public.
In sum, we are witnessing the Google analog of the famous scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy pulled back the big green curtain and exposed that the all-powerful Wizard of Oz was just using sound and visual PR effects to appear to be an all-powerful wizard -- when he really was just like everyone else.
Once again, Google's real serious problem is that they have publicly represented themselves for years as completely free of bias or self interest in order to get everyone to trust them, when the overwhelming evidence is piling up that Google indeed has powerful biases and self-interest to favor Google-owned/favored content, and to disfavor competitive content or content Google does not agree with.