Magazine article Online

Is Google Hiding My News?

Magazine article Online

Is Google Hiding My News?

Article excerpt

I have read a lot recently about how search engines--and by "search engines," of course, I mean Google--are filtering our search results. This is true. Even if you are not logged into a Google account, your search results will be affected by dozens of factors. These "signals" are based on information you would have a hard time suppressing, such as your browser version, your geographic location, your prior searches during that session, and so on. Google's don't-be-evil intent is to determine your purpose in order to give you results that are more relevant. Are you buying something, looking for a local business, or researching an investment?

However, Eli Pariser, in his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), raised the stakes by claiming that Google was also filtering search results in Google News, an area of the Googlesphere generally assumed to be unpersonalized. Curious, I decided to test this by asking a group of fellow info pros to conduct a search for the word Israel in Google News and send me a screen shot of the search results page. I received 37 responses.

Since I was asking for a quick response from many busy people and only asked for a screen shot, what I saw were usually the first three stories of the search results. However, given that many people do not scroll down past the first few stories, I think this is a good first test to see if this question merits further study. For the sake of clarity, I considered as one "story" the collection of articles on a single topic. The headline may vary from one location to another, but I consider it the same in this context. (More details are available at googlereally-filtering-my-news.html.)

What I found surprised me: There was more variation among search results than I had expected. Here are the highlights of my discoveries:

* While 90% of the respondents saw one story in common and 70% saw two stories in common, the bottom drops out alter that. Most of the remaining stories were seen by fewer people. Thus, you should assume that you are not seeing all the relevant stories on the first screen of the search results. I am also reminded that OR'ing related words or phrases is essential; I increase the odds of seeing all angles of the topic by increasing the total number of stories being crunched by Google's relevance algorithm

* When I further distilled the results, I saw that only 12% of the searchers had the same three stories in the same order. …

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