May 31, 2002
The Politics of Search Engines

Shaping the Web: Why the politics of search engines matters

ABSTRACT This article argues that search engines raise not merely technical issues but also political ones. Our study of search engines suggests that they systematically exclude (in some cases by design and in some accidentally) certain sites, and certain types of sites, in favor of others, systematically give prominence to some at the expense of others.%uFFCA We argue that such biases, which would lead to a narrowing of the Web%uFFD5s functioning in society, run counter to the basic architecture of the Web as well as the values and ideals that have fueled widespread support for its growth and development. We consider ways of addressing the politics of search engines, raising doubts whether, in particular, the market mechanism could serve as an acceptable corrective.

What happens when the Web (in the form of the major entrypoints into the web, ie, search engines) is "owned" by private companies? Will it follow the same trajectory as radio (anarchic, independent, controlled by a few major networks, then the fragmented but still influential existence it enjoys today)?

Posted by tmonkey at May 31, 2002 11:18 AM
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