The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its examination of political bias on the internet.
The political bias of the Google search engine, as well as social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, is clearly established. Is there a solution?
Some have suggested that government intervene to establish some standards of fairness. That is a cure worse than the disease. One of the prime goals of an independent media is to act as a check on government. It would not take long for the temptation to warp reporting in favor of incumbents to set in. Indeed, during the eight years of the Obama Administration, there were numerous attempts to limit the ability of government critics, especially conservatives, to operate independent of federal interference.
The only safe and viable solution is to insure that competing search engines and social media sites, which should be developed by both responsible journalists as well as those who have been discriminated against by Google, Facebook, or Twitter, have a level playing field in which to operate. Cathy Young, writing for The Hill, notes that “If established social networks are increasingly perceived as inhospitable to conservatives or libertarians, there will inevitably be stepped-up initiatives to create alternative platforms—which would have no shortage of potential Silicon Valley backers…”
The Fee.org website suggests that “If Google is underserving its users, then that underservice is a golden opportunity. Google’s hold on its current users is weak: Entrepreneurs can capitalize on Google’s weakness, creating new search engines that steal away those dissatisfied customers with the promise of better service…”
Despite Google’s current dominance, this is not impossible. As Fee notes, “In the 1990s, Yahoo! dominated the search engine market. In the early 2000s, MySpace dominated social media. Both benefitted from network effects. Both were taken down, not by rival giants with networks of their own, but by a few college kids creating something more effective and desirable.”
Alternatives also exist to currently dominant social media sites. Natural News lists several existing alternatives, and reveals that others are currently being planned for those who “are sick and tired of the…censorship of either your posts or those of real news organizations that Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo and others have arbitrarily deemed ‘fake’…these current and forthcoming sites are true free speech zones where you can say and post what you want, without the fear that it will be censored.”
Among the sites listed: GoodGopher.com, which specializes in science topics; GAB.ai
“Developed by free-speech advocate Andrew Torba, GAB.ai is a Twitter-style network that combats censorship by allowing users to post whatever they want, saying what they want and expressing themselves as they want” and Seen.life, a social media site also dedicated free speech and the promise of enhanced privacy.
There are alternatives to Google, such as Bing. However, they have not attained the general acceptance or widespread contacts that have made Google the powerhouse in its fields.
Until a viable alternative is developed, there are ways to get around Google’s search engine bias while doing research. Education Week found that students were not proficient in discriminating between biased reporting and actual news. They suggested the following strategy, which astute fact-checkers employ:
“Fact-checkers use the vast resources of the Internet to determine where information is coming from before they read it… They don’t evaluate a site based solely on the description it provides about itself… fact-checkers look past the order of search results. Instead of trusting Google to sort pages by reliability (which reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how Google works), the checkers mined URLs and abstracts for clues. They regularly scrolled down to the bottom of the search results page in their quest to make an informed decision about where to click first.”