Google search, Google web search or just ‘Google’ is the flagship product of Alphabet Inc. the umbrella company which houses all Google companies and products.
Google search is the world’s most used search engine and handles 3.5 billion search queries every day and 92.46% of global web searches.
So ingrained in our society is Google Search that verb ‘to Google’ is in the Oxford English dictionary.
“Google has become the main interface for our whole reality. To be precise: with the Google interface the user gets the impression that the search results imply a kind of totality. In fact, one only sees a small part of what one could see if one also integrates other research tools”Report on dangers and opportunities posed by large search engines, particularly Google with T. Balke, F. Kappe, N. Kulathuramaiyer, S. Weber, B. Zaka
The problems with Google Search
Controversial search results
Google search has been dogged by several scandals around its results including but not limited to:
- Holocaust denial sites appeared top of the listing when you search for “Jews”
- Numerous examples of sexist results (this is just one)
- A history of racial bias against people of colour including black girls
- Far right groups have used data voids in search to create disinformation narratives
- Google has also been accused as artificially manipulating search results and censoring content on one side of an argument
- Google never forgets which can be a problem – the EU brought in the right to be forgotten so that people could request old information be removed from Google Search
Monopoly creation and anti-competition
- Google search is a massive part of its advertising infrastructure and not neutral or apolitical. Motivations behind Google search are primarily around the Google advertising business.
- Due to the market dominance of search, Google is cast in the role of the gatekeeper of the world’s information despite being a for-profit company – this gives Google an enormous amount of power around how and what information we can access and when.
- Google has used its financial power to ensure Google search is the default search engine in Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers reinforcing its market dominance.
- Google has been accused of manipulating the search algorithm to promote listings for its own products or products of its biggest advertising customers
Your data extracted at any cost
- Google has been criticised for placing long-lasting cookies on people’s machines to allow them to track web usage and other data from users of Google search
- Google made changes to search in 2011 under the banner of greater ‘personalisation’ – this has meant what we now know as ‘filter bubbles’ have been created where Google serves you the results it thinks you want to make it easier to show you advertising – you might miss vital information because of this
What can you do?
- Stop using Google Search and set an alternative search engine as your default on your computer and devices
- If you do have to use it consider trying other search engines or other sources as well to try a more diverse set of sources
- Read Algorithms of Oppression – How search engines reinforce racism by Safiya Umoja Noble