Information is now more accessible than ever, but not all of that information is true, or even useful. Search engines like Google provide an immense resource for this information, but the algorithms that this engine uses can be manipulated. In light of this, it is more important than ever that we sharpen our critical thinking and research skills.
The Internet is a vast depository of information, and most of us scour its depths with the help of search engines. Searching with Google algorithms puts vast amounts of data at our fingertips. Yet, a new problem arises as Internet users figure out how to manipulate these advanced formulas.
It may be necessary to add a new facet of education to mitigate the consequences of this phenomenon. Namely, discerning between biased and untruthful search results is paramount for our Internet future.
How Google Algorithms Have Been Manipulated
For any website or content producer, the Internet is a limitless source of traffic. Traffic is often a priority because it can mean sales, views, subscriptions, and any number of benefits or services. Naturally, businesses and individual Internet users alike want to find every advantage that they can to increase viewership.
To that end, users have figured out how to manipulate Google algorithms in order to draw more Internet users to their content. However, when people seek advantages, those advantages aren’t always acquired by ethical means.Users have figured out how to manipulate the algorithms that power search engines in order to draw more people to their content.Click To Tweet
When you use Google, you may notice that the search bar has an autofill function that attempts to guess what you are going to search for based on what you have already typed.
Recently it was found that searching ‘did the holocaust really happen?’ via Google produced holocaust denial articles by white supremacist site Stormfront as the number one result.
Stormfront is a site that refers to itself as “the voice of the new, embattled white minority . . . a community of racial realists and idealists.” The website is known to be a hub for people widely considered to be white supremacists, and its prominence in the Google search bar has led people like Danny Sullivan, the editor of SearchEngineLand to admit that “something has gone terribly wrong with Google’s algorithm.”
Amidst an emotionally charged political atmosphere and the recent ‘fake news’ phenomenon, sites such as Stormfront are a concern for many, but the very nature of the Internet as a neutral ground for information means that these places will likely always exist.
What we can do to Adapt
Research skills and critical thinking are now more important than ever. While algorithms can be changed as desired, it is not Google’s responsibility to censor the Internet. That means that it is up to us to ask the right questions and understand where results come from.
Google algorithms unlock an immense resource that can help you find almost any information you like. It is in Google’s best interest to retain the ability to connect people to as much of the Internet as is possible.
“it is not Google’s responsibility to censor the Internet.”
Oversaturation of information increases the likelihood of misinformation. Yet, it can also provide us with multitudes of quality sources to weigh against others.
Many people may be disgusted with sites like Stormfront, but they cannot change the fact that information can be related, especially when it is shared by radically opposed positions. Not all sites should be advocated for, but understanding the nature of those sources is half the battle.
The other half is what you do when you learn about them. Will you click on the link and expose yourself to what it contains, and if you do will you believe what you see? The only control that people have over those questions lies in their ability to use discretion and critical thinking.