Is Google responsible for providing fair and unbiased results?

Lewandowski, D.: Is Google responsible for providing fair and unbiased results? In: Floridi, L.; Taddeo, M. (eds.): The Responsibilities of Online Service Providers. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 2017. S. 61-77. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-47852-4_4

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Abstract

This chapter discusses the responsibilities of Google as the leading search engine provider to provide fair and unbiased results. In its role, Google has a large influence on what is actually searchable on the Web as well as what results users get to see when they search for information. Google serves billions of queries per month, and users only seldom consider alternatives to this search engine. This market dominance further exacerbates the situation. This leads to questions regarding the responsibility of search engines in general, and Google in particular, for providing fair and balanced results. Areas to consider here are (1) the inclusion of documents in the search engine’s databases and (2) results ranking and presentation. I find that, while search engines should at least be held responsible for their practices regarding indexing, results ranking, delivering results from collections built by the search engine provider itself and the presentation of search engine results pages; today’s dominant player, Google, argues that there actually is no problem with these issues. Its basic argument here is that “competition is one click away”, and, therefore, it should be treated like any other smaller search engine company. I approach the topic from two standpoints: from a technical standpoint, I will discuss techniques and algorithms from information retrieval and how decisions made in the design of the algorithms influence what we as users get to see in search engines. From a societal standpoint, I will discuss what biased search engines mean for knowledge acquisition in society and how we can overcome today’s unwanted search monopoly.

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