Google is the leading search engine in the world with over 3.5 billion searches per day. The amount of influence this gives the company is unimaginable. Every single person who is able to work a computer or phone either uses Google or knows of Google and its capabilities. This puts the company in a powerful position to show the world anything they want, whether it’s through prioritizing search results, posting ads, or adding their own spin of design. I believe that Google also accidentally shows people biased information based on their location services. Take the 2020 election for example — Trump may spend more money advertising to swing states such as North Carolina than states he most likely would win like Alabama or Texas. I personally remember receiving more advertisements on Youtube (owned by Google) from Trump than Biden over the month of October. This may not be a direct problem created by Google, but it is a problem because of the effects of Google. To begin the efforts of solving this problem, I created a Google Bias Tracker that highlights different states based on its most current political affiliation and how these states Google search results vary.
An immediate takeaway from dipping my toes into this project was how geographically and socially separated our country is. There are so many different biases based on location, impacting people’s view on the country and life overall. It especially concerns me for children who have early access to the internet who are swayed so easily. In a piece of literature from Texas Tech University, founded by Sabrina Chi, “the impact of distance on internet search, and the effect of ‘local bias’” was found to play a heavy role in search behavior of the stock market (Chi). It was research from this study that gave me the inspiration to create my own version of a tool that allows people to submit their own experiences with Google bias for people to see. I created a document that has every U.S. state and five general questions that are controversial in the political world. I sent the document to a few friends that I know around the country and asked them to type each question into the Google search box and record the top result.
I am still waiting for results to come back and hope to grow this document through the next semester, even after this class ends. My goal is for other activists to begin sending this document to their friends, and then their friends as well. This is a conversation that needs to happen and be actively talked about. If you know of anyone who is willing to help in this project, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ChiI, S. Local Bias in Google Search and the Market Response around Earnings Announcements. Accounting Review, [s. l.], v. 92, n. 4, p. 115–143, 2017. DOI 10.2308/accr-51632. https://search-ebscohost-com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=124101569&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Acesso em: 25 nov. 2020.