Searching for an Appropriate Political Bias

Dec 29th

Mark Cuban recently posted about how evangelical political nutters try to force their views onto others, and through various spamming and guerrilla marketing activities try to silence out other opinions.

Not only crazy, it will be impossible to eradicate the influence of these maraunders.

So rather than fighting them, search sites will join them.

I have zero doubt that in the future there will be sliders or some equivalent that represent "the flavor" of search that users will look for. Looking for information about the war in Iraq; push the slide rule to the right till you reach Bill O'Reilly flavored search, or slide it to the left for the Al Franken flavor. The results are then influenced by the brand you prefer to associate with.

The news is no longer just the news. A holiday is no longer just a holiday. A song is no longer just a song. A search result will no longer just be a search result. We will blow it up into a symbol of something must larger. It wont be of course, but it will happen anyway.

I don't think the sliders will be there. I think engines will just automatically learn to adjust the results to fit your worldview.

Greg Linden followed up stating about how he got a bunch of hate mail for Findory offering too broad of a spectrum of news.

The idea is to avoid pigeonholing, to show people views from across the spectrum, to give people the information they need to make an informed judgment.

For some, that is exactly the problem. They don't want to see both sides. They want a filter, a political lens. As they see it, reading an opinion article on the left should only give them other opinion articles on the left (or visa-versa), reinforcing the opinion they already have.

They don't want discovery. They don't want new information. They don't want to learn. They want to be pigeonholed.

I have always stated that I thought there was a lot more really polarized biased media out there than unbiased media, but Mitch Ratcliffe said that he thought my opinion was likely due to a sampling error. He also said the mainstream media was far more likely to point toward or deliver the biased stuff.

From top to bottom I think that most content producers are more parrots than original thinkers though. When I make many posts I create content that sells ad space, even if I write nothing but me too posts. Original thought is so much more effort. Most people usually prefer to let others do a certain amount of their thinking for them.

Also consider that those who are the most evangelical about something also have the following going for them:

  • a possible detachment with reality that allows them to over invest into an idea compared to what a normal person would pour into doing the same thing
  • it is easier to cite really biased information because it either fits a bit of our worldview or is so far off that it is easy to debunk
  • it is far easier to identify with a known bias.

A friend of mine that goes by the name of Ian said that he thought much of the overt bias and polarization of information online will be settled as more people adopt the web (becoming content producers instead of just consumers) but I am not so sure I agree with him.

Beyond domain age what can a search engine use as a sign of quality that would not potentially also heavily overlap as a sign of strong political bias?

Is there any research on how being able to quickly select unknowingly or unthinkingly biased information from an alleged oracle will effect who we trust or how we create ideas?

Published: December 29, 2005

Comments

December 30, 2005 - 4:13am

If television has to provide equal air time for politicians, its not unthinkable that governments could begin regulating search engine results.

Out of curiosity I searched "tiananmen square massacre" on Baidu. I got results, but perhaps thats because I'm not coming from a Chinese IP address.

Google certainly has taken a "hands off" approach to this, at least in the US. JewWatch.com showing up #1 for "jew" is the first example that comes to my mind (with Google's official explination here: http://www.google.com/explanation.html )

If I owned Google, I'd probably be bumping results like that off the first page myself.

December 30, 2005 - 11:45pm

As you might know we are running a Google test for for Sandbox using a Media Bias site. From looking at each of these stories (one after another after another) ... Bias exists in the mainstream media.... and to a much bigger extent in the general Internet population.

The problem is that you have a site that is SEO'ed correctly... and any political view could hit the #1 result.

I don't know if I disagree with it though, anything short of that would be bias on part of the search engines...

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