When Brin and Page wrote The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine they noted that advertising biases search engines toward the needs and wants of advertisers, and against the best interest of consumers.
Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention", a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.
Not surprising then, when Google becomes a leading advertising engine, they go so far to cater to advertisers that Google's blog bashes documentaries while using that opportunity and platform to remind advertisers they can manipulate public perception by buying Google AdWords ads and Google delivered AdSense ads on content websites.
We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message.
Cory Doctorow offers an alternative solution
Another approach would be to reform the practices that Moore criticises in the film -- for example, refusing to pay for an insured individual's surgery because she didn't mention a 15-year-old yeast infection on her application; denying MRIs to patients with brain tumors; and paying medical directors bonuses for denying claims.
Google also has a health advertising page, which goes so far as to say
Yes, healthcare consumers are moving online. But there's more to the story than that. For instance, the Internet is the leading media source of health, medical, and prescription-drug information. In addition, the majority of consumers use a search engine prior to requesting a prescription drug from a doctor. The bottom line: The Internet plays a central role in the way consumers' access healthcare information.
This is the sort of stuff I was fearing when I wrote about Google's shift from direct marketing to selling brand ads. There is no care for relevancy if spreading misinformation pays more:
I can see how one might want to play up the fact that Google is admitting it can â€œuseâ€ the web sites in its content network to sway the public perceptionâ€¦which is really telling all those web masters running Google ads that they are Google pawns, that Google is not neutral morally or politically, and that Google seeks out opportunities to exploit that (for profit).
SEOs get a black eye for market manipulation, but is what Google suggests any better? Nope. It is only wrong to manipulate public perception or relevancy if you don't have enough money to pay Google directly. If you have a wallet open it up and let Google syndicate your spin.
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