Defeating search engine bias: it’s time to treat the new media like the old media

If you are old enough to remember the days of print media, newspapers had the reputation of leaning politically in one direction and it was considered unwise to isolate yourself to a single paper and one point of view. You were encouraged to read several papers to get a well-rounded picture of current events.

In the Toronto region, that would mean reading the Star alongside the Globe, the Sun and the Post: four versions of one story.  Albeit, nowadays journalism has gotten so lazy that all papers virtually lean on the same side, copying articles verbatim released by globalized news agencies such as AP, Reuters and the Canadian Press. I digress.

While the Internet offered relief by putting many more perspectives at the users’ fingertips, I feel we’ve stumbled on to the same problem we had with newspapers. The new culprits here are search engines. Our once trustworthy gateways to these different perspectives have succumbed to bias.

Lately my site stats referred by search engines have been trending downward. The lazy man’s primary search engine, Google, was responsible for the largest proportion of hits in months prior to the push by new media to censor, shadow ban, and down rank articles that go against Silicon Valley’s political leanings. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my articles that criticize the lack of neutrality from big tech firms have substantially reduced traffic from the search engines controlled by those same big tech firms.

Twitter, Facebook, Google and much of big tech generally adopt the same, censorious stance, and given our fortune that James Damore has come out and exposed a lot of their biases, I’m afraid we have to conclude that we’ve simply moved the problems of print media to new media.

Just mentioning James Damore, or anything that exposes the logical flaws in today’s expedited narratives pushed by mainstream media and Silicon Valley, results in my search rankings suffering a massive hit. Content is being controlled very stealthily online. While newspapers had public reputations of being biased, search engines have a mistaken reputation of being unbiased (it’s directly controlled by machines and algorithms after all, not humans). However, most people don’t recognize that algorithms can be exploited and programmed with bias.

Internet users will need to stop being lazy and do what we did with newspapers in the past: start using several different search engines to get a well-rounded picture of current events. Sadly, this is even more difficult today than in the past. Most search engines rank their results based on Google, either because of the same algorithmic bias, or the fear of returning irrelevant results relative to Google. In other words, while there may be many more alternative viewpoints out there on the Internet, using a solitary search engine or several similar search engines to find them results in you still getting the same viewpoint. The middlemen may be letting you see only one viewpoint — the viewpoint Silicon Valley approves of.

How to go about solving this? Perhaps it’s time to add a few more search engines to your arsenal. DuckDuckGo, for example, allegedly doesn’t track your searches and your browsing history to give you tailored results.

You’ll notice that if you wanted to make DuckDuckGo your default search engine in Chrome, you can’t. But you could still add a one-letter shortcut on your address bar by adding it to “other search engines” in your Chrome settings:

In this case, to use DuckDuckGo to search for “foobar”, you would simply type in the address bar “d foobar”.

You could also just use a different browser like Brave or FireFox that will give you more leeway using alternative search engines (and minimize your personal data to be mined by Google). When Chrome is intentionally leaving off a certain search engine off the list, I think it’s a good sign that it’s a search engine you should add to your arsenal.

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Sadly this article will anger the search engine powers that be some more, so it’s more important than ever to share this article organically and by word of mouth. Leave a comment, subscribe to the RSS feed, consider a donation or support my other work.

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