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Sunday, May 18, 2003

Do Google Results Give Crackpots Too Much Power?

Finally -- original, insightful and balanced coverage of Google by a major media property! Geoffrey Nunberg of the New York Times writes that, because Google is so widely used and the top results returned by a search can often be seen as the most authoritative on a topic due to the effectiveness of its heralded PageRank algorithm, there arises an interesting dilemma.

Sometimes, crackpots can taint search results by "googlewashing" an expression -- "in effect, hijacking the the expression and giving it a new meaning," according to Nunberg. This is an astute observation that represents a potential pitfall to our reliance on Google. But, as Nunberg also observes,

On topics of general interest, the rankings tend to favor the major sites and marginalize the smaller or newer ones; here, as elsewhere, money and power talk.... And when it comes to more specialized topics, the rankings give disproportionate weight to opinions of the activists and enthusiasts that may be at odds with the views of the larger public.

Nunberg makes several other interesting observations and clarifications that give Google credit for creating a beautiful, elegant system, and his piece is well worth a read.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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