Search Engine Ethics: Should Google Be the Arbiter of Truth?

business_ethics_highlights_2Would Google searches arranged by truthfulness be a helpful service or an attempt to impose an orthodoxy? Is there something fundamentally illiberal about arranging search results by truth value? >>>

There will be adjustments living in Google’s brave new world

You probably use it a dozen times a day yourself, even if you accept it as the gateway to a world often ruled by half-truths and witless lies, because the results they spit back at you are based more on popularity than veracity.

Now imagine the same portal, only with Mr. Spock as its gatekeeper.

Google is pondering something like that. And if workable, it is likely to change much of what we read online.

Consider: Scientists from the internet colossus believe they can someday base these searches not by how popular the Web pages are, but by their factual content. It’s merely a theory until an algorithm can be developed to evaluate web page accuracy, but its ramifications could be as unlimited as the Internet itself.

Some may lament the loss of witticisms from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, but is that a good or bad thing? Does this mean we’ll have to switch over to Yahoo in order to hear from any living politician? Do we want to live in a world governed by Factcheck.org? Or are no longer satisfied with whatever pops up when we type in the terms “Barack Obama” and “birthplace”?

Should we fear that our egalitarian stripes will wash off, even with Facebook and Twitter still summoning its two-billion-strong cacophony?

But here’s the bigger question, to paraphrase Col. Jessep: Can we handle the truth?

The interweb’s raison d’être is the crazy and uncensored interaction of plain folks, while the “reliable” media portrays itself as the reasoned counterweight, even though their own corporate sponsors often peddle a specific viewpoint.


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