Abstract - The Information Society 16(3)

Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters

Lucas D. Introna and Helen Nissenbaum

This paper argues that search engines raise not merely technical issues but also political ones. Our study of search engines suggest that they systematically exclude (in some cases by design and in some accidentally) certain sites, and certain types of sites, in favor of others, systematically give prominence to some at the expense of others. We argue that such biases, which would lead to a narrowing of the Web’s functioning in society, run counter to the basic architecture of the Web as well as the values and ideals that have fuelled widespread support for its growth and development. We consider ways of addressing the politics of search engines, raising doubts whether, in particular, the market mechanism could serve as an acceptable corrective.

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