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Las Vegas Shooting: The failure of the Search Engines

On the night of the Las Vegas shooting, millions transcended onto the internet to find any source of information that they can regarding the unfortunate event. Millions of people across the world searched up what had transpired, searching for information and updates on the injury/death count, the investigation, the gunman, the weapons used etc. but to no avail. Immediately following the aftermath, an article misidentifying the gunman surfaced on Google and rose to become on the “Top Stories” featured on Google’s search pages. The article was posted by 4Chan, a site that is notorious for it’s “troll” behavior. But the fact remains…. How did Google’s servers fail to pick up on non-relevant news articles surrounding national news?

This relies on the concept of page rank which we learned in class, as well as the fundamental problems with searching: scarcity vs. abundance. These ideas may have led to this janky source to slipping past Google’s well planned algorithm. The problem lies in the issue of scarcity, which is the concern that any search may not yield enough documents or sources to result for one’s search needs. The problem of abundance, however, is the concern that any search may yield too many documents so that the search doesn’t result in the highest quality search results. In the case of the Las Vegas shooter article, it would be have been a mix of both of the issues, with scarcity strating the initial issue while abundance would come into play as time (and more data) continues on. That is why the 4chan (scarcity) was one of the initial hits to appear.

This is not the only incident where Google, as well as many other major media platforms, have resulted in the tops hits with wrong types of information for the searchers. Facebook has continually promoted extreme far-right blogs and “several other websites of questionable credibility.” This demonstrates that search algorithms are not perfected yet and search-related ranking algorithms are important for an audience should receive, interpret, and analysis how credible the information is.


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October 2017