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Alt-right News Sources Manipulating Search Engine Ranking in Order to Promote viewpoint

Recently, Alt-right supporters and reporters have been attempting to ‘game’ google’s search engine rankings and autocomplete forms through manipulating the list finding algorithms by vastly inflating the amount of in-links to reputable sources. Essentially, what is occurring is that certain individuals and organisations have been proliferating hate speech on certain websites, hate speech that specifically pertains to minorities- for example search terms such as “are Jews evil”, or “are Muslims bad” are appearing as the first or second search terms on autocomplete when typing “are jews”, etc. What is more appalling, however, is that the majority of the primary search results when eventually searching for these terms are corroborating the search term instead of refuting it. “9 out of the first 10” results were actually in support of the fact that Jews were evil. How, when the majority of the populace doesn’t feel this way, does this viewpoint get pushed to the front of the search engines in such a way that it appears like it’s representing a far larger percentage of the populace than it is?

The reality of the situation is that it doesn’t seem to be a new trend. This type of skewed view of searches has been occurring since 2006, according to a professor at Law at the University of Maryland. The article speculates why this has occurred, and it directly references some of the material we have been discussing in class- namely ranking algorithms like PageRank.

What has been happening is that over time, a vast network of right wing news articles, sources, and websites have been developing on the side, and creating a “web that is bleeding onto our web”. All of these websites are slowly linking to and being linked to by each other, further deepening the network. Of course, on it’s own, we know from class that this wouldn’t have a great deal of importance in the page ranking algorithm because, even though there are many pages linking to each other, few if any are reputably large websites. However, the trouble has occurred due to the mass sharing of these links on large, well-known and respected websites such as Facebook and Youtube, which legitimises these sources (to the search engine algorithm, at least). 23,000 articles and 1.3 Million hyperlinks were found as of last year, and growing rapidly. At this point, however, it appears that the large nature of the network has led it to grow even faster and almost autonomously, according to the article. This is because there are a great many pages which link to these articles, and people when searching for these usually click on the first links that appear. Some then copy the links to their own blogs and social network pages, which, as we know from the PageRank and “Authorities and Hubs” portions of the book, will increase these pages’ authority and thus rank, therefore becoming a vicious cycle which allows them to be consistently at the front-end of many google searches about these topics.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook

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