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A Step Back for Hopefully a Step Forward

Article: https://theintercept.com/2017/10/17/google-search-drug-use-opioid-epidemic/

While Google may have good intentions, it appears that they made steps in the wrong direction in their attempt help shape the drug treatment industry. The Intercept published this article explaining how, at first, people were being pushed into the treatment facilities that earned reps the most money because of the Ad-Words system that Google employs. These treatment facilities typically looked like independent information services, but really were groups of facilities owned by treatment center conglomerates, made to make money. An eposé was written, Google felt the heat, a decision was made: ads for treatment centers would no longer be displayed and Google’s PageRank algorithm would determine the search results.

But now another problem arises — I imagine Google’s PageRank is loosely based on the algorithm discussed in this course. However, this means that, since these conglomerates own many facilities and typically have more resources, their facilities and sites are mentioned more on various pages on the web, driving up their page rank. Relatively unknown facilities will have trouble driving their own up. The article mentions that previously, even more unknown facilities could at least buy ads and occasionally be featured at the top of a search result. With only organic search results, they fall further and further down the list. While I’m sure Google’s PageRank algorithm is smarter and more sophisticated than using the authority and hub ranks we used in class, the basis is likely similar. Smaller, lesser known facilities with better standard of care and treatment will likely never win based on Google’s decision to remove ads from treatment facility searches.

So while Google tried very much to help, it seems they may have taken a step in the wrong direction. The article said that “peeling back one layer merely reveals another.” Hopefully Google can help find a way to keep peeling until the problem disappears.

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