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Googling 9/11: The Perspectives of a Search Engine on a Global Event

Presentation by Erik Borra & René König for Society of the Query #2, 7.-8. Nov. 2013, Amsterdam

René König

on 11 March 2014

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Transcript of Googling 9/11: The Perspectives of a Search Engine on a Global Event

Googling 9/11
The Perspectives of a Search Engine on a Global Event
Erik Borra
René König

Society of the Query #2
November 7-8, 2013
Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)
University of Amsterdam
E-mail: borra@uva.nl
Web: erikborra.net
Twitter: @ekborra
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
E-mail: kontakt@renekoenig.eu
Web: renekoenig.eu
Twitter: @r_koenig
But why?
Source: arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=5997364
Source: Michael Irving; http://bit.ly/1b919tb
Global event with diverse perspectives
How do Google´s algorithms decide what is relevant for this rather generic query?
"9/11 Truth Movement"
Alternative accounts/conspiracy theories by the
CON 86 34.4
MST 38 15.2
POP 37 14.8
MEM 33 13.2
AFT 24 9.6
HIS1 9 7.6
MET 9 3.6
OTH 4 1.6
General observations: Overall quantity of categories
34.4% CON
15.2% MST
14.8% POP
13.2% MEM
9.6% AFT
7.6% HIS
Majority of websites
contain alternative accounts ("conspiracy theories") on 9/11

Google´s algorithmic relevance indicators differ significantly from those of traditional gatekeepers
Categories over time:
Towards more "conservative" results?

Mainstream "takes over"
Conspiracy sites almost disappear
Sites dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 become less significant
Offline knowledge hierarchies are not necessarily re-enacted in search engines and can differ significantly
Popular perspectives that are neglected by traditional knowledge authorities may benefit from the algorithmic determination of relevance (links matter!)
One mouse click can roll out algorithm changes thereby drastically altering established hierarchies
More Googling 9/11!
Next step: Consulting SEO experts to get a deeper understanding of the impact of algorithm changes
Check out René´s study on Google´s Autocomplete suggestions on 9/11 in an international comparison
Follow us on Twitter for future updates: @ekborra, @r_koenig
Thank you.
The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI)
Karlsruhe House of Young Scientists (KHYS)
Antoine Brunel, Camila G. Dantas, Esther Weltevrede
1st Panda update is rolled out
"Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?”
"Would you trust the information presented in this article?”
"Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?”
"Does the article describe both sides of a story?”

"Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?“
"The 'Panda' algorithm change has improved rankings for a large number of high-quality websites"
What did we do and how?
What constitutes "high quality" according to Google?
5/23 guiding questions:
Full transcript