Blockbuster WSJ Investigation: How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The WSJ published a comprehensive investigation Friday, How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results, that provides fodder for ongoing or new antitrust investigations of the company,  both in the US, and worldwide:

THE JOURNAL’S FINDINGS undercut one of Google’s core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power—that the company doesn’t exert editorial control over what it shows users. Regulators’ areas of concern include anticompetitive practices, political bias and online misinformation.

Permit to me quote from the WSJ’s takedown at length – although I encourage readers, if possible, to read the entire (paywalled)  version, for it contains a wealth of information, as well as lots of cool graphics:

Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

• Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBayInc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Inc. and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

• Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.

• Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.

• In auto-complete, the feature that predicts search terms as the user types a query, Google’s engineers have created algorithms and blacklists to weed out more-incendiary suggestions for controversial subjects, such as abortion or immigration, in effect filtering out inflammatory results on high-profile topics.

• Google employees and executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have disagreed on how much to intervene on search results and to what extent. Employees can push for revisions in specific search results, including on topics such as vaccinations and autism.

• To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.


Big vs. Small. One major bias: a preference for big versus small. The WSJ notes that at least for shopping results, Google made the tweak as  it believed consumers are more likely to find what they want at larger vendors. But this bias looks to me like it stymies, rather than promotes competition.

The bias is not limited to shopping, as WSJ reader James West noted in comments (agreeing implicitly with my interpretation of the anti-competitive effect of the Google practice):

 James West

Our company, an independent publisher of financial coverage of small cap Canadian companies, has routinely been the target of what can only be explained as “manual downgrades” in Google search results. Our tests indicate a persistent pattern where Google is awarding search visibility increasingly to large US media enterprises, even where ours is local to the issue, and more detailed.

Google’s founders Page and Brin have built the company to thwart contact from its users, and now, as evidenced by WSJ’s coverage, there are widespread issues with Google’s monopoly on search. Thanks to WSJ’s coverage, we will commence a request process with Canada’s competition bureau to investigate Google for anti-competitive practices.

This company needs to be more closely regulated, as they are systematically eviscerating entire industries but reserving the bad behaviour it claims to police for its own financial gain.


Conservative sites often claim their sites are disadvantaged compared to “liberal” or “mainstream” sites.  This is not exactly news. Yet the bias extends beyond rightwing sites.

Yves has written about how changes to Googles’s search algorithm have whacked Naked Capitalism’s traffic (see Google Algorithm Change Whacks Naked Capitalism; Naked Capitalism is Back! Google Whackage Reversed (note the recovery in traffic was due to remedial measures Naked Capitalism undertook, rather than a Google reversal and upranking; and Google Further Crapifies Search, Exploiting Both Users and Advertisers).

As the World Socialist Web Site wrote in 2017 in Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites:

New data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts, proves that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45 percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.

The drop followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”

The World Socialist Web Site has obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results are as follows:

* fell by 67 percent
* fell by 63 percent
* fell by 62 percent
* fell by 47 percent
* fell by 47 percent
* fell by 42 percent
* fell by 37 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 30 percent
* fell by 25 percent
* fell by 21 percent
* fell by 19 percent

Also on point is a Naked Capitalism crosspost of this 2018 Paul Jay interview, Matt Taibbi on Facebook and Google Playing the Censor; From the intro by Yves:

I’m glad to see Taibbi speaking out in this Real News Network interview on this issue of growing censorship by Facebook and Google and hope that more journalists join him. With the help of so many of your readers sharing our post and encouraging your friends and family members to check us out, we’ve managed to stay on an even keel, while other “deemed to be leftie” sites have taken a traffic hit due to Google downgrading non-MSM sites greatly in their search rankings. Even the Intercept, hardly a blog-scale operation, got whacked.

The problem is only getting worse. The WSJ notes that Google is increasing the aggregate number of changes to its algorithms, to about 3,200 tweaks in 2018, up from more than 2,400 in 2017, and further from about 500 in 2010.

Influence of Advertisers: Blacklisting; Paywalled Sites

The WSJ investigation discusses how Google caters to the interests of big advertisers:

Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter.In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.

In another incident, the WSJ documents how Google reversed a decision that demoted the search results of certain e-Bay pages, in response to lobbying by the company, a significant advertiser.

Yves discussed the influence of advertisers blacklisting “controversial” content in this August post, Advertisers Blacklisting News, Other Stories with “Controversial” Words Like “Trump” (a piece that also keyed to a WSJ story):

It’s no longer paranoid to say that “they” are out to kill news. First it was the Internet almost entirely displacing classified ads, which had accounted for roughly half of newspaper industry revenues in the US. The Internet also turned most people save those who are now oldsters off print newspapers, even though nothing is so efficient to scan, taking with it higher subscription rates and display ads. Then Facebook and Google sucked most online advertiser revenues to themselves.

To add insult to injury, Google implemented algos hostile to smaller sites, first targeting those that did what Google deemed to be too much aggregation, like our daily Links feature. Google deemed those sites to be “low quality”. One wonders if the real issue was that they competed with Google News. Then Google downgraded sites it deemed not to be “authoritative,” whacking not only many left and right leaning sites but even The Intercept. Facebook’s parallel action was to change its search and newsfeed algos, supposedly to combat fake news, but also hurting left-leaning publishers.

Now, as the Wall Street Journal reports, many major advertisers have created blacklists, nixing ad placements that appear next to or in stories with headlines using naughty words like “bomb” that amount to a partial or total ban on news content. It isn’t isn’t just fluffy feel good brands that want to steer clear of controversy. Startlingly, even some financial services companies like Fidelity want to stay away from hot words like “Trump” even though “Trump” appears regularly in business news headlines, such as ones discussing his China trade spat, his tax cuts, his deregulatory efforts, and today, his interest in buying Greenland.

In the interests of keeping my post short, I’ve limited my quotation;  I encourage interested readers to read Yves in full.

Despite maintaining in Congressional testimony that it doesn’t use blacklists, the WSJ account found that Google does. Google tries to wiggle around this apparent contradiction by relying  on a narrow interpretation of what constitutes a “political” blacklist:

Google’s first blacklists date to the early 2000s, when the company made a list of spam sites that it removed from its index, one of those people said. This means the sites wouldn’t appear in search results.

Engineers known as “maintainers” are authorized to make and approve changes to blacklists. It takes at least two people to do this; one person makes the change, while a second approves it, according to the person familiar with the matter.

The Journal reviewed a draft policy document from August 2018 that outlines how Google employees should implement an anti-misinformation blacklist aimed at blocking certain publishers from appearing in Google News and other search products. The document says engineers should focus on “a publisher misrepresenting their ownership or web properties” and having “deceptive content”—that is, sites that actively aim to mislead—as opposed to those that have inaccurate content.

“The purpose of the blacklist will be to bar the sites from surfacing in any Search feature or news product sites,” the document states.

The process for creating such blacklists is opaque, so it’s difficult to determine whether there is indeed a political motivation for so doing.

And finally, the Journal discussed its own efforts to change a Google policy to disfavor outlets, such as itself, that charge for subscriptions:

(The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp, which has complained publicly about Google’s moves to play down news sites that charge for subscriptions. Google ended the policy after intensive lobbying by News Corp and other paywalled publishers. More recently, News Corp has called for an “algorithm review board” to oversee Google, Facebook and other tech giants. News Corp has a commercial agreement to supply news through Facebook, and Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, has a commercial agreement to supply news through Apple services. Google’s Ms. Levin and News Corp declined to comment.)

The Bottom Line

To sum it all up: Thomas Ferguson notes in an email “the last third of the WSJ article basically describes ‘electronic corporatism’ in which big private tech concerns look out for each other. Everyone else can’t even get an answer.”

What Is to Be Done?

Some if not much of this info is well known to at least some antitrust regulators. Yet by publishing it, the WSJ increases pressure on them to address the problems Google’s dominance raises. The company currently captures more than  90% of the market share for all search engines.

As to those ongoing antitrust investigations, Matt Stoller, writing in the Guardian a few months ago, The great breakup of big tech is finally beginning, summarized the then-state of play:

Last week, state attorneys general, led by Texas and New York, announced investigations into Google and Facebook for possible antitrust violations. This is a big deal. No society has ever centralized control of information as we have in big tech, and this is the first real American strike at the problem. As Scott Galloway frequently notes in his podcast with tech journalist Kara Swisher, the big tech breakup has finally begun.

Note that this is one of many areas where Trump inattention or inaction doesn’t really matter. The feds aren’t the only game in town, and attorney general from US states, as well as the EU and many other countries, are on the case – not to mention Congress critters. Over to Stoller:

Normally, antitrust enforcement would come from the federal government, but Trump enforcers have proved irrelevant at best. Instead these investigations are being led by the states. The Republican attorney general of Texas and the Democratic attorney general of New York are informal leaders, meaning that the investigations are bipartisan. The state attorneys general complement an important investigation by the House antitrust subcommittee led by David Cicilline. Such leadership suggests the rule of law, absent from American business for several decades, may be on its way back. There are also important investigations, hearings or cases by enforcers in Germany, France, the European Union, Israel, India, Singapore, Russia, Mexico and Australia, among others.

(I should mention Stoller here has a new book out, Goliath: The 100-Year War between Monopoly Power and Democracy,which I’ve purchased (from my friendly independent bookstore). It’s next up in my to-read queue after I finish William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy, The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. I got sidetracked and polished off Matt Taibbi’s Hate, Inc. after seeing John Siman’s rave review, Manufacturing Fear and Loathing, Maximizing Corporate Profits! A Review of Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another).

From WSJ comments:

Steve W. Bell

This is a terrific piece of Journalistic work – just when I thought the WSJ no longer was capable of it, comes this which is a Pulitzer class expose’. It is fair and objective., and introduces strong evidence.

A 4th Grader could easily discern that Google search results are sharply biased and shaped to suppress legitimate Conservative speech that Google doesn’t like (that is, most all of it) from search results.

Google took a dark turn, in my view, 2-3 years ago. I do not believe that their many great mid-level employees are the reason. They changed out the Sr. management team 3 years back. Now, two immense anti-trust investigations underway.

Google has also turned sharply arrogant, e.g. on Jan 1st shifting all support calls – even from Agencies, to barely-trained staff in India.

Breaking up Google into 2 or 3 regulated entities would be great for Google, it’s employees AND consumers. Although they enjoy a dominant market position, Google is a commodity – EASILY replaced.

To repeat what I said above, the political bias extends beyond downranking conservative sites, to obscuring the output of other sites that also may have something to say.

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  1. Off The Street

    Thank you for your research and this article. Those put into words what I have sensed for quite a while about Google and about monopolistic tendencies. My reading list is driven by NC recommendations. :)

    1. Geo

      Agreed on all points. Great article and research. Had sensed something was terribly amiss with search (or I was getting dumber regarding finding stuff), and NC is a beacon of hope and wealth of information for those who wish to actually learn about the world.

      1. Anon

        Umm, I make StartPage my Homepage in Firefox. Then all I have to do to get the StartPage search engine is tap the “house” icon in the upper left corner of the Firefox window frame.

    1. Martin

      Ehh, but Startpage gives you ONLY Google results, read their info. So Google’s blacklists &cetera described here still apply.

      (Startpage is still good, as removes identifying data: Google can’t follow you. But that’s all.)

      1. Yves Smith

        Well it might not be as bad as you think because Google tracks your search history and biases your results in light of prior searches you’ve made.

        1. Louis Fyne

          duckduckgo dot com is better (but not perfect) both on privacy and editorial filtering.

          or if one wants to experiment, try search engines from other countries. eg, yahoo japan, naver, yandex (yes, RU), baidu (yes, PRC),

          not good for everything but it’s good if you feel like trying some search potluck.

          one’s mileage may vary.

  2. ambrit

    When I often type in a word to spell check it before posting a comment, I have consistently run into cases where the entire first page of links is filled with commercial sites. It now goes as far as giving variant spellings preference if that variant is associated with a commercial enterprise.

  3. coloradoblue

    You can also try Duck Duck Go. They distinguishes from other search engines by not profiling users and by showing all users the same search results for a given search term.

    1. Anon

      I believe DDGo simply anonymizes a search. Google is still behind the DDGo system. So the See No Evil search algorithm is still in play.

      1. JBird4049

        Probably, but a least the Borg Bubble is a little weaker. Do you know of any sites that uses a good alternate search system?

      2. flora

        That’s right. That’s why search anonymizers like DDG or metasearch engines like StartPage aren’t really competitors to Google. Google is still doing the search in most cases. I like both DDG and StartPage, but they don’t challenge Google’s monopoly.

        Then there’s Google’s own Chrome browser…

        And, Google’s plan to collect health data on millions of Americans with it’s Project Nightingale.

        Great post.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Search engines have become generally dissapointing. For instance, pre-2005, I used to find many mom and pop shops all over the place for things I needed. Granted, merchandise is a narrow subject on which to base opinions, nevertheless, It was surprising and fascinating to find so many different solutions to a given problem. Either they have all gone out of business, all stopped using web sites, only use FaceBook or some such, or DDG, along with Google and others, rank-filter-blacklist-whatever them out of existence. Now, the results for the same items all bring back the same (or almost the same) perfectly homogeneous goo of results.

          And yes, DDG uses Google’s web crawler for it’s results, -(from the notes in the DDG wikipedia page) and I’m pretty sure Google’s search results (among those of Bing, Yahoo, etc.) as well. Don’t know whether data from web crawler is modified before access by DDG or similar. DDG also uses it’s own algorithms (kind of like tacking on its algos to those of Google and the rest) to rank, protect, and so on and I’m not sure how accessible they are but there is no detailed company description that I can find (a large part of their code base is proprietary – not sure about filter algos).

          Obviously a huge part of the problem is that these search engines exist in the same democratic-principles abrasive corporate world as do the behemoths and are subject to the same siren calls of profit over erosion prone mission statement.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            A point I made but failed to stress above is that the mom and pop shops, particularly those that actually make what they sell, are now completely missing at least from my search results, which I think is indicative of the overall corporate slant.

    2. Dirk77

      Yes. It’s hard to take someone in a technical field seriously if they aren’t using DuckDuckGo or similar.

  4. cnchal

    > . . . to obscuring the output of other sites that also may have something to say.

    . . . or sell. That is a fact. As a capitalist singularity, my customers regularly tell me I am almost impossible to find. One thing is for sure. Google doesn’t read gmail user’s emails, or if it does, it isn’t read by the great algorithm in the data center.

    No surprise special favors are done for Bezos, Ebay and the rest, while denying anything of the sort.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      They scan your emails for data they can bundle and sell. Not to provide customer service.

      If they don’t scan them how can they suggest replies?

  5. The Rev Kev

    I wonder what “tweaks” they were planning to make next year during the elections? I had no idea that the tweaks were so granular. Which candidates they were going to boost? Buttigieg perhaps? Bloomberg maybe. And which ones were they going to make lower ranked – Gabbard certainly, Warren maybe and Bernie definitely. It would be the digital equivalent of the empty podium that a major TV network showed as Trump was going to be speaking there while ignoring a major Bernie speech. Nothing personal mind, just business.

    1. JBird4049

      Rev Kev,

      there is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour this life, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.

      Remember now, OBEY.

      1. ambrit

        And yet we still end up with “The Zanti Oligarchs!” (That whole meme bugs me.)
        It makes me pine for the fjords or weekends at Dulce Base.

        1. polecat

          Yes, back in those halcyon days when those crazed six-legged miscre ants from another orb baring goatees, were the one thing on a weekend standing in the way of a good nights sleep, besides worrying about the continual threat of WW3, of course …

  6. JBird4049

    Google, the enemy of democracy. Jackasses.

    One of the greatest benefits of a large group be it a functioning democracy or a functioning media is that the wide range of view points, even if just different angles of the same views, is the balanced, thorough, even wise decisions that come from it. Competing ideas, even when incorrect, often forces one to more thoroughly think about and correct their assumptions.

    One of the reasons to resist censorship, even of the vilest of the alt-right racial supremacist evil, is that there is always the temptation to censor just a little bit more, to shift that Overton Window until it is more lies than truth, even if the lies are only by omission.

    Like in modern mainstream economics. The Chicago Boys won the battle because all the rest of economic thought was just erased from the curriculum and the media.

    This is might be the greatest reason my fellow Americans can be such idiots, not because they are stupid, but because of the lies of omission that those in authority create usually for their own benefit and very occasionally for the perceived benefit for the whole society (Because we say you can’t handle the truth, you can’t have it! Bernie who?)

    When the political bloviators, pundits, and reformers across the political spectrum from the ultra left to very conservative are bemoaning histrionically bigotry generally, and racism in particular, they do not notice that their elimination by erasure of competing thought gives the worse of human thought, of ideology like Nazism, eugenics, or the reductionist thought that turns people into things by the various political ideologies, including Neoliberalism, space to grow into. If Capitalist, Free Market, Democracy™ is the most greatest, marvelous, system evah, then when things go wrong it must be the lazies, the haters, the bad people who are the problem. Hello alt-Right. Or maybe problem whatever is not a problem if it causes a problem with the most greatest, marvelous system evah.

    It is like when overly powerful antibiotics kill most of the bacteria in one’s gut removes the most immediately dangerous infection, but allows the more subtlely pernicious bacteria the opportunity to take over the whole gut and kill you.

    1. T

      This really is the worst of it – Google promotes Google as and is generally believed to be about what’s trending, what their data says you might like. Has been obvious for years that this is not how it works.

      My elderly relatives and the fresh-faced supposedly tech-savy new hires both take what’s hot on Instagram to be prood that zillions of like-minded others like the latest trending thing more than anything else.

  7. dcrane

    Starting to think we need a “public option” search service, to compete with those having profit motives.

      1. polecat

        No. Burn it to the ground ! .. without the ability to resurrect as an even more dispicable entity. Why leave it to continue to be used for being, uh, evil ?
        They’re beyond redemption, Lambert !
        That goes for ANY nefarious internet behemoth that resists being reigned in ….

        1. stan6565


          Tax it. A sales turnover tax, say 20% of turnover to start with, in every country where Google sells its adverts would immediately level the field a bit. Ditto for Facebook and Twitter and all the other mind destroying outfits.

          Fat chance of that happening of course, with these diabolical enterprises owning the legislative structures of the entire world.

      2. hunkerdown

        Then give it to the Post Office. All of it, except what’s not kosher for the government to keep. That gets burned along with the land records.

  8. Carey

    I’m guessing that Google™ is way TBTF, and likely connected to “our” seventeen intelligence agencies, as well. Maybe there’ll be some window-dressing reforms,

  9. Clive

    I think one of the problems with trying to identify the degree of harm arising from this is that no-one can tell how users respond. Some users, of course, simply sit passively, happy to accept whatever search results Google puts in front of them. Some will adapt, perhaps, their behaviours in all sorts of unpredictable ways — for example, I’ve taken to automatically jumping to the end of the first page of any search results, knowing that the vast majority will be placed adds or what the search engine thinks are “good” (by whatever measure the AI deems “good” to be) and not even looking at anything until the second or even third page. Still others will start being more aggressively anti-search — simply typing in their own best guesses into the URL bar and memorising a list of sites they think won’t be feeding them things they don’t want to eat. But how many people fall into which category? How sophisticated — or not — is the customer base today? How sophisticated — or not — will it become in the future?

    In some ways, Google’s attempt at creating the perfect AI is like the advertising industry trying to create the perfect advertising strategy. It has, suffice to say, never managed it. Some advertising campaigns seem destined to sweep all before them — but through a huge variety of reasons, fall flat on their faces. Some campaigns look dismal but manage to ride some vibe or hither-to hidden zeitgeist and — often accidentally — work wonders.

    At the very least, we’re certainly, I think its safe to say, moving beyond an internet search environment where users will simply accept, unquestioningly, what’s placed in front of them. Where it goes from there — and how that might affect Google and the other search providers — only time will tell.

    Certainly for me, I rarely head straight for a search engine when I want to find out something. I maintain a mental list of reliable sites on most topics I’m interested in which also have good built-in search facilities. For stats and data (that is copper-bottom reliable, certainly 99.9% of the time) I’ll go to For legal stuff including constitutional matters, For U.K. research the U.K. Parliament site, especially the Library Anything I might want to buy as a consumer durable, John Lewis — and so on. I’d recommend that people consider doing the same, obviously you can make your own list of go-to’s depending on your location and interests. After a while you find you stop the automatic knee-jerk heading for a search engine and, certainly I’ve found, are far more productive because you’re not, frankly, wasting your time on crapified search engines.

    1. Ignacio

      Yes, I have adapted in more or less similar ways. Nevertheless there are times when you have to do fresh searches and then it is annoying to see how poor are search results. What I try to do is to increase specificity and number of searches. My daugther laughs when she sees me typing very long phrases in the search page but later she realises that I have better results compared with hers.

    2. Geo

      “In some ways, Google’s attempt at creating the perfect AI is like the advertising industry trying to create the perfect advertising strategy.”

      It’s actually the exact same thing. This is an amazing article on the “bubble” of online advertising and how it’s all a web of lies conjured up by Google and Facebook.

      Great excerpt:

      “We use Lagrange multipliers,” one of them said. And for a second, Tadelis was astounded. What? Lagrange multipliers? But Lagrange multipliers don’t have anything to do with …”Then it hit me,” Tadelis recalled. “This guy is trying to out-jargon me!”

      “I resisted the temptation to say: ‘I’m sorry, you’re f’d, I actually teach this stuff.’” Instead, Tadelis decided to continue the conversation in Economese.

      “Lagrange multipliers, that’s fascinating,” he replied. “So now I know you have a constrained optimisation model, and as we all know the Lagrange multipliers are the shadow values of the constraints in the objective function. We all know this, right?”

    3. flora

      …Google’s attempt at creating the perfect AI…

      is not to create an algo that reflects the world as it is, but to ‘shrink the world’ to the deliberately limited range their AI is coded to produce, imo.

      Thanks for the site links.

  10. Saint Pepsi

    An investigation was needed, really? Literally every search on Google is just shopping sites for ever at this point, sometimes simply 20 consecutive Amazon hits. It isn´t even remotely subtle.

  11. Geo

    I have noticed Google’s appendage Youtube is doing similar finagling of their search & recommendations. Far too often when seeking out news items the first many videos are all MSM sources. Worse, the autoplay almost always will go from one of my regular subscribed channels like Grayzone, TYT, Empire Files, etc to MSNBC. There is no time in the past decade I’ve personally chosen to watch a clip from MSNBC yet Youtube seems to feel I should be watching that instead of the news sources I consistently choose and even subscribe to. There’s only so many times I can handle unexpectedly going from Aaron Mate to Rachel Maddow before I will frantically toss my computer out the window.

    Reminds me of why I never got into music streaming services. I tried them. Would only select the most obscure and unclassifiable artists for my playlist and within two songs the algorithm would decide I wanted to listen to Katy Perry or Bruno Mars. Same with movie recommendations on most steaming sites: “If you liked Serpico, you’ll love Captain America; Winter Soldier!” … No. I won’t. You know that but you don’t care do you, you evil manipulative robot overlord!

    As an indie filmmaker whose income is at the whim of this rigged marketplace (and audiences willing to support non-mainstream fare), I admire and am inspired by what Naked Capitalism does every day. I just hope this new film of mine can escape algorithmic purgatory enough so that in the coming months I can help support all you do with more than cheap words and toss a few dollars your way. Thanks so much for all you do to illuminate the news we need to know about. Democracy dies in darkness, right?

  12. fdr-fan

    Biased searches have always been the norm. Libraries always privileged orthodox and fashionable views in their book purchases and card catalogues. University libraries held more of the unfashionable books, but you had to find them in the dusty ‘Old Stacks’ or ‘Closed Stacks’. It’s the same with Google. The ‘Old Stacks’ are available, and you have to do your own browsing with deep knowledge of where to look.

  13. crow

    Recently I’ve noticed that when I do a google search, the top result is often a wikipedia page. This is probably not a fluke, but a feature. Also, google news science tab search results are 95% stories about space and astronomy, which I’m hardly interested in. I can guess why. Science stories about pollution, environmental degradation or climate change, for example, do not serve the interests of the corporate masters.

    They’re good at dumbing things down. Their methods are subtle and ever changing, and it takes posts like this to get to the heart of it.

  14. Basil Pesto

    Somewhat tangential, but I do hope that Jerri-Lynn (or whomever of the NC regulars reads it first) would be so kind as to post a review of Goliath when they get the chance.

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