How search engines influence the vote

The Google search engine (or whatever they end up calling it after yesterday’s announcement) can color the way we see the world in all kinds of troubling ways.

A clever study {washington post} recently found that search results can even influence for whom we vote:

The experiment was simple: Take a diverse group of undecided voters, let them research the candidates on a Google-esque search engine, then tally their votes — never mentioning that the search was rigged, giving top link placement to stories supporting a selected candidate.

The researchers expected the bias would sway voters, but they were shocked by just how much: Some voters became 20 percent more likely to support the favored candidate.

Via {tech redef}.

Also in election news: this great Fresh Air interview with Ari Berman, author of a new book that chronicles the history of the recently defunct Voting Rights Act.

Duck Duck Go

DuckDuckGo is a search engine company based in Paoli, PA.

What makes DuckDuckGo remarkable is their pledge to privacy, a mantle Google doesn’t even attempt to claim anymore. Their results are also less cluttered and more easily browsed;  matches load automatically as you scroll down (as opposed to pressing the “Next” link in Google), for one.

For two, you can search any external site using DuckDuckGo. Just type what you want to search for (i.e. “socks”) followed by an exclamation point and the site you want to search (i.e. So a search of socks !amazon would display the results for “socks.” There’s a time-saving tool Google wouldn’t let you bypass their ads for.

From a recent article in The Washington Post {via daring fireball}:

“My thesis for the company was, what can we do that other search engines, because they’re big, can’t do easily?” Weinberg said. “Because what’s good for Google business is bad for Google users.”

So: DuckDuckGo does not track users. It doesn’t generate search results based on a user’s previous interests, potentially filtering out relevant information. It is not cluttered with ads. In many ways, DuckDuckGo is an homage the original Google — a pure search engine — and its use is soaring, with searches up from 10 million a month in October 2011 to 45 million this past October.