In a world of biased search engines Dirk Lewandowski

In a world of biased search engines

Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Search engines like Google have a massive influence on what information users get to see, and on what search results users select. This leads to search engines having a significant impact on what information we as a society acquire.
It has been often lamented that search engines are biased. I, however, argue that we have only scratched the surface because search engine bias is a multifaceted concept and the discussion usually solely focuses on some aspects.
Search engine bias can be classified into four different areas. Firstly, there are biases on the side of the search engine, e.g., in their ranking functions. Secondly, there are biases through external influencing of search engine results, predominantly through “search engine optimization”.
Thirdly, biases occur on the side of the user (e.g., position bias, confirmation bias, visual attraction bias). And fourthly, there are self-interests of search engine providers which influence the search results.
Further to giving an overview of the topic, I will show how search engine providers (and regulators) can take steps towards making search fair. Whereas a bias-free search engine is impossible, a fair search is. Here, I will not only focus on the big web search engines but also on how developers and product owners can make their search systems fair. Or, to put it another way, I will show what can we learn from these “worst practices” in web search when designing our own systems.

Short bio

Dirk Lewandowski is a professor of information science at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany. He is the editor of Aslib Journal of Information Management, an ISI-ranked information science journal.
Dirk Lewandowski studied library science at the School of Library Science in Stuttgart, as well as philosophy, information science, and media studies at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. He received his Ph.D. from that university in 2005.
Dirk has published extensively in the areas of Web information retrieval, search engine user behaviour and the role that search engines play in society. His work has been published in some of the leading information science journals, including JASIST, Journal of Information Science and Journal of Documentation. Dirk has served as an expert to, among others, the High Court of Justice (UK) and the Deutscher Bundestag (German Parliament). He has been named an ACM Distinguished Speaker in 2016.
Prof. Lewandowski authored and edited several books on search engines, including “Suchmaschinen verstehen” (Springer, second edition 2018) and “Web Search Engine Research” (Emerald Group Publishing, 2012), as well as a series of German-language handbooks on search.

Further information:
Twitter: @Dirk_Lew


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