“Fairness” in Search Results?

by | Jun 7, 2006

In case anyone needed reminding that conservatives are not interested in a free economy: An attorney with a prominent conservative Christian group says he is troubled by the recent announcement that the popular Internet search engine Google has dumped news sites criticizing radical Islam… …”[Users are essentially saying] ‘I’ll do the decision-making — the discriminating, […]

In case anyone needed reminding that conservatives are not interested in a free economy:

An attorney with a prominent conservative Christian group says he is troubled by the recent announcement that the popular Internet search engine Google has dumped news sites criticizing radical Islam…

…”[Users are essentially saying] ‘I’ll do the decision-making — the discriminating, if you will — as to which articles I want to read and which ones I don’t,'” says [Steve] Crampton [, chief counsel of the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy]. “But when you retrieve only left-leaning articles or only articles that are favorable to the religion of Islam, you’re not really providing news. You’re providing a slanted view of the world.” [one link dropped, one added]

So far so good — except that he’s not done yet.

When you consider how large this entity has become, you start to get into a realm where an argument could be made that perhaps this entity now becomes sort of like a public utility to the extent that the people rely on Google and Google alone,” the attorney states. “There may be an argument that the government can step in and regulate Google in a way that it couldn’t otherwise regulate a private entity.” [bold added]

And what argument is that? “That obedience to precedent trumps a long-overdue changing of the ways?”

Here’s a news bulletin for Mr. Crampton: Google didn’t become big by giving incomplete search results and it won’t remain big by earning a reputation for doing so. Aside from the fact that the problem will take care of itself in an unregulated Internet, it is wrong for the government to be regulating (or running) utilities in the first place. Government intereference with any business, large or small, violates everyone’s right to production and trade, prevailing practices to the contrary.

And besides. Considering all the “hate speech” laws and other multiculturalist legislation, the end result of the government getting into the act of deciding what constitutes a “good search result” would probably be even worse than anything Google would dare, boot-licking accomplice of totalitarian regimes that it already is. And once in the business of dictating standards for search results, the government would not be content to tell Google alone how to filter them. And then we’ll have a de facto monopoly in place, just like we did in the business of news and commentary over the airwaves in the bad old days of the “Fairness” Doctrine. And remember how “unbiased” and “useful” that was? (Even some conservatives still do.)

As much as Google deserves to have a pack of Steve Cramptons unleashed upon it, we should oppose such a move for the sake of our economic and intellectual freedom.

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Gus Van Horn is a scientist residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of a popular pro-reason, pro-individual rights political and cultural blog.

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