I’m Relevant This Week

I'm teaching issues relating to search engines this this week in Internet Law, and one of the issues I'm doing is the problem of search engine bias.

How nice of Wired.com to run an article showing just how relevant my class can be:

A U.S. government-funded medical information site that bills itself as the world's largest database on reproductive health has quietly begun to block searches on the word “abortion,” concealing nearly 25,000 search results.

Called Popline, the search site is run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. It's funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care funding, to developing nations.

Lots more where that came from….

Update: The Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health weighs in — and says the right things.

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3 Responses to I’m Relevant This Week

  1. SEO says:

    I really wish i could sit in on this one Michael.

    Search Engines certainly hold a big stick in regards to what information we are presented with, but also companies and governments are getting more savvy in what they present to the engines to display.

    Take as an example, the Whitehouse.gov robots.txt file.


    Most people don’t know what a robots file on a server does, but simply put it supplies directives to search engines to “block” content from being indexed and displayed in the results. As you can see from the Whitehouse example they are blocking whole directories aka many thousands of pages from being presented to internet searchers.

    Another tactic being employed more each day is Search Engine Reputation Management. Simply put this one is a way of managing what documents are returned for a query to ensure they are all positive ones. This is done by manipulating the signals search engines use to score and rank documents to drive the negative one back several pages where it’s less likely to be found, while at the same time promoting positive documents to move them ahead of the negative one.

    So yes there’s certainly a lot of bias in the information search engines present.


  2. mamarazzo says:

    Good work, it must be a great honor for you. are you now a little web-(pop)-star? 🙂

  3. SEO says:

    Michael is a star anyway 🙂

    Although slightly outside the scope of your class, here is an interesting one involving law and search engines. Someone has lodged a Trademark claim for the term “SEO” and it’s made it’s way to the final stage of the Trade Mark process. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/pulling-a-fast-one-a-clever-internet-marketer-is-trying-to-trademark-seo


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