Google and Global Warming


I have had numerous people send me articles about Google and their search results about Global Warming.  Other blogs have picked up on this and the overall discussion from the skeptic side is that Google has failed in their maxim of “Do No Evil.”  I happen to disagree with this.

First off Google is public business and as such is almost required to stick to the idea that global warming is real.  Find me a public company that takes the official stance that global warming isn’t real.  I have not been able to find one.  So I don’t really care that Google takes the stance about global warming that it does.  Public companies must show environmental responsibility these days.  As an engineer I fully understand the legal and public relations responsibility in that regard.

As for the issue of the Google search results related to global warming.  The article itself shows that Google is not unreasonable in that regard either.

“The results suggest that often, Google leads people to accurate information about climate change. Fifty-two percent of the 980 sites contained clear statements in line with the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science evidence. For example, if you had searched for “climate change myths” in early May, you would have found this Environmental Defense Fund site, which says, “The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it.””

So 52% of the 980 websites were pro-global warming.  They also state that 11% of websites provided the skeptical view of global warming.  With the rest being a mix of Wikipedia and news articles.  Obviously Wikipedia counts as a pro-global warming site as certain contributors are known to tilt slightly in that direction.

That general searches tilt like that is expected for any results.  I would not expect a general search about global warming to point to a balanced discussion about the topic.  I would expect it to go to what people are looking for.  What Google does best is find what people are looking for.   The take away from the Yale article is that skeptical points of view show up too much for their comfort.

I know that Google accounts for 90% of the search traffic that this website gets.  Google is doing pretty much what I expect a modern public company to do.  They are big and they direct a lot of the search traffic which gives them power, but I still use it and have no problem finding what I am looking for.

In the end that is what matters.  The debate about global warming is not going to be won by worrying about what Google is doing with its search engine.  They keep it working despite the ongoing efforts to game the system.  I am happy with the results I get using Google and plan to continue using them.

Posted in Cap & Trade and Fear and Misinformation and Politics and Global Warming by inconvenientskeptic on May 24th, 2011 at 8:41 am.

7 comments

This post has 7 comments

  1. I think what worries me the most is the idea that Google could filter the search results – i.e. remove “The Inconvenient Skeptic” from the list – and the user would never know it happened.

    If they have transparency then I’m ok with it. Something to let the user know the results were filtered, and how to “include” those listings as well.

  2. inconvenientskeptic May 24th 2011

    Transparency is a nice thing for government, but Google is competing in the market place. If they made their methods open, then they would have no market advantage.

    The free market will ensure that Google play it straight though. If people stop trusting the results, Google will lose their customers. Switching search engines is very easy. Just ask Yahoo.

    Open competition is the key for this (and most) issue(s). As long as Google has to compete, they will have to “Do No Evil.” They are used because they are trusted. If that vanishes, so will Google as the search leader.

  3. Richard111 May 25th 2011

    Whatever. I only use Bing.

  4. inconvenientskeptic May 25th 2011

    Richard,

    Bad news is that means you are using Google, but don’t even know it.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/bing-is-cribbing-from-google-search-results-2011-2

    Google does really have a good search engine. Bing has only managed to develop a search engine that uses Google results.

  5. Richard111 May 25th 2011

    “”The real question is do users care? Probably not — they just want the best results.””

    I got fed up with google trying to take over.

  6. inconvenientskeptic May 25th 2011

    My point is that Bing is not independent of Google. If Google has bias that will show up in Bing.

    I think Yahoo is even associated with Bing now so in the end Google is currently driving most of the search that is available.

    As you make evident, the risk is that people will lose trust in Google and allow competition to creep in. If enough people don’t want Google, then competition will thrive.

  7. I don’t expect Google to make “their methods open”, but I expect them to let me know when they decide what is “right” for me – that is transparency.

    They already do this with the user-applied filtering for sites such as “Experts Exchange” – I have the option to filter it out, and when that site is filtered out, I get a nice little message to remind me when I view results.

    I love the free market too, but, if users have no idea they’re being lied to, then they have no motivation or inclination to move to a competitor….

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