I stopped using Google for my everyday search a long time ago. As the years rolled on I started to find that their search engine was trying to be too smart. I use Gmail and an Android phone and increasingly my search results were either what Google’s algorithm thought I wanted versus what I was actually looking for.
I’m not the type of person that seeks out only what I already believe. I like to find opinions that are not my own in order to broaden my knowledge of a topic. But, Google has been fine tuning their search to feed me information that I don’t want or that I already have.
I’ve been looking more and more into the science behind the low-carb ketogenic diet. I’ve been living my life this way for quite some time and I was interested in finding out why I am the way I am. As such there are a bunch of people I follow in Twitter and Instagram that provide information on the topic.
Today I ran across a tweet that purported to show that a simple search on Google for “humans are omnivores” provided misinformation by PETA. So, naturally, the first thing I did was head over to google.com and typed in the search. Sure enough the information box at the top contained the misinformation by PETA. Many people don’t look beyond that box for their answers and if you’re querying the Google Assistant this is also the answer you’ll receive. This search result is not anywhere near relevant to the query. The actual PETA link is #4 down the list. It’s not even the top actual search result. How did it become the de facto answer to this query?
Here is the identical search on Duck Duck Go. A stupid name for a search engine but it seems to give me far superior results. Note that the PETA link is nowhere to be found. It’s not even on the first page of the search results.
This result lead me down the rabbit hole and I ran into this article on fee.org that highlights how Google has changed it’s search results to bury alternate medical opinion sites. Why would they do this? Google purports to not be a publisher. But yet they are indeed acting like one by editing search results by what they think is relevant. This cannot be a result of “machine learning” or of the algorithm automatically bubbling up more popular results. If this were the case the sites getting buried would not have had the traffic they had to begin with.
Google search is broken. It’s been broken for a long time. Google itself seems to be broken. I’ve moved off of as many Google services as is convenient. Duck Duck Go is my search engine of choice and I switched to Firefox for my web browser (Chrome is still necessary for a few things. Not many but some). Gmail is still superior to other e-mail clients at filtering spam. My Pixel 3 is still a superior phone (for me at least) to other phones out there. I know there are alternatives but none of them work for me.
All the services you use that are “free” need to be looked at with a critical eye. You can’t automatically trust the information they’re feeding you. Thinking for yourself and being skeptical is more important today than ever before.