Conflicts of Interest and Incentives to Bias: A Microeconomic Critique of Google’s Tangled Position on the Web

Rieder, Bernhard and Sire, Guillaume (2014) Conflicts of Interest and Incentives to Bias: A Microeconomic Critique of Google’s Tangled Position on the Web. New Media & Society, 16 (2).

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Abstract

Media scholars have studied and critiqued search engines – and in particular thedominant commercial actor, Google – for over a decade. Several conceptual andmethodological problems, such as a lack of technological transparency, have madea detailed analysis of concrete power relations and their effects difficult. This paperargues that a microeconomic approach can aid media scholars in examining the complexinteractions that underpin the dynamics of information visibility unfolding around theGoogle search engine. Using the concept of a ‘three-sided market’, we characterize thebusiness model built around google.com as the foundation of the company’s success.We then argue that the combination of search and advertising services, and in particularadvertisingnetworkservices, creates powerful incentives to orient the results page inself-serving ways, leading to fundamental conflicts of interest exacerbated by Google’sdominant position in both markets. Based on search engines’ mass media-like capacityto shape public discourse, we consider the identification of economic forces both asa prerequisite for a robust critique of the current situation and as a starting point forthinking about regulatory measures.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Date: 2014
Refereed: Yes
Subjects: E- SCIENCES DE L’INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION
Divisions: other
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2017 16:07
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2017 16:07
URI: http://publications.ut-capitole.fr/id/eprint/24373

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