A recent study revealed that users searching for information on Brexit using the Google search engine have a higher chance of coming across pro-EU news articles on the first page of Google.
Search engine optimisation platform Searchmetrics analysis of Brexit-related searches on Google has shown that websites such as BBC and the Guardian with predominantly pro-Remain content come out on top.
The study was carried out in October and data collected has shown that BBC accounts for around 30% of the Brexit search market, while the Guardian for over 12%.
"Google is a private company. How they create search algorithms is their choice. But only to a certain extent," argues Christopher Oldcorn, an investigative journalist, covering politics, social policy and international affairs. He says Google should remain neutral and not be pushing a political agenda.
"Google’s behaviour is similar to insider trading. They are pushing one-side of a political issue. Individuals inside Google could be "betting" on one side winning and profiting from shifting people’s beliefs,” Oldcorn said.
The analysis also revealed that websites that in general are considered pro-Brexit, such as the Daily Telegraph, the Express and the Sun account for only between 2% to 4% of the Brexit search market.
Oldcorn says that this is very worrying information:
"What is most concerning about this study is the number one UK news website received only 2-4% of results? The Sun is number one based on total digital traffic. The latest verified news website statistics put the Sun with 32.8 million unique users. But the Sun only received between 2-4% of total results? One does not need a statistics degree to figure out something is wrong," the investigative journalist stressed.
"Google needs to stop trying to influence people’s beliefs by using its search results," Oldcorn noted.
According to Dr Binoy Kampmark, a senior lecturer at RMIT University in Melbourne and a global research journalist Google’s operating algorithms tend to favour the more popular news and information, so ideas of bias can be part of it.
"On some level, this is right, in so far as the bias favours the proportion of searches and interest present in the search engine. But Google's first priority is to provide the means to seek accessible results. Both conservatives and those of the left have accused it of biases against them at various points. It is unsurprising, therefore, to see this unfold in the Brexit debate, if for no reason that it is so contentious," Dr Kampmark said.
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