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Which search engine serves up the most conspiracy theories? – Input

One in five adults in the U.S. believe their own country played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

One in three believe Big Pharma is hiding harmful side effects caused by vaccines. Thirty-seven percent believe the world is ruled by a cabal of people who go by the name the New World Order.

All, of course, are wrong. But where do they get their misguided beliefs?

A new study by academics across Europe analyzes the role search engines play in perpetuating untruths. “We know web search is a massively used service and is very important in the current information ecology,” says one of the authors of the paper, Mykola Makhortykh of the University of Bern, Switzerland.

His colleague Roberto Ulloa, of Germany’s GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, says the group’s research is a vital way to see how institutions like search engines are shaping society and its beliefs. “Online platforms are digital institutions, and they have accumulated a lot of information,” Ulloa says. “That information affects individuals’ decisions at the end of the day.”

Only Google did a good job in not amplifying pro-conspiratorial thoughts.

Makhortykh, Ulloa, and their colleagues fed six common search terms popular with conspiracy theorists — “flat earth,” “9/11,” “qanon,” “illuminati,”“george soros,” and “new world order” — into five search engines: Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and the Russian-language Yandex.

The researchers queried the controversial terms in different geographies, searching from the U.K., and from California and Ohio — chosen as proxies for Democratic- and Republican-leaning states. In the end, there wasn’t a material difference in search results based on where you were browsing from — but the search engine you used created an immense difference in how likely you are to be exposed to conspiracy theories.

More than three-quarters of search results for the six terms on Yandex served up sites that either mentioned or actively promoted conspiratorial thinking. On Yahoo, more than half did. Bing and DuckDuckGo saw conspiracy-mentioning or -promoting content take up slightly less than half of results.

Only Google did a good job in not amplifying pro-conspiratorial thoughts. It acknowledged conspiracies in around one in four results — roughly the same proportion of results that debunked conspiracy thinking around the six terms.

Suspect sourcing

In part, the results come down to the types of sources the search engines pull from. Compared to other search engines, Yandex pulled in a higher proportion of posts from social media sites and a much lower proportion from news sites. More than half the results Yandex presented were links to outright conspiracy websites — something Google showed practically none of.

Google was the same as other search engines when it came to the value it placed on reference websites in its results. However, it presented more scientific sites in response to search terms than its competitors.

“The most interesting finding out of this paper is the fact that there’s a difference between the promotion of conspiracy content by Google and by …….

Source: https://www.inputmag.com/culture/search-engines-conspiracy-theories-google-bing-yahoo-duckduckgo-yandex-study

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