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Conclusion

Complaints about search engine bias implicitly reflect some disappointed expectations. In theory, search engines can transcend the deficiencies of predecessor media to produce a type of utopian media. In practice, search engines are just like every other medium—heavily reliant on editorial control and susceptible to human biases. This fact shatters any illusions of search engine utopianism.

Fortunately, search engine bias may be largely temporal. In this respect, I see strong parallels between search engine bias and the late 1990s keyword metatag "problem." [56] Web publishers used keyword metatags to distort search results, but these techniques worked only so long as search engines considered keyword metatags in their ranking algorithms. When search engines recognized the distortive effects of keyword metatags, they changed their algorithms to ignore keyword metatags. [57] Search result relevancy improved, and the problem was solved without regulatory intervention.

Similarly, search engines naturally will continue to evolve their ranking algorithms and improve search result relevancy—a process that, organically, will cause the most problematic aspects of search engine bias to largely disappear. To avoid undercutting search engines’ quest for relevance, this effort should proceed without regulatory distortion.

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