The Australian Search Experience
Focus Area: News and Media
Research Program: Data
There is a lot of speculation about the impact that search engines have on the information we encounter. Search engine personalisation may be influencing individuals’ search results, and thereby shape what they know of the world. This may affect their personal decisions, and our collective decisions as a society – from how we spend our money or who we vote for to our attitudes on critical issues such as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
This research examines the extent to which search results are personalised, by various leading search engines and their algorithms, based on the profiles established by those search engines for their different users. It compiles and analyses the search recommendations encountered by a wide range of genuine users across prominent digital media platforms, for a variety of generic and specific topics, and over time.
The project launched in late July 2021 and over 12 months collected over 350 million search results from more than 1,000 participants. The project took a citizen science approach, relying on data donations from the general public made through a unique desktop browser plugin. ADM+S researchers have been analysing the data to understand the personalisation of search results for critical news and information, across key platforms including Google and YouTube, based on the profiles these platforms establish for their different users.
Case Study: Google News
This project is examining Google News results to understand how recommender systems and search personalisation intersect with news distribution. Preliminary findings show limited evidence of personalisation, with news and information sources recommended for particular searches mainly influenced by the search topic. The team is now exploring the diversity of news outlets in the dataset, with the goal of finding out how much local and national news is featured in Google News results. The project will also reveal whether particular news outlets appear more often than others.
Case Study: Comparing search results across Google platforms/services
This project examines search results across Google News, Google Search, Google videos, and YouTube to understand how different Google services and platforms operationalise ‘authoritativeness’ across socio-cultural issues and over time. The project focuses on the sources that are ranked at the top on each service/platforms and reflects on issues of media diversity in relation to these results.