August 09, 2007

Google Takes First Key Step Toward Search Dispute Resolutions

Greetings. As readers of my essays are no doubt (perhaps painfully) aware, I've been pounding for some time on the issue of "dispute resolutions" for Web search results, particularly relating to Google as the dominant player in the search industry.

Now comes the fascinating word that Google has made a highly significant move in this direction. While limited in key respects, I believe it may open the door to consideration of the broader issues I've noted in texts such as:

Search Engine Dispute Notifications: Request For Comments

Extending Google Blacklists for Dispute Resolutions

A Most Remarkable Google Page: Toward Search Dispute Resolutions

Essentially, as indicated in this AP story, Google will now reportedly permit the subjects or authors of news stories displayed in the Google News aggregation system -- after identity authentication -- to file disputes/comments relating to those stories, which will then appear on the same page as the original search results.

While this is a bit different from my proposal for links to external sites for dispute purposes, the underlying principle is the same, and it still represents an enormous sea change in fundamental Google methodology, at least as far as Google News is concerned.

Much more importantly, I believe that it sets the stage for serious consideration of similar changes to the broader Web search arena (that is, not limited to news stories) -- in fact I suspect moves in this direction will now become eventually inevitable.

The reason is clear -- there is ultimately no valid rationale for persons in articles that happen to be categorized as news stories to have a right of dispute and comment, but for everyone else on "non-news" Web pages to not have similar capability options, even in serious cases of defamation or other abuses.

Having said that, there is still an enormous difference in scale between dealing with the relatively limited number of news stories, (limited that is in comparison with the total number of Web pages) vs. a broader Web results dispute system. The latter would entail an entirely different magnitude of filtering/prioritization and authentication of dispute requests, mechanisms to avoid falsified disputes or "gaming" of the dispute system, etc., all on a potentially very large scale indeed.

However, these are exactly the search engine dispute-related technical, structural, and organizational issues I've been actively working on as noted in my links above. I very much believe that there are practical solutions that can enable broad implementation of a general Web search results dispute resolution system without entailing undue burden to Google (or other search engines) and without significant negative side-effects. It will not be simple by any means, but with an appropriate organizational structure and topology, it can be done.

Google appears to have now acknowledged that at least in the news context, the community will benefit from dispute and comment-related materials being displayed along with some search results. This really is a big deal.

The task now is to move forward toward the much tougher but exceptionally important goal of extending such capabilities to the broader universe of non-news Web page search engine results across the entire Web. This needs to be done right, but could well represent one of the most positive and far-reaching changes for the Internet since the development of the search engines themselves.


Posted by Lauren at August 9, 2007 11:26 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein