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Search Neutrality: Equality

Search Neutrality is a new buzz word surrounding search engines and the results they return to their users. Several ideas have been proposed, but none are truly unusable for search regulation.

The goal of Search Neutrality is to prevent search engines from abusing their power. Search engines, Google in particular, have a large responsibility to ensure they are ranking websites in a fair way.

The recent network neutrality debates have overflowed into web search. The basic premise of network neutrality is that every website deserves the same level of network service (opponents argue for "fast" and "slow" lanes for websites based on what they are willing to pay for). This argument does not flow well into search engines.

Proponents of website "equality" argue that a search engine should not treat websites differently based on their content or other details. We disagree. We use Google and other search engines primarily because they do treat sites differently. The idea of search engine relevancy is based on treating sites differently; when I search for a specific term I want results that are relevant (why else would I use the search engine in the first place?)

Grimmelmann suggests treating all websites equally would force search results to become akin to the phone book ("even the phone book is not neutral in the sense of giving fully equal access ... as the proliferation of AA Locksmiths and Aabco Plumbers attests").

Search engines aren't wrong when they differentiate among websites, they are actually providing the service requested by their users.

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