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[This article is originally published in zdnet.com written by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Eric Beaudoin]

For less than a $100, you can have an open-source powered, easy-to-use server, which enables you -- and not Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft -- to control your view of the internet.

On today's internet, most of us find ourselves locked into one service provider or the other. We find ourselves tied down to Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft for our e-mail, social networking, calendaring -- you name it. It doesn't have to be that way. The FreedomBox Foundation has just released its first commercially available FreedomBox: The Pioneer Edition FreedomBox Home Server Kit. With it, you -- not some company -- control over your internet-based services.

The Olimex Pioneer FreedomBox costs less than $100 and is powered by a single-board computer (SBC), the open source hardware-based Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 board. This SBC is powered by a 1GHz A20/T2 dual-core Cortex-A7 processor and dual-core Mali 400 GPU. It also comes with a Gigabyte of RAM, a high-speed 32GB micro SD card for storage with the FreedomBox software pre-installed, two USB ports, SATA-drive support, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a backup battery.

Doesn't sounds like much does it? But, here's the thing: You don't need much to run a personal server.

Sure, some of us have been running our own servers at home, the office, or at a hosting site for ages. I'm one of those people. But, it's hard to do. What the FreedomBox brings to the table is the power to let almost anyone run their own server without being a Linux expert.

The supplied FreedomBox software is based on Debian Linux. It's designed from the ground up to make it as hard as possible for anyone to exploit your data. It does this by putting you in control of your own corner of the internet at home. Its simple user interface lets you host your own internet services with little expertise.

You can also just download the FreedomBox software and run it on your own SBC. The Foundation recommends using the CubietruckCubieboard2BeagleBone BlackA20 OLinuXino Lime2A20 OLinuXino MICRO, and PC Engines APU. It will also run on most newer Raspberry Pi models.

Want an encrypted chat server to replace WhatsApp? It's got that. A VoIP server? Sure. A personal website? Of course! Web-based file sharing à la Dropbox? You bet. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) server of your own? Yes, that's essential for its mission.

The software stack isn't perfect. This is still a work in progress. So, for example, it still doesn't have a personal email server or federated social networking, such as GNU Social and Diaspora, to provide a privacy-respecting alternative to Facebook. That's not because they won't run on a FreedomBox; they will. What they haven't been able to do yet is to make it easy enough for anyone to do and not someone with Linux sysadmin chops. That will come in time.

As the Foundation stated, "The word 'Pioneer' was included in the name of these kits in order to emphasize the leadership required to run a FreedomBox in 2019. Users will be pioneers both because they have the initiative to define this new frontier and because their feedback will make FreedomBox better for its next generation of users."

To help you get up to speed the FreedomBox community will be offering free technical support for owners of the Pioneer Edition FreedomBox servers on its support forum. The Foundation also welcomes new developers to help it perfect the FreedomBox platform. 

Why do this?  Eben Moglen, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, saw the mess we were heading toward almost 10 years ago: "Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record: he has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age." That was before Facebook proved itself to be totally incompetent with security and sold off your data to Cambridge Analytica to scam 50 million US Facebook users with personalized anti-Clinton and pro-Trump propaganda in the 2016 election.

It didn't have to be that way. In an interview, Moglen told me this: "Concentration of technology is a surprising outcome of cheap hardware and free software. We could have had a world of peers. Instead, the net we built is the net we didn't want. We're in an age of surveillance with centralized control. We're in a world, which encourages swiping, clicking, and flame throwing."

With FreedomBox, "We can undo this. We can make it possible for ordinary people to provide internet services. You can have your own private messaging, services without a man in the middle watching your every move." 

We can, in short, rebuild the internet so that we, and not multi-billion dollar companies, are in charge.

I like this plan

Categorized in Science & Tech

[This article is originally published in dailytrust.com.ng written by Zakariyya Adaramola - Uploaded by AIRS by Member: David J. Redcliff]

Google is giving users back some control over their data. The internet giant is introducing a new feature in account settings that will allow users to delete location, web, and app activity data automatically. The tools will become available in the coming weeks, according to Google.

Now, instead of requiring users to delete the data manually, Google is adding auto-delete controls. ‘‘We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simpler ways for you to manage or delete it,’’ the firm explained in a blog post.



‘‘…We’re announcing auto-delete controls that make it even easier to manage your data.’’

Now, users can select a time limit for how long Google can hold onto their data.

Users select the option in settings that says ‘Choose to delete automatically.’

From there, they can choose between letting Google preserve their data for three months or 18 months.

‘‘You should always be able to manage your data in a way that works best for you – and we’re committed to giving you the best controls to make that happen’’,  the firm added.

The company said the feature is rolling out for location history and web and app activity to start, which suggests it could launch for more kinds of data in the future.

The move follows an explosive report last year from the Associated Press, which found that several Google apps and websites store user location even if users turned off Location History.

Following an investigation, the AP found that even with Location History turned off, Google stores user location when, for instance, the Google Maps app is opened, or when users conduct Google searches that aren’t related to location.

Researchers found Google logs a record of your current location each time you open its turn-by-turn navigation app, Google Maps.

Categorized in Internet Search

[This article is originally published in newyorker.com written By Ned Beauman - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

An open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Eliot Higgins has always meant it to cut through.

On a recent afternoon in central London, twelve people sat in a hotel conference room trying to figure out the exact latitude and longitude at which the actress Sharon Stone once posed for a photo in front of the Taj Mahal. Among them were two reporters, a human-rights lawyer, and researchers and analysts in the fields of international conflict, forensic science, online extremism, and computer security. They had each paid around twenty-four hundred dollars to join a five-day workshop led by Eliot Higgins, the founder of the open-source investigation Web site Bellingcat. Higgins had chosen this Sharon Stone photo because the photographer was standing on a raised terrace, which makes the angles confusing, and used a lens that makes Stone appear closer to the Taj than she actually was. The participants, working on laptops, compared the trees and paths visible in the photo to their correlates on Google Earth.

Stone’s location on that day—the northwest corner of the Great Gate—may not have been of grave historical importance, but the participants were employing the same techniques that have underlaid Bellingcat’s news-making investigations into subjects such as the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, over Ukraine, and the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army. When Higgins was profiled in The New Yorker, in 2013, he was still alone blogger calling himself Brown Moses, and the field of open-source investigation—the microscopic examination of publicly available material such as satellite images, social-media posts, YouTube videos, and online databases to uncover the truth about disputed events—was in its infancy. Today, it is firmly established. Last year, the International Criminal Court issued, for the first time, an arrest warrant based solely on video evidence from social media, and the recent report on gas attacks in Syria by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons leans heavily on images from Google Earth that are annotated in a Bellingcat style. Meanwhile, open-source investigation reached a new audience this spring when the research agency Forensic Architecture, which has often collaborated with Bellingcat, was the subject of a show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. (It has since been shortlisted for the Turner Prize.)

Higgins, who lives in Leicester with his wife and two young children, is now fielding ever more interest from journalists, N.G.O.s, corporations, universities, and government agencies, eager for his expertise. One of the participants in the London workshop I attended, Christoph Reuter, is the Beirut-based Middle East correspondent for Der Spiegel, and has worked as a reporter for three decades; when I asked him about Higgins, he made a gesture of worshipfully bowing down. Higgins started Bellingcat with a Kickstarter campaign, in 2014, but today almost half of its funding comes from these paid workshops, which he has been running since last spring, with the first in the U.S.—in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco—planned for later this year. Higgins is also developing a partnership with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and hopes to hire enough staff to expand Bellingcat’s coverage into Latin America.

Higgins’s work is animated by his leftist, anti-authoritarian politics. One of the workshop attendees, a Middle East analyst named Robert, didn’t want his full name used in this article because certain factions in the region may see any association with Bellingcat as suspicious. But an open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Higgins has always meant it to cut through. Crowdsourced Reddit investigations into Pizzagate or QAnon often appear, at first glance, not so different from a Bellingcat report, full of marked-up screenshots from Google Maps or Facebook. Even on the mainstream-liberal side, a new conspiracy culture sees anti-Trump Twitter celebrating any amateur detective who can find a suspicious detail about Jared Kushner in a PDF.

At the same time, the Russian government, which has derided Bellingcat’s open-source investigations in the past, now issues satellite images of bombings in Syria, inviting members of the public to look closely and see for themselves; RT, the state-sponsored Russian news channel, has launched its own “digital verification” blog, seemingly modeled on Bellingcat. In ramping up both reporting and training, expanding Bellingcat into some combination of news magazine and academy, Higgins is working to, in his words, “formalize and structure a lot of the work we’ve been doing” at a moment when the methods he helped pioneer are more than ever threatened by distortion and misuse.

I asked Higgins whether he excludes anyone from these workshops. “We’re going to start explicitly saying that people from intelligence agencies aren’t allowed to apply,” he said. “They’re asking more and more. But we don’t really want to be training them, and it’s awkward for everybody in the room if there’s an M.I.5 person there.” I asked how he’d feel if a citizen journalist signed up with the intention of demonstrating that, say, many of the refugee children who apply for asylum in the U.S. are actually grizzled adult criminals. He said he’d let that person join. “If they want to use these techniques to do that reporting, and it’s an honest investigation, then the answers should be honest either way. They should find out they can’t prove their ideas. And maybe they’ll learn that their ideas aren’t as solid as they thought.” Ultimately, Higgins respects good detective work, no matter where it comes from. At one point in the workshop, he showed the group a video about 4chan users taking only thirty-seven hours to find and steal a flag emblazoned with “he will not divide us,” which Shia LaBeouf had erected in front of an Internet-connected camera in a secret location as a political art project. “4chan is terrible,” Higgins said. “But sometimes they do really amazing open-source investigations just to annoy people.”

After Sharon Stone, there were several more geolocation exercises, concluding, on Day Two, with a joint effort to piece together several dozen photos of the M2 Hospital, in Aleppo, after it was bombed by pro-government forces. The challenge was to use tiny details to figure out exactly how they connected together in three-dimensional space: to determine, for instance, whether two photos that showed very similar-looking chain-link barriers were actually of the same chain-link barrier from different angles. “Most of my pictures are of rubble, which is super-helpful,” Diane Cooke, a Ph.D. student at King’s College London’s Centre for Science and Security Studies, said.

Higgins mentioned that he had left out all the gory photos, but nevertheless this exercise was a war crime turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Earlier, he had paused a video projection on a frame of a nerve-gassed Syrian child’s constricted pupil, which stared down at us for an uncomfortably long time. “I am careful about that,” he told me when I asked him about his approach to such horrors. The example which most frequently upsets people, he said, is a Bellingcat investigation into a mass execution by the Libyan National Army, in 2017: fifteen dark blots are visible against the sand on a satellite image taken later the same day. “It’s horrible, but it’s such a good example,” Higgins said. “And if you’re geolocating bloodstains, you’ve got to show the bloodstains.”

Afterward, it was time for lunch outside in the sun. Robert, the Middle East analyst, complained that he had “geolocation vision”: after a few hours of these exercises, it is impossible to look around without noting the minute textures of the built environment, the cracks in the sidewalk and the soot on the walls.

Days Four and Five of a Bellingcat workshop give the participants a chance to practice the skills they’ve just learned by launching their own investigations. Earlier this year, when Christiaan Triebert, a Bellingcat investigator, was mugged by two men on mopeds while he was in London to teach a Bellingcat workshop, he recruited his workshop participants to help him investigate the city’s moped gangs. (“My adrenaline turned into that energy—like, ‘This is pretty interesting!’ ” he recalled. “We were basically analyzing the Instagram profiles, mapping out the networks, who is friends with whom and where are they operating.”) Triebert has also run workshops in several countries where reporters are under threat of death. In Iraq, for instance, he trained reporters from al-Ghad, a radio station broadcasting into isis-occupied Mosul. “Some of their friends and colleagues got slaughtered by isis militants, and there was the video of it—they were drowned in a cage in a swimming pool. They said, “We really want to know where this happened, so if Mosul ever gets recaptured we can visit, but also just to see where they murdered our friends.” We started mapping out Mosul swimming pools, and within an hour they found it.

In the London workshop, the participants split up into three teams: one was trying to geolocate a video showing a bombing by U.S. forces somewhere in Damascus; another was analyzing the connection between water shortages in Iraq and the filling of the Ilisu dam, in Turkey; a third was investigating the leaders of a recent rally in London protesting the jailing of the far-right activist Tommy Robinson. Space took on the atmosphere of a newsroom. By the afternoon, the Damascus team had divided its labor: Higgins and Reuter were pursuing a single electricity pylon in the background of the murky green night-vision footage, which they thought would be enough to geolocate the bombing; Marwan El Khoury, a forensic-science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Leicester, was trying to pick out Polaris from the constellations briefly visible in the sky, in the hopes of determining the orientation of the camera; and Beini Ye, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, was combing through relevant news reports. “Nobody has ever been able to geolocate this video, so it’s a matter of pride,” Higgins said.

On the last day, pizza was ordered so the three teams could work through lunch. At the deadline of 2 p.m., Robert, representing the Ilisu team, got up first. “We haven’t found anything spectacularly new,” he said, “but we’ve discovered that a claim by the Iraqi Water Ministry might be more or less correct. That sounds really boring, but I think it’s important.”

The Tommy Robinson team was next. It had found out that “Danny Tommo,” one of the pseudonymous organizers of the pro-Tommy Robinson protest, was already known to the police under his real name. To some laughter, they displayed a headline from a Portsmouth newspaper reading “Bungling armed kidnappers jailed for ‘stupid’ attempt.”

Five minutes before the deadline, there had been a burst of excitement from the Damascus team: Higgins had remembered that a Russian news service had put GoPro cameras on the front of tanks when embedded with Syrian armed forces in 2015. In one YouTube video, the tank jolted from the recoil after firing its gun, and for a moment it was possible to see a pylon on the horizon—which was helpful, Higgins explained, but not quite enough. Still, that didn’t mean the crucial pylon would never be found: some photos from Bellingcat investigations have taken as long as two years to be geolocated. “It’s good that it was really hard,” Higgins told me later. “You have to rewire how people think about images. So they become really aware of how the world is constructed.”

Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in searchenginejournal.com written by Matt Southern - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jeremy Frink]

Google published a 30-page white paper with details about how the company fights disinformation in Search, News, and YouTube.

Here is a summary of key takeaways from the white paper.

What is Disinformation?

Everyone has different perspectives on what is considered disinformation, or “fake news.”

Google says it becomes objectively problematic to users when people make deliberate, malicious attempts to deceive others.

“We refer to these deliberate efforts to deceive and mislead using the speed, scale, and technologies of the open web as “disinformation.”

So that’s what the white paper is referring to with respect to term disinformation.

How Does Google Fight Disinformation?

Google admits it’s challenging to fight disinformation because it’s near-impossible to determine the intent behind a piece of content.

The company has designed a framework for tackling this challenge, which is comprised of the following three strategies.

1. Make content count

Information is organized by ranking algorithms, which are geared toward surfacing useful content and not fostering ideological viewpoints.

2. Counteract malicious actors

Algorithms alone cannot verify the accuracy of a piece of content. So Google has invested in systems that can reduce spammy behaviors
at scale. It also relies on human reviews.

3. Give users more context

Google provides more context to users through mechanisms such as:

  • Knowledge panels
  • Fact-check labels
  • “Full Coverage” function in Google News
  • “Breaking News” panels on YouTube
  • “Why this ad” labels on Google Ads
  • Feedback buttons in search, YouTube, and advertising products

Fighting Disinformation in Google Search & Google News

As SEOs, we know Google uses ranking algorithms and human evaluators to organize search results.

Google’s white paper explains this in detail for those who may not be familiar with how search works.

Google notes that Search and News share the same defenses against spam, but they do not employ the same ranking systems and content policies.

For example, Google Search does not remove content except in very limited circumstances. Whereas Google News is more restrictive.

Contrary to popular belief, Google says, there is very little personalization in search results based on users’ interests or search history.

Fighting Disinformation in Google Ads

Google looks for and takes action against attempts to circumvent its advertising policies.

Policies to tackle disinformation on Google’s advertising platforms are focused on the following types of behavior:

  • Scraped or unoriginal content: Google does not allow ads for pages with insufficient original content, or pages that offer little to no value.
  • Misrepresentation: Google does not allow ads that intend to deceive users by excluding relevant information or giving misleading information.
  • Inappropriate content: Ads are not allowed for shocking, dangerous, derogatory, or violent content.
  • Certain types of political content: Ads for foreign influence operations are removed and the advertisers’ accounts are terminated.
  • Election integrity: Additional verification is required for anyone who wants to purchase an election ad on Google in the US.

Fighting Disinformation on YouTube

Google has strict policies to keep content on YouTube unless it is in direct violation of its community guidelines.

The company is more selective of content when it comes to YouTube’s recommendation system.

Google aims to recommend quality content on YouTube while less frequently recommending content that may come close to, but not quite, violating the community guidelines.

Content that could misinform users in harmful ways, or low-quality content that may result in a poor experience for users (like clickbait), is also recommended less frequently.

More Information

For more information about how Google fights disinformation across its properties, download the full PDF here.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchenginejournal.com written by Roger Montti - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Anthony Frank]

Ahrefs CEO Dmitry Gerasimenko announced a plan to create a search engine that supports content creators and protects users privacy. Dmitry laid out his proposal for a more free and open web, one that rewards content creators directly from search revenue with a 90/10 split in favor of publishers.

The goal for New Search Engine

Dmitry seeks to correct several trends at Google that he feels are bad for users and publishers. The two problems he seeks to solve is privacy, followed by addressing the monetization crisis felt by publishers big and small.

1. Believes Google is Hoarding Site Visitors

Dmitry tweeted that Google is increasingly keeping site visitors to itself, resulting in less traffic to the content creators.

“Google is showing scraped content on search results page more and more so that you don’t even need to visit a website in many cases, which reduces content authors’ opportunity to monetize.”

2. Seeks to Pry the Web from Privatized Access and Control

Gatekeepers to web content (such as Google and Facebook) exercise control over what kinds of content is allowed to reach people. The gatekeepers shape how content is produced and monetized. He seeks to wrest the monetization incentive away from the gatekeepers and put it back into the hands of publishers, to encourage more innovation and better content.

“Naturally such a vast resource, especially free, attracts countless efforts to tap into it, privatize and control access, each player pulling away their part, tearing holes in the tender fabric of this unique phenomena.”

3. Believes Google’s Model is Unfair

Dmitry noted that Google’s business model is unfair to content creators. By sharing search revenue, sites like Wikipedia wouldn’t have to go begging for money.

He then described how his search engine would benefit content publishers and users:

“Remember that banner on Wikipedia asking for donation every year? Wikipedia would probably get few billions from its content in profit share model. And could pay people who polish articles a decent salary.”

4. States that a Search Engine Should Encourage Publishers and Innovation

Dmitry stated that a search engine’s job of imposing structure to the chaos of the web should be one that encourages the growth of quality content, like plant a support that holds a vine up allowing it to consume more sunlight and grow.

“…structure wielded upon chaos should not be rigid and containing as a glass box around a venomous serpent, but rather supporting and spreading as a scaffolding for the vine, allowing it to flourish and grow new exciting fruits for humanity to grok and cherish. ”

For chaos needs structure to not get torn apart by its own internal forces, and structure needs chaos as a sampling pool of ideas to keep evolution rolling.”

Reaction to Announcement

The reaction on Twitter was positive.

Russ Jones of Moz tweeted:

russ jones

Several industry leaders generously offered their opinions.

Jon Henshaw

Jon Henshaw (@henshaw) is a Senior SEO Analyst at CBSi (CBS, GameSpot, and Metacritic) and founder of Coywolf.marketing, a digital marketing resource. He offered this assessment:

“I appreciate the sentiment and reasons for why Dmitry wants to build a search engine that competes with Google. A potential flaw in the entire plan has to do with searchers themselves.

Giving 90% of profit to content creators does not motivate the other 99% of searchers that are just looking for relevant answers quickly. Even if you were to offer incentives to the average searcher, it wouldn’t work. Bing and other search engines have tried that over the past several years, and they have all failed.

The only thing that will compete with Google is a search engine that provides better results than Google. I would not bet my money on Ahrefs being able to do what nobody else in the industry has been able to do thus far.”

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones (@RyanJones), is a search marketer who also publishes WTFSEO.com said:

“This sounds like an engine focused on websites not users. So why would users use it?

There is a massive incentive to spam here, and it will be tough to control when the focus is on the spammer not the user.

It’s great for publishers, but without a user-centric focus or better user experience than Google, the philanthropy won’t be enough to get people to switch.”

Tony Wright

Tony Wright (@tonynwright) of search marketing agency WrightIMC shared a similar concern about getting users on board. An enthusiastic user base is what makes any online venture succeed.

“It’s an interesting idea, especially in light of the passage of Article 13 in the EU yesterday.

However, I think that without proper capitalization, it’s most likely to be a failed effort. This isn’t the early 2000’s.

The results will have to be as good or better than Google to gain traction, and even then, getting enough traction to make if economically feasible will be a giant hurdle.

I like the idea of compensating publishers, but I think policing the scammers on a platform like this will most likely be the biggest cost – even bigger than infrastructure.

It’s certainly an ambitious play, and I’ll be rooting for it. But based on just the tweets, it seems like it may be a bit too ambitious without significant capitalization.”

Announcement Gives Voice to Complaints About Google

The announcement echoes complaints by publishers who feel they are struggling. The news industry has been in crisis mode for over a decade trying to find a way to monetize digital content consumption. AdSense publishers have been complaining for years of dwindling earnings.

Estimates say that Google earns $16.5 million dollars per hour from search advertising.  When publishers ask how to improve earnings and traffic, Google’s encouragement to “be awesome” has increasingly acquired a tone of “Let them eat cake.”

A perception has set in that the entire online search ecosystem is struggling except for Google.
The desire for a new search engine has been around for several years. This is why DuckDuckGo has been received so favorably by the search marketing community. This announcement gives voice to long-simmering complaints about Google.

The reaction on Twitter was almost cathartic and generally enthusiastic because of the longstanding perception that Google is not adequately supporting the content creators upon which Google earns billions.

Will this New Search Engine Happen?

Whether this search engine lifts off remains to be seen. The announcement, however, does give voice to many complaints about Google.

No release date has been announced. The scale of this project is huge. It’s almost the online equivalent of going to the moon.

 

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in seroundtable.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jason Bourne]

John Mueller from Google explained on Twitter the difference between the timestamp date in an XML Sitemaps lasmod date and the date on a web page. John said the sitemaps lastmod is when the page as a whole was last changed for crawling/indexing. The date on the page is the date to be associated with the primary content on the page.

John Mueller first said, "A page can change without its primary content changing." He said that doesn't think "crawling needs to be synced to the date associated with the content." The example he gave was for "site redesigns or site moves are pretty clearly disconnected from the content date."

He then added this tweet:

john tweet

So there you have it.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Categorized in Internet Search

[This article is originally published in thenextweb.com written by Abhimanyu Ghoshal - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

The European Union is inching closer to enacting sweeping copyright legislation that would require platforms like Google, Facebook to pay publishers for the privilege of displaying their content to users, as well as monitoring copyright infringement by users on the sites and services they manage.

That’s set to open a Pandora’s Box of problems that could completely derail your internet experience because it’d essentially disallow platforms from displaying content from other sources. In a screenshot shared with Search Engine Land, Google illustrated how this might play out in its search results for news articles:

google
An example of what Google’s search results for news might look like if the EU goes ahead with its copyright directive

As you can see, the page looks empty, because it’s been stripped of all copyrighted content – headlines, summaries and images from articles from various publishers.

Google almost certainly won’t display unusable results like these, but it will probably only feature content from publishers it’s cut deals with (and it’s safe to assume that’s easier for larger companies than small ones).

That would reduce the number of sources of information you’ll be able to discover through the search engine, and it’ll likely lead to a drop in traffic for media outlets. It’s a lose-lose situation, and it’s baffling that EU lawmakers don’t see this as a problem – possibly because they’re fixated on how this ‘solution’ could theoretically benefit content creators and copyright holders by ruling that they must be paid for their output.

It isn’t yet clear when the new copyright directive will come into play – there are numerous processes involved that could take until 2021 before it’s implemented in EU countries’ national laws. Hopefully, the union’s legislators will see sense well before that and put a stop to this madness.

Update: We’ve clarified in our headline that this is Google’s opinion of how its search service will be affected by the upcoming EU copyright directive; it isn’t yet clear how it will eventually be implemented.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in blogs.scientificamerican.com written by Daniel M. Russell and Mario Callegaro - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Rene Meyer] 

Researchers who study how we use search engines share common mistakes, misperceptions, and advice

In a cheery, sunshine-filled fourth-grade classroom in California, the teacher explained the assignment: write a short report about the history of the Belgian Congo at the end of the 19th century, when Belgium colonized this region of Africa. One of us (Russell) was there to help the students with their online research methods.

I watched in dismay as a young student slowly typed her query into a smartphone. This was not going to end well. She was trying to find out which city was the capital of the Belgian Congo during this time period. She reasonably searched [ capital Belgian Congo ] and in less than a second, she discovered that the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Kinshasa, a port town on the Congo River. She happily copied the answer into her worksheet.

But the student did not realize that the Democratic Republic of Congo is a completely different country than the Belgian Congo, which used to occupy the same area. The capital of that former country was Boma until 1926 when it was moved to Léopoldville (which was later renamed Kinshasa). Knowing which city was the capital during which time period is complicated in the Congo, so I was not terribly surprised by the girl’s mistake.

The deep problem here is that she blindly accepted the answer offered by the search engine as correct. She did not realize that there is a deeper history here.

We Google researchers know this is what many students do—they enter the first query that pops into their heads and runs with the answer. Double checking and going deeper are skills that come only with a great deal of practice—and perhaps a bunch of answers marked wrong on important exams. Students often do not have a great deal of background knowledge to flag a result as potentially incorrect, so they are especially susceptible to misguided search results like this.

In fact, a 2016 report by Stanford University education researchers showed that most students are woefully unprepared to assess content they find on the web. For instance, the scientists found that 80 percent of students at U.S. universities are not able to determine if a given web site contains credible information. And it is not just students; many adults share these difficulties.

If she had clicked through to the linked page, the girl probably would have started reading about the history of the Belgian Congo, and found out that it has had a few hundred years of wars, corruption, changes in rulers and shifts in governance. The name of the country changed at least six times in a century, but she never realized that because she only read the answer presented on the search engine results page.

Asking a question of a search engine is something people do several billion times each day. It is the way we find the phone number of the local pharmacy, check on sports scores, read the latest scholarly papers, look for news articles, find pieces of code, and shop. And although searchers look for true answers to their questions, the search engine returns results that are attuned to the query, rather than some external sense of what is true or not. So a search for proof of wrongdoing by a political candidate can return sites that purport to have this information, whether or not the sites or the information are credible. You really do get what you search for.

In many ways, search engines make our metacognitive skills come to the foreground. It is easy to do a search that plays into your confirmation bias—your tendency to think new information supports views you already hold. So good searchers actively seek out information that may conflict with their preconceived notions. They look for secondary sources of support, doing a second or third query to gain other perspectives on their topic. They are constantly aware of what their cognitive biases are, and greet whatever responses they receive from a search engine with healthy skepticism.

For the vast majority of us, most searches are successful. Search engines are powerful tools that can be incredibly helpful, but they also require a bit of understanding to find the information you are actually seeking. Small changes in how you search can go a long way toward finding better answers.

The Limits of Search

It is not surprising or uncommon that a short query may not accurately reflect what a searcher really wants to know. What is actually remarkable is how often a simple, brief query like [ nets ] or [ giants ] will give the right results. After all, both of those words have multiple meanings, and a search engine might conclude that searchers were looking for information on tools to catch butterflies, in the first case, or larger-than-life people in the second. Yet most users who type those words are seeking basketball- and football-related sites and the first search results for those terms provide just that. Even the difference between a query like [the who]versus [a who] is striking. The first set of results are about a classic English rock band, whereas the second query returns references to a popular Dr. Seuss book.

But search engines sometimes seem to give the illusion that you can ask anything about anything and get the right answer. Just like the student in that example, however, most searchers overestimate the accuracy of search engines and their own searching skills. In fact, when Americans were asked to self-rate their searching ability by the Pew Research Center in 2012, 56 percent rated themselves as very confident in their ability to use a search engine to answer a question.

Not surprisingly, the highest confidence scores were for searchers with some college degrees (64 percent were “very confident”—by contrast, 45 percent of those who did not have a college degree describes themselves that way). Age affects this judgment as well, with 64 percent of those under 50 describing themselves as “very confident,” as opposed to only 40 percent older than 50. When talking about how successful they are in their searches, 29 percent reported that they can always find what they are looking for, and 62 percent said they are able to find an answer to their questions most of the time. In surveys, most people tell us that everything they want is online, and conversely, if they cannot find something via a quick search, then it must not exist, it might be out of date, or it might not be of much value.

These are the most recent published results, but we have seen in surveys done at Google in 2018 that these insights from Pew are still true and transcend the years. What was true in 2012 is still exactly the same now: People have great confidence in their ability to search. The only significant change is in their success rates, which have crept up to 35 percent can "always find" what they're looking for, while 73 percent say they can find what they seek "most of the time." This increase is largely due to improvements in the search engines, which improve their data coverage and algorithms every year."

What Good Searchers Do

As long as information needs are easy, simple searches work reasonably well. Most people actually do less than one search per day, and most of those searches are short and commonplace. The average query length on Google during 2016 was 2.3 words. Queries are often brief descriptions like: [ quiche recipe ] or [ calories in chocolate ] or [ parking Tulsa ].

And somewhat surprisingly, most searches have been done before. In an average day, less than 12 percent of all searches are completely novel—that is, most queries have already been entered by another searcher in the past day. By design, search engines have learned to associate short queries with the targets of those searches by tracking pages that are visited as a result of the query, making the results returned both faster and more accurate than they otherwise would have been.

A large fraction of queries are searches for another website (called navigational queries, which make up as much as 25 percent of all queries), or for a short factual piece of information (called informational queries, which are around 40 percent of all queries). However, complex search tasks often need more than a single query to find a satisfactory answer. So how can you do better searches? 

First, you can modify your query by changing a term in your search phrase, generally to make it more precise or by adding additional terms to reduce the number of off-topic results. Very experienced searchers often open multiple browser tabs or windows to pursue different avenues of research, usually investigating slightly different variations of the original query in parallel.

You can see good searchers rapidly trying different search queries in a row, rather than just being satisfied with what they get with the first search. This is especially true for searches that involve very ambiguous terms—a query like [animal food] has many possible interpretations. Good searchers modify the query to get to what they need quickly, such as [pet food] or [animal nutrition], depending on the underlying goal.

Choosing the best way to phrase your query means adding terms that:

  • are central to the topic (avoid peripheral terms that are off-topic)
  • you know the definition of (do not guess at a term if you are not certain)
  • leave common terms together in order ( [ chow pet ] is very different than [ pet chow ])
  • keep the query fairly short (you usually do not need more than two to five terms)

You can make your query more precise by limiting the scope of a search with special operators. The most powerful operators are things such as double-quote marks (as in the query [ “exponential growth occurs when” ], which finds only documents containing that phrase in that specific order. Two other commonly used search operators are site: and filetype: These let you search within only one web site (such as [site:ScientificAmerican.com ]) or for a particular filetype, such as a PDF file (example: [ filetype:pdf coral bleaching ])

Second, try to understand the range of possible search options. Recently, search engines added the capability of searching for images that are similar to the given photo that you can upload. A searcher who knows this can find photos online that have features that resemble those in the original. By clicking through the similar images, a searcher can often find information about the object (or place) in the image. Searching for matches of my favorite fish photo can tell me not just what kind of fish it is, but then provide links to other fishing locations and ichthyological descriptions of this fish species.        

Overall, expert searchers use all of the resources of the search engine and their browsers to search both deeply (by making query variations) and broadly (by having multiple tabs or windows open). Effective searchers also know how to limit a search to a particular website or to a particular kind of document, find a phrase (by using quote marks to delimit the phrase), and find text on a page (by using a text-find tool).

Third, learn some cool tricks. One is the find-text-on-page skill (that is, Command-F on Mac, Control-F on PC), which is unfamiliar to around 90 percent of the English-speaking, Internet-using population in the US. In our surveys of thousands of web users, the large majority have to do a slow (and errorful) visual scan for a string of text on a web site. Knowing how to use text-finding commands speeds up your overall search time by about 12 percent (and is a skill that transfers to almost every other computer application).

Fourth, use your critical-thinking skills.  In one case study, we found that searchers looking for the number of teachers in New York state would often do a query for [number of teachers New York ], and then take the first result as their answer—never realizing that they were reading about the teacher population of New York City, not New York State. In another study, we asked searchers to find the maximum weight a particular model of baby stroller could hold. How big could that baby be?

The answers we got back varied from two pounds to 250 pounds. At both ends of the spectrum, the answers make no sense (few babies in strollers weigh less than five pounds or more than 60 pounds), but inexperienced searchers just assumed that whatever numbers they found correctly answered their search questions. They did not read the context of the results with much care.  

Search engines are amazingly powerful tools that have transformed the way we think of research, but they can hurt more than help when we lack the skills to use them appropriately and evaluate what they tell us. Skilled searchers know that the ranking of results from a search engine is not a statement about objective truth, but about the best matching of the search query, term frequency, and the connectedness of web pages. Whether or not those results answer the searchers’ questions is still up for them to determine.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in scientificamerican.com written by Michael Shermer - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jay Harris]

Google as a window into our private thoughts

What are the weirdest questions you've ever Googled? Mine might be (for my latest book): “How many people have ever lived?” “What do people think about just before death?” and “How many bits would it take to resurrect in a virtual reality everyone who ever lived?” (It's 10 to the power of 10123.) Using Google's autocomplete and Keyword Planner tools, U.K.-based Internet company Digitaloft generated a list of what it considers 20 of the craziest searches, including “Am I pregnant?” “Are aliens real?” “Why do men have nipples?” “Is the world flat?” and “Can a man get pregnant?”

This is all very entertaining, but according to economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who worked at Google as a data scientist (he is now an op-ed writer for the New York Times), such searches may act as a “digital truth serum” for deeper and darker thoughts. As he explains in his book Everybody Lies (Dey Street Books, 2017), “In the pre-digital age, people hid their embarrassing thoughts from other people. In the digital age, they still hide them from other people, but not from the internet and in particular sites such as Google and PornHub, which protect their anonymity.” Employing big data research tools “allows us to finally see what people really want and really do, not what they say they want and say they do.”

People may tell pollsters that they are not racist, for example, and polling data do indicate that bigoted attitudes have been in steady decline for decades on such issues as interracial marriage, women's rights and gay marriage, indicating that conservatives today are more socially liberal than liberals were in the 1950s.

Using the Google Trends tool in analyzing the 2008 U.S. presidential election, however, Stephens-Davidowitz concluded that Barack Obama received fewer votes than expected in Democrat strongholds because of still latent racism. For example, he found that 20 percent of searches that included the N-word (hereafter, “n***”) also included the word “jokes” and that on Obama's first election night about one in 100 Google searches with “Obama” in them included “kkk” or “n***(s).”

“In some states, there were more searches for ‘[n***] president’ than ‘first black president,’” he reports—and the highest number of such searches were not predominantly from Southern Republican bastions as one might predict but included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois. This difference between public polls and private thoughts, Stephens-Davidowitz observes, helps to explain Obama's underperformance in regions with a lot of racist searches and partially illuminates the surprise election of Donald Trump.

But before we conclude that the arc of the moral universe is slouching toward Gomorrah, a Google Trends search for “n*** jokes,” “bitch jokes” and “fag jokes” between 2004 and 2017, conducted by Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker and reported in his 2018 book Enlightenment Now, shows downward-plummeting lines of frequency of searches. “The curves,” he writes, “suggest that Americans are not just more abashed about confessing to prejudice than they used to be; they privately don't find it as amusing.”

More optimistically, these declines in prejudice may be an underestimate, given that when Google began keeping records of searches in 2004 most Googlers were urban and young, who are known to be less prejudiced and bigoted than rural and older people, who adopted the search technology years later (when the bigoted search lines were in steep decline). Stephens-Davidowitz confirms that such intolerant searches are clustered in regions with older and less educated populations and that compared with national searches, those from retirement neighborhoods are seven times as likely to include “n*** jokes” and 30 times as likely to contain “fag jokes.” Additionally, he found that someone who searches for “n***” is also likely to search for older-generation topics such as “Social Security” and “Frank Sinatra.”

What these data show is that the moral arc may not be bending toward justice as smoothly upward as we would like. But as members of the Silent Generation (born 1925–1945) and Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) are displaced by Gen Xers (born 1965–1980) and Millennials (born 1981–1996), and as populations continue shifting from rural to urban living, and as postsecondary education levels keep climbing, such prejudices should be on the wane. And the moral sphere will expand toward greater inclusiveness.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in business2community.com written by Graham Jones - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Joshua Simon] 

Web search is often wasting time for you. There, I have said it. Google is a master illusionist. It makes you think you are working when you are not.

The reason is simple, you can get an answer to any question within seconds. That makes it feel as though you have achieved something. Prior to Google, you may have needed to find a book, look something up in the index, locate the right page and then read it – only to find out it didn’t contain what you wanted. So, you had to choose another book. That might have needed a trip to the library. To find out one fact, it might have taken hours. Now, all it takes is seconds.

Of course, in the past, the information you needed might not have been in a book. You might have needed to speak with someone. Perhaps you could only get the information from an expert. Or, if it was about a company you needed to phone them. Many companies had an “information line” – a special number you could call to speak with someone to get details you needed about the business. All of that took time.

When things take a long time our perception of progress is slow. However, when we can do things rapidly our sense of achievement is heightened. So, when we use the web to search for things which we previously had to look up in a book, take a trip to the library, or make several phone calls, we get a sense of achieving something. It is a psychological illusion that we are working.

It is, therefore, no surprise to discover in recent research that business buyers prefer to obtain information about suppliers using the web, rather than any other tool.

b2b search

According to the study from Path Factory, almost 90% of buyers use web search as their preferred method of finding information. Only one in three people opt for the telephone. That’s no surprise, either. Research from O2, the mobile phone company, found that making phone calls was only the fifth most popular use of a smartphone. It turns out that the most popular use of a mobile phone is to browse the Internet – searching for information.

Web Search is Wasting Time

The problem with web search is that it is often wrong. Yet, most people accept the first result Google provides. For instance, search for “how many planets are there in our solar system” and the first result will tell you that there are eight planets. True, but not quite. Like many other facts, there are nuances which are not explained. Astronomers redefined what constitutes a planet and so our solar system contains eight planets and five “dwarf planets”, including Pluto (which was a planet when I grew up..!). Like many other “facts”, the first information we see on Google misses out the nuance.

Similarly, search for “duplicate content penalty” and you will find thousands of results telling you that you cannot duplicate content on your website because “Google will ban you” or “Google will downgrade your search engine ranking” or some other nonsense. And nonsense it is. Google has said so, repeatedly. Yet, many businesses trying to make their websites optimised for search engines will spend hours and hours recrafting content in order to “remove the penalty”. That’s an activity that is wasting time on work that is unnecessary, all because of search.

However, if you phoned a reliable expert on search engine optimisation you would have received the correct information about duplicating content, avoiding you hours of work. However, to make that phone call and have the conversation is slower than completing a web search and hence it feels less productive.

What this means is, if you need a new supplier you could well make a better selection if you did not use web search. Pick up the phone and speak with people who know the market, such as the contacts you make in business networking. It will feel slower doing this, but the answers you get will be more informed and less prone to the influence of an algorithm. Once you have the recommendations, then use web search to find out about the company.

Making phone calls is becoming a low priority activity. Your office phone rings less than it used to. You feel as though you are being productive because you search and find stuff online, but that is wasting time.

Categorized in Search Engine
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