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[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 in searchengineland.com written By Adam Dorfman - Uploaded by AIRS Member:: Issac Avila]

Sure, Google is still bigger, but contributor Adam Dorfman notes that Bing has been introducing significant innovations. Here's why the underdog search engine is worth another look.

When Microsoft announced strong annual financial results July 19, the growth of the company’s cloud services dominated the conversation. But I noticed something else in the company’s numbers: continued growth for Bing. Although Bing accounts for a small share of Microsoft’s revenues, the search platform grew 17 percent year over year.

As TechRadar reported,

As more people used Bing, the search revenue (excluding traffic acquisition costs) also grew, so it looks like things are moving in the right direction.

Bing remains a distant second to Google in terms of market share, but the marketplace needs Bing to grow. A prosperous Bing gives businesses an alternative to Google and another viable platform to grow their visibility.

Google and another viable platform to grow their visibility

Bing’s product improvements are good for brands and good for Google because healthy competition keeps everyone on their toes. Bing’s improvements also help business owners and search marketers in their optimization efforts. Let’s take a look at a number of Bing’s improvements and how we can use them to promote our businesses.

Basic Bing search

On a fundamental level, Bing has enriched basic search to encourage discovery beyond top-level search results. For example, if you use your smartphone to search for “movies” on both Bing and Google, both will show you what’s playing where you live. But Bing also displays tabs for movies on Netflix and Amazon, thus demonstrating an awareness of how we discover movies beyond the theater.

Or a search for the musician Drake on both engines displays prominently in search results news results and video content, but there are more visible social links on Google encouraging further exploration. These differences are subtle, but they matter given how search has become more of a process of deep discovery, especially as we use our voices to do more complex searches.

Along these same lines, Bing recently enhanced search with the rollout of a search entity API, which produces a richer contextual search result. As Bing announced in March:

Bing Entity Search API brings rich contextual information about people, places, things, and local businesses to any application, blog, or website for a more engaging user experience. With Bing Entity Search, you can identify the most relevant entity results based on the search term and provide users with primary details about those entities. With our latest coverage improvements, we now support multiple international markets and many more entity types such as famous people, places, movies, TV shows, video games, and books. With this new API, developers can enhance their apps by exposing rich data from the Bing Knowledge Graph directly in their apps.

A more robust knowledge graph means that businesses need to place more emphasis on the content and data they publish on their own pages, starting with Bing Places for Business. If you’ve been treating Bing Places for Business as an optional alternative to Google My Business, it’s time to start using it as another way to promote your brand.

Visual content

Bing has always been known for being a visually appealing search engine, including its basic layout and home page. From the start, Bing understood that we live in a visual age, with people uploading billions of images and video online every day.

Bing has continuously built upon its embrace of a more visually appealing search aesthetic. For example, Bing presents video search results via appealing thumbnail panels that are easy to explore:

Bing presents video search results via appealing thumbnail

By contrast, video results for Google look more utilitarian and less visually appealing:

 

By contrast video results for Google look more utilitarian and less visually appealing

Bing also recently announced the launch of visual search, which lets people use images to easily navigate the search engine and find content. With the Bing app on your smartphone, you can either take a photo or upload one, and then quickly perform visual searches.

Bing visual search was widely perceived as an answer to Google Lens. But Google’s own visual search capability is limited (iOS users lack access to it), whereas Bing made visual search widely available for Android and iOS.

Bing visual search is important because it’s yet another sign that businesses need to be visually savvy with their own content. Google has been placing more emphasis on the power of strong visuals in its knowledge graphs as a way of making a business more findable and useful to searchers. Visual search has a multitude of applications, an obvious one being for retailers, especially as people don’t always know how to describe a product they’re trying to find, making the use of a photo easier and faster for discovery.

What brands should do

Bing’s enhancement of more complex and visual search alone is a reason brands need to treat Bing as a powerful part of their search toolkit. Although it’s more work to maintain a presence on multiple platforms, the reward is greater, too.

One easy way to better understand Bing is to experience the platform regularly, as people do. If it’s not your default engine, make time to get yourself comfortable using Bing to navigate. Download the Bing app on your mobile device and compare the features to Google’s app. The more you explore through the eyes of your customer, the more likely you’ll find additional ways to be found on both Google and Bing.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in edp24.co.uk written by Luke Powell - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Daniel K. Henry]

A man from Thetford viewed indecent child abuse images on the dark web as he found it “exciting”, a court heard.

Matthew Norman, of Station Road, was found to have dozens of indecent images on his computer after his home was searched by police.

Norwich Magistrates' Court heard that the 30-year-old repeatedly visited a particular site on the dark web up to four times a day for a year.

Despite this, Norman told police he did not have a sexual interest in children and was instead visiting the site as he found the danger of it “exciting”.

Prosecutor Josephine Jones told the court on Friday (April 26) that police searched Norman's home after his IP address was found to have accessed the dark web.

The dark web is a collection of websites on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using traditional search engines or browsers.

Miss Jones said when officers examined his computer they found 50 indecent images, including 13 'category A' photographs.

Norman provided police with passwords to his computer and initially said when he came across such images online he would stop and close the website.

Miss Jones said: “When asked why he repeatedly returned to the website, he said he did so because of the shock factor knowing it was illegal or wrong. He said he was excited by the danger of being on the website.

“He denied downloading images and denied having a sexual interest in children.”

The court heard how Norman also accessed chat rooms on the dark web where there were conversations around child abuse.

Norman pleaded guilty to making 13 indecent categories A images of a child, 10 category B images of a child and 27 category C images of a child.

All of the offenses were said to have occurred on or before January 5, 2017.

The court heard how Norman, who is married, had no previous convictions or cautions.

Orla Daly, mitigating, asked magistrates for a pre-sentence report.

Norman will return to Norwich Magistrates' Court for sentencing on May 30.

He must not have any unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 16 unless permission is granted by a parent or guardian.


Categorized in Deep Web

[This article is originally published in qz.com written by Matthew De Silva - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jay Harris]

Google might be stunting your online experience. Today, 75% of desktop and laptop searches pass through the world’s most popular search engine. Google’s next closest competitor, the Chinese search giant Baidu, accounts for just 12%.

Like compasses, search engines are useful tools, guiding us through the oceans of online information. But unlike compasses, they are often dynamic and personalized. Search engines gather data and learn from each input. While that customized aspect makes our searches more efficient, it can subtly undermine our autonomy.

“[W]hen you search, you expect unbiased results, but that’s not what you get on Google,” Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, writes on Quora. “On Google, you get results tailored to what they think you’re likely to click on, based on the data profile they’ve built on you over time.”

On the surface, that may seem innocuous. But if our options are algorithmically curated, that removes our choice and diminishes our exposure to challenging viewpoints. Weinberg believes filtered searches engines like Google create echo chambers and further polarize society. Through clicks, we construct our own barriers, and eventually, we might become too blind to know they exist.

DuckDuckGo daily direct search queries

DuckDuckGo daily direct search queries

Alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo and Qwant—a French company—are growing in popularity. Because these tools don’t track users, they are less precise than Google, but they help users avoid “filter bubbles” that limit what they see. DuckDuckGo recently surpassed 35 million daily direct search queries. Google, meanwhile, processes 5.5 billion searches per day. Obviously, that’s a massive gap, but the market for privacy-preserving search is growing worldwide.

Google’s advertising machine is another reason to consider other search engines. By studying our search behavior, products are promoted to us by advertisers who have a direct line to our most intimate thoughts and desires. Our online profiles are caricatures of our true selves, but in a very real way, our searches can shape who we become. Advertisers are interjecting themselves, almost invisibly, into this information exchange.

We often treat Google like our personal encyclopedia. The search engine’s sleek design can make us forget that it’s not a private getaway or even an extension of ourselves. Alternative search engines, though, do not fit seamlessly into our digital lives. That honesty is refreshing and it helps remind a person of the physical-digital divide.

If changing your default search engine seems too inconvenient, you can opt out of Google’s personalization, revoking access to search and location histories. Although it’s a mild annoyance, it can help us acknowledge the blinders Google has erected around our queries.

About six months ago, I created a new Google account, so my username would sound more professional. As I used the new profile, I was amazed by how little Google knew about the “new” me. YouTube had forgotten my love of basketball and ice hockey highlights. Instead, I saw recommendations for Vine compilations and prank videos. On search, I no longer saw advertisements for cryptocurrency conferences. Making a new profile showed me that I could recreate myself and have an entirely different online experience. That was unsettling, but eye-opening.

By changing your privacy and advertising settings, you can climb out of Google’s digital silo to encounter the real and unfiltered world. It might require more effort to find what you’re looking for—but at least you’ll know that you’re doing it on your own terms.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchenginejournal.com written by Dave Davies - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Joshua Simon]

As SEO professionals, we generally focus on the question, “How do I rank my page?”

An equally, if not more important question we should be asking is, “How do search engines rank pages?”

Why Search Engines Rank Webpages

Before we dive into how search engines rank webpages let’s stop for a moment and think about why they rank them.

After all, it would be cheaper and easier for them to simply display pages randomly, by word count, by freshness, or any of a variety of easy sorting systems.

The reason they don’t do that is obvious. You wouldn’t use it.

So when we ask the question about rankings, what we need to always keep in mind is that the user we are trying to satisfy is not ours, they belong to the engine and the engines are loaning them to us.

If we misuse that user, they may not return to the engine and thus the engine can’t have that as their ad revenue will decline.

I like to think of the scenario like some of the resource pages on our own site.

If we recommend a tool or service, it is based on our experience with them and we believe they will serve our visitors as well. If we hear they do not, then we will remove them from our site.

That’s what the engines are doing.

But how?

Disclaimer

I do not have eavesdropping devices at Google or Bing. Google has one sitting on my desk and another I carry around with me when I’m not at it but for some reason, the message pickup doesn’t work the other way.

I state this to make clear that the following outline is based on about 20 years of watching the search engines evolve, reading patents (or more often – Bill Slawski’s analysis of patents), and starting each day for many years by reviewing the goings on in the industry from SERP layout changes to acquisitions to algo updates.

Take what I am saying as a highly educated breakdown that’s probably about 90 percent right. If you’re wondering why I think 90 percent – I learned from Bing’s Frederic Dubut that 90 percent is a great number to use when guesstimating.

It’s Only A Simple 5 Steps – Easy

There are five steps to the complete process of ranking a page.

I am not including the technical challenges like load-balancing obviously and I’m not talking about each various signal calculation.

I’m just talking about the core process that every query needs to go through to start its life as an information request and end it as a set of 10 blue links buried beneath a sea of ads.

Understand this process, understand who it is designed to serve, and you will be on your way to thinking properly about how to rank your pages to their users.

I also feel it’s necessary to note that the words used for these steps are mine and not some type of official name. Feel free to use them but don’t expect any one of the engines to use the same terminology.

Step 1: Classify

The first step in the process is to classify the query coming in. The classification of the query gives the engine the information it needs to perform all of the following steps.

Before complex classification could take place (read: back when the engines relied on keywords instead of entities) the engines basically had to apply the same signals to all queries. As we will explore further below, this is no longer the case.

It’s in this first stage that the engine will apply such labels (again, not a technical term but an easy way to think about it) to a query such as:

  • YMYL
  • Local
  • Unseen
  • Adult
  • Question

I have no idea how many different classifications there are but the first step the engine would need to make is to determine which apply to any given query.

Step 2: Context

The second step in the ranking process is to assign context.

Where possible, the engine needs to take into account any relevant information they have on the user entering the query.

We see this regularly for queries, even those we don’t ask. We see them here:

google weather

And we see them here:

google mobile apps

The latter, of course, being an example of where I didn’t specifically enter the query.

Essentially, the second stage in the process is for the engine to determine what environmental and historical factors come into play.

They know the category of the query, here they apply, determine or pull the data related to elements deemed relevant for that query category and type.

Some examples of environmental and historical information that would be considered are:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Whether the query is a question
  • The device being used for the query
  • The format being used for the query
  • Whether the query relates to previous queries
  • Whether they have seen that query before

Step 3: Weights

Before we dive in let me ask you, how sick are you of hearing about RankBrain?

Well, buckle up because we’re about to bring it up again but only as an example of this third step.

Before an engine can determine what pages should rank they first need to determine which signals are most important.

For a query like [civil war] we get a result that looks like:

america civil war

Solid result. But what happens if freshness had played a strong role? We’d end up with a result more like:

google search america civil war

But we can’t rule out freshness. Had the query been [best shows on netflix], I’d care less about authority and more about how recently it was published.

I hardly want a heavily linked piece from 2008 outlining the best DVDs to order on their service.

So, with the query type in hand as well as the context elements pulled the engine can now rely on their understanding of which of their signals applies and with which weightings for the given combinations.

Some of this can certainly be accomplished manually by the many talented engineers and computer scientists employed and part of it will be handled by systems like RankBrain which is (for the 100th time) a machine learning algorithm designed to adjust the signal weights for previously unseen queries but later introduced into Google’s algorithms as a whole.

With the statement that roughly 90 percent of its ranking algorithms rely on machine learning, it can reasonably be assumed that Bing has similar systems.

Step 4: Layout

We’ve all seen it. In fact, you can see it in the civil war example above. For different queries the search results page layout changes.

The engines will determine what possible formats apply to a query intent, the user running the query and the available resources.

The full page of the SERP for [civil war] looks like:

google search america civil war layout

I’ve put an educated guess on the core factor used to determine when each element is present.

The truth is, it’s a moving target and relies on a knowledge of entities, how they connect, and how they are weighted. That’s a highly complex subject so we won’t dive into it here.

What’s important to understand in the context of this piece is that the different elements of any given search results page need to be determined more-or-less on the fly.

This is to say, when a query is run and the first three steps completed the engine will reference a database of the various possible elements to inset onto the page, the possible placements and then determine which will apply to the specific query.

An Aside: I noted above that the search results pages were generated more-or-less on the fly.

While this would be true of infrequent queries, for common queries it is far more likely that the engines keep a database of which elements they have already calculated to fit the likely user intent so as to not have to process that each time.

I would imagine there is a time limit on it after which it refreshes and I suspect that it refreshes the full entry at time of low use.

But moving on, the engine now knows the classification of a query, the context the information is being requested in, the signal weights that apply to such a query, and the layout most likely to meet the various possible intents for a query.

Finally, it’s time for ranking.

Step 5: Ranking

Interestingly, this is probably the easiest step of the process, though not as singular as one might think.

When we think of organic rankings we think of the 10 blue links. So let’s start there and look at the process thus far:

  • The user enters a query.
  • The engine considers the type of query and classifies it to understand what key criteria apply at a high level based on similar or identical previous query interactions.
  • The engine considers the user’s position in space and time to consider their likely intents.
  • The engine takes the query classifications and user-specific signals and uses this to determine which signals should hold what weights.
  • The engine uses the above data to also determine which layouts, formats, and additional data may satisfy or supplement the user’s intent.

With all this in hand and with an algorithm already written, the engine needs simply crunch the numbers.

They will pull in the various sites that can be considered for ranking, apply the weights to their algorithms, and crunch the number to determine the order that the sites should appear in the search results.

Of course, they must do this for each element on the page in various ways.

Videos, stories, entities, and information all change, so the engines need to order not just the blue links but everything else on the page as well.

In Short

The ranking of the site is easy. It’s putting everything together to do it that’s the real work.

You may ask how understanding this can help you with your SEO efforts. It’s like understanding the core functions of how your computer works. I can’t build a processor, but I know what they do, and I know what characteristics make for a faster one and how cooling impacts them.

Knowing this results in me having a faster machine that I need to update and upgrade far less often.

The same is true for SEO.

If you understand the core of how the engine function you will understand your place in that ecosystem. And that will result in strategies designed with the engine in mind and serving the real user – their user.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in technobleak.com written by Kunal Ambadekar - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Mercedes J. Steinman]

“The Next Generation Search Engines market 2018 – 2023 report cover very impotent details” The Next Generation Search Engines Market report categorizes the market-based Trends, future prospect, Market share, size depending on the total research. And also provide technology, product cost, gross margin, and revenue The report highlights the market size and the important segments, providing quick relevant information about the Next Generation Search Engines market.

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Categorized in Internet Search

[This article is originally published in theguardian.com written by Carole Cadwalladr - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

Tech-savvy rightwingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and… Donald Trump becomes president

Here’s what you don’t want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That’s all I did. I typed: “a-r-e”. And then “j-e-w-s”. Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: “are Jews a race?”, “are Jews white?”, “are Jews Christians?”, and finally, “are Jews evil?”

Is Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges, etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.”

Google searches. It’s the verb, to Google. It’s what we all do, all the time, whenever we want to know anything. We Google it. The site handles at least 63,000 searches a second, 5.5bn a day. Its mission as a company, the one-line overview that has informed the company since its foundation and is still the banner headline on its corporate website today, is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It strives to give you the best, most relevant results. And in this instance the third-best, most relevant result to the search query “are Jews… ” is a link to an article from stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi website. The fifth is a YouTube video: “Why the Jews are Evil. Why we are against them.”

The sixth is from Yahoo Answers: “Why are Jews so evil?” The seventh result is: “Jews are demonic souls from a different world.” And the 10th is from jesus-is-saviour.com: “Judaism is Satanic!”

There’s one result in the 10 that offers a different point of view. It’s a link to a rather dense, scholarly book review from thetabletmag.com, a Jewish magazine, with the unfortunately misleading headline: “Why Literally Everybody In the World Hates Jews.”

I feel like I’ve fallen down a wormhole, entered some parallel universe where black is white, and good is bad. Though later, I think that perhaps what I’ve actually done is scraped the topsoil off the surface of 2016 and found one of the underground springs that have been quietly nurturing it. It’s been there all the time, of course. Just a few keystrokes away… on our laptops, our tablets, our phones. This isn’t a secret Nazi cell lurking in the shadows. It’s hiding in plain sight.

Are women Googles search results

Stories about fake news on Facebook have dominated certain sections of the press for weeks following the American presidential election, but arguably this is even more powerful, more insidious. Frank Pasquale, professor of law at the University of Maryland, and one of the leading academic figures calling for tech companies to be more open and transparent calls the results “very profound, very troubling”.

He came across a similar instance in 2006 when, “If you typed ‘Jew’ in Google, the first result was jewwatch.org. It was ‘look out for these awful Jews who are ruining your life’. And the Anti-Defamation League went after them and so they put an asterisk next to it which said: ‘These search results may be disturbing but this is an automated process.’ But what you’re showing – and I’m very glad you are documenting it and screenshotting it – is that despite the fact they have vastly researched this problem, it has gotten vastly worse.”

And ordering of search results does influence people, says Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College, London, who has written at length on the impact of the big tech companies on our civic and political spheres. “There’s large-scale, statistically significant research into the impact of search results on political views. And the way in which you see the results and the types of results you see on the page necessarily has an impact on your perspective.” Fake news, he says, has simply “revealed a much bigger problem. These companies are so powerful and so committed to disruption. They thought they were disrupting politics but in a positive way. They hadn’t thought about the downsides. These tools offer remarkable empowerment, but there’s a dark side to it. It enables people to do very cynically, damaging things.”

Google is knowledge. It’s where you go to find things out. And evil Jews are just the start of it. There are also evil women. I didn’t go looking for them either. This is what I type: “a-r-e w-o-m-e-n”. And Google offers me just two choices, the first of which is: “Are women evil?” I press return. Yes, they are. Every one of the 10 results “confirms” that they are, including the top one, from a site called sheddingoftheego.com, which is boxed out and highlighted: “Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them. It is within reason to say women feel attraction but they cannot love men.”

Next I type: “a-r-e m-u-s-l-i-m-s”. And Google suggests I should ask: “Are Muslims bad?” And here’s what I find out: yes, they are. That’s what the top result says and six of the others. Without typing anything else, simply putting the cursor in the search box, Google offers me two new searches and I go for the first, “Islam is bad for society”. In the next list of suggestions, I’m offered: “Islam must be destroyed.”

Jews are evil. Muslims need to be eradicated. And Hitler? Do you want to know about Hitler? Let’s Google it. “Was Hitler bad?” I type. And here’s Google’s top result: “10 Reasons Why Hitler Was One Of The Good Guys” I click on the link: “He never wanted to kill any Jews”; “he cared about conditions for Jews in the work camps”; “he implemented social and cultural reform.” Eight out of the other 10 search results agree: Hitler really wasn’t that bad.

A few days later, I talk to Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. He’s been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naive, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? “No, you’re not being naive,” he says. “This is awful. It’s horrible. It’s the equivalent of going into a library and asking a librarian about Judaism and being handed 10 books of hate. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here. It can and should do better.”

He’s surprised too. “I thought they stopped offering to autocomplete suggestions for religions in 2011.” And then he types “are women” into his own computer. “Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a “direct answer”. This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.” That every woman has some degree of prostitute in her? “Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.”

I contacted Google about its seemingly malfunctioning autocomplete suggestions and received the following response: “Our search results are a reflection of the content across the web. This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what search results appear for a given query. These results don’t reflect Google’s own opinions or beliefs – as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures.”

Google isn’t just a search engine, of course. The search was the foundation of the company but that was just the beginning. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, now has the greatest concentration of artificial intelligence experts in the world. It is expanding into healthcare, transportation, energy. It’s able to attract the world’s top computer scientists, physicists, and engineers. It’s bought hundreds of start-ups, including Calico, the whose stated mission is to “cure death” and DeepMind, which aims to “solve intelligence”.

And 20 years ago it didn’t even exist. When Tony Blair became prime minister, it wasn’t possible to Google him: the search engine had yet to be invented. The company was only founded in 1998 and Facebook didn’t appear until 2004. Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are still only 43. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is 32. Everything they’ve done, the world they’ve remade, has been done in the blink of an eye.

But it seems the implications about the power and reach of these companies is only now seeping into the public consciousness. I ask Rebecca MacKinnon, director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at the New America Foundation, whether it was the recent furore over fake news that woke people up to the danger of ceding our rights as citizens to corporations. “It’s kind of weird right now,” she says, “because people are finally saying, ‘Gee, Facebook, and Google really has a lot of power’ like it’s this big revelation. And it’s like, ‘D’oh.’”

MacKinnon has particular expertise in how authoritarian governments adapt to the internet and bend it to their purposes. “China and Russia are a cautionary tale for us. I think what happens is that it goes back and forth. So during the Arab spring, it seemed like the good guys were further ahead. And now it seems like the bad guys are. Pro-democracy activists are using the internet more than ever but at the same time, the adversary has gotten so much more skilled.”

Last week Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina, published the first detailed  cursor: pointer; text-decoration: none !important; border-bottom: 0.0625rem solid rgb(220, 220, 220); transition: border-color 0.15s ease-out 0s;">research on how rightwing websites had spread their message. “I took a list of these fake news sites that was circulating, I had an initial list of 306 of them and I used a tool – like the one Google uses – to scrape them for links and then I mapped them. So I looked at where the links went – into YouTube and Facebook, and between each other, millions of them… and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“They have created a web that is bleeding through on to our web. This isn’t a conspiracy. There isn’t one person who’s created this. It’s a vast system of hundreds of different sites that are using all the same tricks that all websites use. They’re sending out thousands of links to other sites and together this has created a vast satellite system of rightwing news and propaganda that has completely surrounded the mainstream media system.”

He found 23,000 pages and 1.3m hyperlinks. “And Facebook is just the amplification device. When you look at it in 3D, it actually looks like a virus. And Facebook was just one of the hosts for the virus that helps it spread faster. You can see the New York Times in there and the Washington Post and then you can see how there’s a vast, vast network surrounding them. The best way of describing it is as an ecosystem. This really goes way beyond individual sites or individual stories. What this map shows is the distribution network and you can see that it’s surrounding and actually choking the mainstream news ecosystem.”

Charlie Beckett, a professor in the school of media and communications at LSE, tells me: “We’ve been arguing for some time now that plurality of news media is good. Diversity is good. Critiquing the mainstream media is good. But now… it’s gone wildly out of control. What Jonathan Albright’s research has shown is that this isn’t a byproduct of the internet. And it’s not even being done for commercial reasons. It’s motivated by ideology, by people who are quite deliberately trying to destabilise the internet.”

Albright’s map also provides a clue to understanding the Google search results I found. What these rightwing news sites have done, he explains, is what most commercial websites try to do. They try to find the tricks that will move them up Google’s PageRank system. They try and “game” the algorithm. And what his map shows is how well they’re doing that.

That’s what my searches are showing too. That the right has colonised the digital space around these subjects – Muslims, women, Jews, the Holocaust, black people – far more effectively than the liberal left.

“It’s an information war,” says Albright. “That’s what I keep coming back to.”

But it’s where it goes from here that’s truly frightening. I ask him how it can be stopped. “I don’t know. I’m not sure it can be. It’s a network. It’s far more powerful than any one actor.”

So, it’s almost got a life of its own? “Yes, and it’s learning. Every day, it’s getting stronger.”

The more people who search for information about Jews, the more people will see links to hate sites, and the more they click on those links (very few people click on to the second page of results) the more traffic the sites will get, the more links they will accrue and the more authoritative they will appear. This is an entirely circular knowledge economy that has only one outcome: an amplification of the message. Jews are evil. Women are evil. Islam must be destroyed. Hitler was one of the good guys.

And the constellation of websites that Albright found – a sort of shadow internet – has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

Cambridge Analytica, an American-owned company based in London, was employed by both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, has made few public announcements since the Brexit referendum but he did say this: “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists.”

Steve Bannon, the founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board and it has emerged that the company is in talks to undertake political messaging work for the Trump administration. It claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. It knows their quirks and nuances and daily habits and can target them individually.

“It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.”

Did such micro-targeted propaganda – currently legal – swing the Brexit vote? We have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica help Trump to victory? Again, we have no way of knowing. This is all happening in complete darkness. We have no way of knowing how our personal data is being mined and used to influence us. We don’t realise that the Facebook page we are looking at, the Google page, the ads that we are seeing, the search results we are using, are all being personalised to us. We don’t see it because we have nothing to compare it to. And it is not being monitored or recorded. It is not being regulated. We are inside a machine and we simply have no way of seeing the controls. Most of the time, we don’t even realise that there are controls.

Rebecca MacKinnon says that most of us consider the internet to be like “the air that we breathe and the water that we drink”. It surrounds us. We use it. And we don’t question it. “But this is not a natural landscape. Programmers and executives and editors and designers, they make this landscape. They are human beings and they all make choices.”

But we don’t know what choices they are making. Neither Google or Facebook make their algorithms public. Why did my Google search return nine out of 10 search results that claim Jews are evil? We don’t know and we have no way of knowing. Their systems are what Frank Pasquale describes as “black boxes”. He calls Google and Facebook “a terrifying duopoly of power” and has been leading a growing movement of academics who are calling for “algorithmic accountability”. “We need to have regular audits of these systems,” he says. “We need people in these companies to be accountable. In the US, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, every company has to have a spokesman you can reach. And this is what needs to happen. They need to respond to complaints about hate speech, about bias.”

Is bias built into the system? Does it affect the kind of results that I was seeing? “There’s all sorts of bias about what counts as a legitimate source of information and how that’s weighted. There’s enormous commercial bias. And when you look at the personnel, they are young, white and perhaps Asian, but not black or Hispanic and they are overwhelmingly men. The worldview of young wealthy white men informs all these judgments.”

Later, I speak to Robert Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, and the author of the study that Martin Moore told me about (and that Google has publicly criticised), showing how search-rank results affect voting patterns. On the other end of the phone, he repeats one of the searches I did. He types “do blacks…” into Google.

“Look at that. I haven’t even hit a button and it’s automatically populated the page with answers to the query: ‘Do blacks commit more crimes?’ And look, I could have been going to ask all sorts of questions. ‘Do blacks excel at sports’, or anything. And it’s only given me two choices and these aren’t simply search-based or the most searched terms right now. Google used to use that but now they use an algorithm that looks at other things. Now, let me look at Bing and Yahoo. I’m on Yahoo and I have 10 suggestions, not one of which is ‘Do black people commit more crime?’

“And people don’t question this. Google isn’t just offering a suggestion. This is a negative suggestion and we know that negative suggestions depending on lots of things can draw between five and 15 more clicks. And this all programmed. And it could be programmed differently.”

What Epstein’s work has shown is that the contents of a page of search results can influence people’s views and opinions. The type and order of search rankings was shown to influence voters in India in double-blind trials. There were similar results relating to the search suggestions you are offered.

“The general public are completely in the dark about very fundamental issues regarding online search and influence. We are talking about the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it.”

Damien Tambini, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, who focuses on media regulation, says that we lack any sort of framework to deal with the potential impact of these companies on the democratic process. “We have structures that deal with powerful media corporations. We have competition laws. But these companies are not being held responsible. There are no powers to get Google or Facebook to disclose anything. There’s an editorial function to Google and Facebook but it’s being done by sophisticated algorithms. They say it’s machines not editors. But that’s simply a mechanised editorial function.”

And the companies says John Naughton, the Observer columnist and a senior research fellow at Cambridge University, are terrified of acquiring editorial responsibilities they don’t want. “Though they can and regularly do tweak the results in all sorts of ways.”

Certainly, the results about Google on Google don’t seem entirely neutral. Google “Is Google racist?” and the featured result – the Google answer boxed out at the top of the page – is quite clear: no. It is not.

But the enormity and complexity of having two global companies of a kind we have never seen before influencing so many areas of our lives is such, says Naughton, that “we don’t even have the mental apparatus to even know what the problems are”.

And this is especially true of the future. Google and Facebook are at the forefront of AI. They are going to own the future. And the rest of us can barely start to frame the sorts of questions we ought to be asking. “Politicians don’t think long term. And corporations don’t think long term because they’re focused on the next quarterly results and that’s what makes Google and Facebook interesting and different. They are absolutely thinking long term. They have the resources, the money, and the ambition to do whatever they want.

“They want to digitize every book in the world: they do it. They want to build a self-driving car: they do it. The fact that people are reading about these fake news stories and realising that this could have an effect on politics and elections, it’s like, ‘Which planet have you been living on?’ For Christ’s sake, this is obvious.”

“The internet is among the few things that humans have built that they don’t understand.” It is “the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. Hundreds of millions of people are, each minute, creating and consuming an untold amount of digital content in an online world that is not truly bound by terrestrial laws.” The internet as a lawless anarchic state? A massive human experiment with no checks and balances and untold potential consequences? What kind of digital doom-mongerer would say such a thing? Step forward, Eric Schmidt – Google’s chairman. They are the first lines of the book, The New Digital Age, that he wrote with Jared Cohen.

And what next? Rebecca MacKinnon’s research has shown how authoritarian regimes reshape the internet for their own purposes. Is that what’s going to happen with Silicon Valley and Trump? As Martin Moore points out, the president-elect claimed that Apple chief executive Tim Cook called to congratulate him soon after his election victory. “And there will undoubtedly be be pressure on them to collaborate,” says Moore.

Journalism is failing in the face of such change and is only going to fail further. New platforms have put a bomb under the financial model – advertising – resources are shrinking, traffic is increasingly dependent on them, and publishers have no access, no insight at all, into what these platforms are doing in their headquarters, their labs. And now they are moving beyond the digital world into the physical. The next frontiers are healthcare, transportation, energy. And just as Google is a near-monopoly for search, its ambition to own and control the physical infrastructure of our lives is what’s coming next. It already owns our data and with it our identity. What will it mean when it moves into all the other areas of our lives?

“At the moment, there’s a distance when you Google ‘Jews are’ and get ‘Jews are evil’,” says Julia Powles, a researcher at Cambridge on technology and law. “But when you move into the physical realm, and these concepts become part of the tools being deployed when you navigate around your city or influence how people are employed, I think that has really pernicious consequences.”

The headline was that DeepMind was going to work with the NHS to develop an app that would provide early warning for sufferers of kidney disease. And it is, but DeepMind’s ambitions – “to solve intelligence” – goes way beyond that. The entire history of 2 million NHS patients is, for artificial intelligence researchers, a treasure trove. And, their entry into the NHS – providing useful services in exchange for our personal data – is another massive step in their power and influence in every part of our lives.

Because the stage beyond search is prediction. Google wants to know what you want before you know yourself. “That’s the next stage,” says Martin Moore. “We talk about the omniscience of these tech giants, but that omniscience takes a huge step forward again if they are able to predict. And that’s where they want to go. To predict diseases in health. It’s really, really problematic.”

For the nearly 20 years that Google has been in existence, our view of the company has been inflected by the youth and liberal outlook of its founders. Ditto Facebook, whose mission, Zuckberg said, was not to be “a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission to make the world more open and connected.”

It would be interesting to know how he thinks that’s working out. Donald Trump is connecting through exactly the same technology platforms that supposedly helped fuel the Arab spring; connecting to racists and xenophobes. And Facebook and Google are amplifying and spreading that message. And us too – the mainstream media. Our outrage is just another node on Jonathan Albright’s data map.

“The more we argue with them, the more they know about us,” he says. “It all feeds into a circular system. What we’re seeing here is new era of network propaganda.”

We are all points on that map. And our complicity, our credulity, being consumers not concerned citizens, is an essential part of that process. And what happens next is down to us. “I would say that everybody has been really naive and we need to reset ourselves to a much more cynical place and proceed on that basis,” is Rebecca MacKinnon’s advice. “There is no doubt that where we are now is a very bad place. But it’s we as a society who have jointly created this problem. And if we want to get to a better place, when it comes to having an information ecosystem that serves human rights and democracy instead of destroying it, we have to share responsibility for that.”

Are Jews evil? How do you want that question answered? This is our internet. Not Google’s. Not Facebook’s. Not rightwing propagandists. And we’re the only ones who can reclaim it.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Go to a search result, click on a listing, and then click back to the search results page on Google to trigger this on Google desktop search.

Google has launched a new look and feels for the “people also search for” query refinement box. Google has been testing numerous designs of this feature over the years, including dynamic loading versions.

Now, Google shows a box around an organic result with “people also searched for” suggestions below, separated by a line. The suggestions either load on delay or when a user clicks on a result and then clicks back to the search results.

Here is what the “people also search for” feature looks like now:

Here is what the people also search for feature looks like now

Google has been testing this specific design since last November.

This is the old look on desktop:

people also ask

This seems to now be fully rolled out on a desktop search, so you can give it a try yourself.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Barry Schwartz - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Grace Irwin]

New markup from Schema.org including HowTo, QAPage, and FAQPage can be used to potentially show your content in Google in a brand-new way. Google previewed this in Singapore a couple of weeks ago

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has been testing for the past several months a new form of search results snippets: the way the search results appear to searchers. These new search snippets are in the form of FAQs or frequently asked questions, Q&A (questions & answers) and How-Tos.

Akhil Agarwal notified us about this feature on Twitter, and Google has just sent us a statement explaining the test. Here is the screenshot presented at a recent Google event in Singapore:

Google FAQs QA and How Tos

A Google Spokesperson told us:

We’re always looking for new ways to provide the most relevant, useful results for our users. We’ve recently introduced new ways to help users understand whether responses on a given Q&A or forum site could have the best answer for their question. By bringing a preview of these answers onto Search, we’re helping our users more quickly identify which source is most likely to have the information they’re looking for. We’re currently working with partners to experiment with ways to surface similar previews for FAQ and How-to content.

These new snippet features give more insights into what the searcher can expect from that web page before deciding to click on the search result. Webmasters should be able to mark up their content with structured data and to have their search results be eligible to have question-and-answer previews shown — similar to how supporting metadata around the number of upvotes and the Top Answer feature works.

Google will soon open up an interest form to allow publishers and webmasters to participate in the FAQ and How-to formats shown in the screenshot above.

But if you review the Schema.org website, you can find a lot of this markup available already, including HowTo markupQA page markup, and FAQ markup. So if you want to get started early, consider adding the appropriate markup to the sections of your HTML.

Categorized in Search Engine

[This article is originally published in searchengineland.com written by Amy Gesenhues - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Users no longer have to go to their Google Account page to access privacy controls

Google updated its user privacy controls on Wednesday, allowing users to delete their search activity — and control the ads the see — directly from the Google Search home page both on desktop and the mobile web, as well as from the Google Search iOS app.

As long as a user is signed into their account, they will be able to access their search data without having to go to their Google Account page and click through to the “Personal info & privacy” settings. On the mobile web experience, “Your data in Search” will be a persistent menu item on the home page as well as on results pages.

Google search data

Why search marketers should care

Since news broke that Cambridge Analytica had used an app to harvest and exploit Facebook user data and then the later launch of the EU’s GDPR legislation, Google and other popular online platforms have been forced to pay more attention to how they store user data and be more transparent about how that data is used for ad targeting purposes.

While this latest update from Google is a step in the right direction in terms of user privacy, advertisers could be impacted in two ways. First, it’s now easier for users to delete and control their search data, making it more difficult to target ads to them. Second, users will be able to react more quickly to ads they don’t want to see. One could argue that such controls would help advertisers avoid serving ads to likely unresponsive audiences, therefore allowing them to focus on more receptive individuals.

“To control the ads you see when you search, we give you access to your Ad Settings. Additionally, you can access your Activity Controls to decide what information Google saves to your account and uses to make Search and other Google services faster, smarter and more useful,” writes Google’s director of product management, Eric Miraglia.

your data in search

Giving users more direct access to control what information Google saves will potentially limit available ad targeting data. But, whether or not such efforts will impact advertisers will depend on how readily users avail themselves of these privacy tools. Certainly, having a call-to-action on its desktop home page, and a menu option within the mobile experience, will make this more top-of-mind for Google searchers.

More on Google’s latest user privacy control updates

  • The updates are rolling out on desktop, mobile web and the Google Search app for iOS on Wednesday, but won’t be available on the Android app until the coming weeks.
  • Google says it plans to expand these privacy control efforts to Google Maps in 2019, followed by releases in “many” other Google products.
  • In addition to being able to delete recent search activity, control ad settings and have access to Activity Controls, users will also see a “How activity data makes Search work” message aimed at educating them on how their settings and activity on Google impact search results.

Categorized in Search Engine
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