Society of the Query #2
Session 6: The Filter Bubble Show
Erik Borra (NL) and René König (GE): Googling 9/11: The Perspectives of a Search Engine on a Global Event
Conference Day 2 (8 November 2013)
When one searches for 9/11 there are numerous aspects which the query can point to: one may want to locate books or movies about the attacks of 11 September 2011 and its implications, inquire about the 9/11 commission, pay a visit to the 9/11 memorial museum in New York etc. As this event had broad cultural and political implications, many diverse perspectives exist. For example, by insinuating that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ by the US government, the so-called ‘9/11 Truth Movement’ has provided a fairly popular account which vastly contradicts the mainstream version. Search engines need to determine which ten sites to return as the top results for any query. As so many people rely on search on a daily basis it thus becomes interesting to study which results are deemed most important for specific queries. We stored the Google results for the query ‘9/11’ for over five years. We then identified the types of sites returned (are these government sites, commemoration sites, sites providing alternative explanations, etcetera) and investigate their ranking over time. We further inquire which kinds of information are available by doing a historical content analysis of these sites. Last but not least, we compare Google’s query suggestions for 9/11 in different countries. We are thus able to show how Google represents a complex issue such as 9/11 over time.