How the Tories wrote my thesis: the political economy of a large-scale hypertextual Web search engine

This is the first of a pair of blogs Pip Thornton has written on the effects of political advertising on Google, which started off with the Conservative Party buying the phrase ‘dementia tax’ through Google AdWords. The second blog, ‘Buying Brexit’, was posted here yesterday.

Linguistic Geographies

brinpageScreenshot 2017-05-28 00.40.45

Sergey Brin and Larry Page invented Google as students at Stanford in 1998. They knew from the beginning how advertising could interfere with the efficiency and integrity of their proposed search engine. In an appendix to their paper, on The anatomy of a large-scale hypertextual Web search engine, they noted that ‘the goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users’, and that ‘advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers’. They weren’t wrong, yet they had to fund it somehow, and after nearly two decades of conflict between advertising dollars and organising the world’s information (as per Google’s mission statement), a typical search engine results page (SERP) today is surely unrecognisable from what Brin and Page could ever have imagined, infused as they have now become with the neoliberal…

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