for all the influence Google has in directing attention, we know
painfully little about how its algorithm selects and curates news.
Which sites does it direct traffic toward? And how does Google’s news
curation impact the diversity of information found?” wrote researcher
and fellow researcher Daniel Trielli used the Computational Journalism
Lab at Northwestern University to audit the search engine’s “Top
Stories” to determine what websites received the most help from
team ran more than 200 search queries of various news topics in
November 2017, such as “Colin Kaepernick,” “earthquake,” tax reform,”
and “healthcare gov.” The researchers did everything they could to
“minimize the potential for result personalization” and ran their
queries each minute over a 24-hour period. The result: 6,302 unique
links found in Top Stories. The researchers counted “an article
each time one of those links appears.” (Emphasis original).
data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of
article impressions. The top 20 percent of sources (136 of 678)
accounted for 86 percent of article impressions. And the top three
accounted for 23 percent: CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington
Post. These statistics underscore the degree of concentration of
attention to a relatively narrow slice of news sources,” Diakopoulos
the Post, which accounted for 5.6% of the impressions for the top 20
sources, was Fox News, with 3%. Fox was the only outlet on the list
that could be considered right-leaning.
research has shown that search engines can affect users’ attitudes,
shape opinions, alter perceptions and reinforce stereotypes, as well
as affect how voters come to be informed during elections. As such,
media diversity is an important aspect to the way that Google—or any
news aggregator—curates sources and perspectives,” Diakopoulos wrote.
difficult to consider the other outlets – especially CNN, the Times,
and the Post – as anything other than left-leaning at this point,
given their coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration these
past two years and their hype of the Russia-collusion hoax.
researchers then studied the ideological leanings of those who share
the content from the sources in the top 20 list. As Diakopoulos wrote,
this doesn’t necessarily mean the outlet itself is slanted, but
reflects “the self-reported political affiliation of Facebook users
sharing content from those sources.”
data shows that 62.4 percent of article impressions were from sources
rated by that research as left-leaning, whereas 11.3 percent were from
sources rated as right-leaning. 26.3 percent of impressions were from
news sources that didn’t have ratings. But even if that last set of
unknown impressions happened to be right-leaning, the trend would
still be clear: A higher proportion of left-leaning sources appear in
Top Stories. (Again this means news sources shared on Facebook more
often by people with a left-leaning political affiliation,[)]”
researchers also tested the theory that perhaps left-leaning outlets
produce more content. They found that was the case, but also that
Google’s curation algorithm amplified that skew as well.
side note to all of this, however, is that the curation
have more to do with the timeliness of the articles. The researchers
found that 83.5% of articles in the Top Stories section on Google were
less than 24 hours old and 13.1% were less than an hour old.