According to a research paper published Monday by various academics, Google has been skewing search results to highlight its own content.
Commissioned by Google rival Yelp, a team of researchers, including net neutrality pioneer Tim Wu, have published a report detailing the unfair prioritization of Google services, particularly in terms of local search. Wu was joined by a team of Yelp's data scientist and Harvard Business School Professor Michael Luca. In the report, the researchers claim that Google intentionally skews local search results to favor Google-created content. Sometimes this benefits customers, other times it can degrade search content to the point where it can be deemed detrimental to users. "This isn't new -- Yelp's been making these arguments to regulators, and demanding higher placement in search results, for the past five years," said a Google spokesperson in a statement on the Yelp-commissioned report. "This latest study is based on a flawed methodology that focuses on results for just a handful of cherry-picked queries."
Just two years ago, Wu supported Google as an advisor for the Federal Trade Commission but now he is singing a different tune. "When the facts change, your thinking should change," said Wu, in a statement on the matter. "The main surprising and shocking realization is that Google is not presenting its best product. In fact, it's presenting a version of the product that's degraded and intentionally worse for consumers." Last week, Yelp highlighted a new report from Software Advice that highlighted its prowess in local search. This report claimed that Yelp is the most popular choice for a review site to find a doctor, attorney, or home service provider. The Software Advice report was not commissioned by Yelp.
Photo: © Google.