26.04.16

Focus on the User campaign demonstrates google’s biased search practices

Last week IMPALA, the pan-European trade association for independent labels, drew our attention to the ‘Focus on the User’ campaign which has been launched by a group of search engines, travel websites and consumer groups (Yelp, Trip advisor, Consumer Watchdog, etc.) and highlights concerns about the changes that Google have made to their search display.

Once renowned for their unique search algorithms which provided the most relevant search results for the user, Google are now promoting results that best serve Google. Through the release of a coded search tool, called a bookmarklet, the campaign illustrates the way that Google gives preferential treatment to it’s own content, regardless of where it actually ranks in relevance.

A video demonstration of the tool shows how a normal Google search of ‘Jamie Oliver’ pulls in his Google+ account as the top result. The account has 150,000 followers and hasn’t been active in two months. The same search is made using the bookmarklet, which uses Googles own search algorithms, only searches existing information on Google and doesn’t pull in from any other websites or APIs. The top results in this search is Jamie’s twitter account which has 10 times as many users and was in a use just a few hours before.

Through this open source search tool and a series of videos and information on the site ‘Focus on the User’ aims to provide a framework that ensures consumer welfare is maximised, for consumers and policy makers to consider during the investigation into anti-competitive concerns surrounding Google.

You can watch the short campaign overview here and if you would like to see the tool in action you can download it from here.