The Business and Politics of Search Engines: A Comparative Study of Baidu and Google’s Search Results of Internet Events in China
Jiang, M. (2014). The business and politics of search engines: A comparative study of Baidu and Google’s search results of Internet events from China. New Media & Society, 16(2), 212-233.
23 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2012 Last revised: 17 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 22, 2012
Despite growing interest in search engines in China, relatively few empirical studies have examined their sociopolitical implications. This study fills several research gaps by comparing query results (N=6,320) from China’s two leading search engines, Baidu and Google, focusing on accessibility, overlap, ranking, and bias patterns. Analysis of query results of 316 popular Chinese Internet events reveals: 1) after Google moved its servers from Mainland China to Hong Kong, Google’s results are equally if not more likely to be inaccessible than Baidu’s, and Baidu’s filtering is much subtler than the Great Firewall’s (GFW) wholesale blocking of Google’s results; 2) there is low overlap (6.8%) and little ranking similarity between Baidu’s and Google’s results, implying different search engines, different results and different social realities; and 3) Baidu rarely links to its competitors Hudong Baike or Chinese Wikipedia, while their presence in Google’s results is much more prominent, raising search bias concerns. These results suggest search engines can be architecturally altered to serve political regimes, arbitrary in rendering social realities, and biased toward self-interest.
Keywords: Search engine, Google, Baidu, China, Internet, search result, ethics, bias, Wikipedia, events
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