Search Engine Bias and the Demise of Search Engine Utopianism

14 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2006

See all articles by Eric Goldman

Eric Goldman

Santa Clara University - School of Law


Due to search engines' automated operations, people often assume that search engines display search results neutrally and without bias. However, this perception is mistaken. Like any other media company, search engines affirmatively control their users' experiences, which has the consequence of skewing search results (a phenomenon called "search engine bias"). Some commentators believe that search engine bias is a defect requiring legislative correction. Instead, this Essay argues that search engine bias is the beneficial consequence of search engines optimizing content for their users. The Essay further argues that the most problematic aspect of search engine bias, the "winner-take-all" effect caused by top placement in search results, will be mooted by emerging personalized search technology.

Keywords: search engine, search engine bias, PageRank, ranking algorithms, personalized search

JEL Classification: D61, D8, D83, K00, L51, L86, M31

Suggested Citation

Goldman, Eric, Search Engine Bias and the Demise of Search Engine Utopianism. Yale Journal of Law & Technology, 2005-2006, Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-08, Marquette University Law School Legal Research Paper No. 06-20, Available at SSRN:

Eric Goldman (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408-554-4369 (Phone)


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