A defining feature of the marketplace of ideas today is that free speech is increasingly dependent upon a handful of search engines, led by Google. And that’s kind of scary. On May 29, 2014, I wrote an article noting that Google had omitted age from its plan to boost diversity in its workforce. I’ve written a couple of articles about the fact that Google (like many Silicon Valley companies) appears to engage in blatant age discrimination with impunity. On the day I wrote the article my blog received almost a thousand impressions from Google. This means pages from my site appeared in Google search results almost a thousand times. A week later, my blog was receiving fewer than 100 Google impressions per day.
The chart showing the decline in Google impressions on my blog since May 29 looks like the flume at a water park when standing at the top or a graph of the economy right after the Great Recession. My Google search traffic ranged from 500 to 1,250 impressions per day for the month preceding May 29; it has been below 100 impressions ever since (with the exception of one day when there were 228 impressions).
The link in the decline in search traffic on my blog may be purely coincidental. And I realize that Google is basically a mathematical formula, an algorithm. However, clearly Google can be tweaked. For example, European courts have recognized an individual’s right to be “forgotten” and require Google to omit certain information from search engine traffic. What if Google was hyper-sensitive and was intentionally omitting my blog from searches? I wondered whether I have any legal right to demand that Google play fair?
The answer appears to be no.