Peter Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, was lecturing on the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when a student asked an odd question: Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK? He confessed that he was not aware of that allegation, but that Harding had been in favor of anti-lynching legislation, so it seemed unlikely. But then a second student pulled out his phone and announced that yes, Harding had been a Klan member, and so had four other presidents. For most of its history, Google did not answer questions. Users typed in what they were looking for and got a list of web pages that might contain the desired information.
Aggregators rely on votes, and links to select and present subsets of the large quantity of news and opinion items generated each day. Opinion and topic diversity in the output sets can provide individual and societal benefits, but simply selecting the most popular items may not yield as much diversity as is present in the overall pool of votes and links. In this paper, we define three diversity metrics that address different dimensions of diversity: inclusion, non-alienation, and proportional representation. We then present the Sidelines algorithm – which temporarily suppresses a voter’s preferences after a preferred item has been selected – as one approach to increase the diversity of result sets. In comparison to collections of the most popular items, from user votes on Digg.com and links from a panel of political blogs, the Sidelines algorithm increased inclusion while decreasing alienation. For the blog links, a set with known political preferences, we also found that Sidelines improved proportional representation. In an online experiment using blog link data as votes, readers were more likely to find something challenging to their views in the Sidelines result sets. These findings can help build news and opinion aggregators that present users with a broader range of topics and opinions.
Expect financial markets to face headwinds today after the Federal Reserve reported Friday that U.S. industrial production fell more than expected in March. This is the latest sign that economic growth slowed significantly in the first quarter. On the plus side, though, many economists still forecast a rebound in growth as the year plods ahead. Don't complain -- you got three extra days this year. The normal deadline, April 15, was a holiday -- Emancipation Day -- in the District of Columbia (Emancipation Day is actually April 16, but because that fell on a Saturday, the holiday was observed Friday).
Google's search engine highlighted an inaccurate story claiming that President-elect Donald Trump won the popular vote in last week's election, the latest example of bogus information spread by the Internet's gatekeepers. Even as that story continued appearing high up in its search results, however, Google announced a move to punish purveyors of fake news. The incorrect election results were shown Monday in a 2-day-old story posted on the pro-Trump website 70 News. A link to the site appeared at or near the top of Google's influential rankings of relevant news stories for searches on the final election results. Google acknowledged that its search engine misfired.
A full hour before the sun rose in Washington, DC, Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired off a pair of tweets claiming that Google had "rigged" search results against conservatives. Like so many Trump grievances, the argument seems steeped less in fact than a roiling stew of personal animus. But in Google News, the latest subject of his ire, Trump may have found the perfect target. In Trump's tweets--which he later deleted, then tweeted again, with no substantive changes--you can see the outlines of an attack that can't be easily fact-checked or dismissed. Charges of bias against Google will stick, because no algorithm is truly neutral.