Political ideology and user choice – not algorithmic curation – are the biggest drivers of engagement with partisan and unreliable news provided by Google Search, according to a study coauthored by Rutgers faculty published in the journal Nature. The study addressed a long-standing concern that digital algorithms learn from user preferences and surface information that largely agrees with users’ attitudes and biases. However, search results shown to Democrats differ little in ideology from those shown to Republicans, the researchers found. The ideological differences emerge when people decide which search results to click, or which websites to visit on their own.
Results suggest the same is true about the proportion of low-quality content shown to users. The quantity doesn’t differ considerably among partisans, though some groups – particularly older participants who identify as ‘strong Republicans’ – are more likely to engage with it. To read the full story.