Zach Graves, associate fellow at the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, said PJ Media had drawn flawed conclusions about Google in its unscientific study.
Results ‘not surprising’
“I think the mistake they make is not understanding how search engine algorithms typically work,” Graves told VOA on Tuesday. He said one of the ways the sites are ranked in search results is the number of other web pages that link to it — a measure of how well-used a site is and how many other sites trust its information.
“With that in mind,” Graves said, “it’s not surprising at all that these big popular media outlets” such as CNN, The New York Times and Fox News “are outranking more niche conservative platforms like Hot Air, the Blaze, and so on.”
Data from media analysis firm Alexa.com, a subsidiary of media giant Amazon, show that 303,995 other sites link to The New York Times — the term is “backlink” — while CNN has 210,373 backlinks and Fox News has 76,164. The conservative Wall Street Journal has 128,015 backlinks, while PJ Media itself has 3,807.
“The interpretation is that there’s some kind of conspiracy, that Google’s coming in and manipulating these results for political reasons,” Graves said. “I think the correct interpretation is that this is a natural byproduct of the metrics that the algorithm uses.”
He added, however, that he thought Google would do itself a favor to be more transparent about its search algorithm and reach out to conservative groups to assuage their concerns about bias.