Buying the Internet

One way in which we might see the internet as embodying neoliberal ideas is in the fact that it operates in a commercial context whereby money can give one the attention necessary to communicate what one has to say. Sociological Images has a post on how companies buy advertising space on Google. When you search a term, say, ‘tree’ for example,  while a tree company cannot give google money to have its website be the first resulting search term, it can give them money so that they are the first website you see when you search a specific term.

Most notably, BP has done this recently. If you seach ‘gulf oil spill’ or ‘gulf disaster’, the first page Google links you to is the BP website:

In this way, companies can manipulate search terms. The fact that supposedly independent website searches can yield results like this because of paid advertising suggests that the internet operates under market forces, just as mainstream newspapers, magazines and television networks do.

Is this important though? Sociological Images has received a number of comments about this phenomenon. The fact that the BP link is clearly advertising, to some, means that the independence of the google search engine is not compromised. Furthermore, people do not have to ‘trust’ that the google search engine will yield politically neutral results, they can read the top results for themselves and come to their own conclusion about whatever biases the individual pages have. Nonetheless, with money, one can buy a certain degree of control over what information others are easily exposed to, which suggests that there is a neoliberal presence on the internet.

One Response

  1. […] part of them. Lastly, it clearly and obviously supports the interests of business, as I talk about here, here , here and […]

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