Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Given the Internet's designation as "the great equalizer,"' it is unsurprising that nondiscrimination has emerged as a central aspiration of web governance.2 But, of course, bias, discrimination, and neutrality are among the slipperiest of regulatory principles. One person's bias is another person's prioritization. Fresh on the heels of its initial success in advocating a net neutrality principle,' Google is in the uncomfortable position of trying to stave off a corollary principle of search neutrality.' Search neutrality has not yet coalesced into a generally understood principle, but at its heart is some idea that Internet search engines ought not to prefer their own content on adjacent websites in search results but should instead employ "neutral" search algorithms that determine search result rankings based on some "objective" metric of relevance.' Count me a skeptic. Whatever the merits of the net neutrality argument, a general principle of search neutrality would pose a serious threat to the organic growth of Internet search. Although there may be a limited case for antitrust liability on a fact-specific basis for acts of naked exclusion against rival websites, the case for a more general neutrality principle is weak. Particularly as Internet search transitions from the ten blue links model of just a few years ago to a model where search engines increasingly provide end information and interface with website information, a neutrality principle becomes incoherent.


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