Hey, Google, is it what the Holocaust looked like?

Auditing algorithmic curation of visual historical content on Web search engines

Authors

  • Mykola Makhortykh University of Bern
  • Aleksandra Urman University of Bern
  • Roberto Ulloa GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i10.11562

Keywords:

search engine, algorithmic curation, Holocaust, image search, malperformance, bias, visual representation, history, mass atrocities, revisionism, antisemitism, trivialization

Abstract

By filtering and ranking information, search engines shape how individuals perceive both the present and past events. However, these information curation mechanisms are prone to malperformance that can misinform their users. In this article, we examine how search malperformance can influence representation of traumatic past by investigating image search outputs of six search engines in relation to the Holocaust in English and Russian. Our findings indicate that besides two common themes - commemoration and liberation of camps - there is substantial variation in visual representation of the Holocaust between search engines and languages. We also observe several instances of search malperformance, including content propagating antisemitism and Holocaust denial, misattributed images, and disproportionate visibility of specific Holocaust aspects that might result in its distorted perception by the public.

Author Biographies

Mykola Makhortykh, University of Bern

Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Bern

Aleksandra Urman, University of Bern

Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Bern and the Social Computing Group, University of Zurich

Roberto Ulloa, GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Postdoctoral researcher at the Computational Social Science Department of GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

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Published

2021-10-04

How to Cite

Makhortykh, M., Urman, A., & Ulloa, R. (2021). Hey, Google, is it what the Holocaust looked like? : Auditing algorithmic curation of visual historical content on Web search engines. First Monday, 26(10). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i10.11562