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Your Homework over the Holidays

Last summer, a couple of law school professors--Frank A. Pasquale of Seton Hall and Oren Bracha of Texas--posted an article to SSRN that called for the regulation of the Internet's gatekeepers of information: search engines. (More after the jump.)

Now, I know that a 60-page journal article isn't your idea of holiday reading. But consider casting aside that copy of The Lovely Bones for a spell, because these scholars raise some important issues. To wit:

The rise of the internet during the last fifteen years led some to hope that technology would resolve this dilemma. Enthusiasts predicted the network would ameliorate the traditional mass-media bottleneck and render moot the policy and legal debates that surrounded it.

We know better now. As the internet matured, it became evident that
accompanying the new possibilities were many of the old difficulties, though
often in new guises. In this article we extend Barron’s inquiry to the most
influential gatekeepers of information and ideas in the digital age: internet search
engines.

Though rarely thought of as a “mass medium,” search engines occupy a
critical junction in our networked society. Their influence on our culture,
economy, and politics may eventually dwarf that of the broadcast networks, radio
stations, and newspapers. Located at bottlenecks of the information
infrastructure, search engines exercise extraordinary control over data flow in a
largely decentralized network. Power, as always, is accompanied by
opportunities for abuse, and by concerns over its limitation to legitimate and
appropriate uses.

Here we are concerned with one aspect of this growing power: search
engines’ power to manipulate their results, thereby affecting the ability of
internet speakers to reach potential audiences.

Scant analysis has been directed towards search giants like Google and Yahoo!, beyond their burgeoning market share. So think of this paper as a roasted chestnut, and not a lump of coal, courtesy of your friends at Biddle.

Via Siva's Google blog.