This is a huge question! Recently, I heard Baidu might have lost some of its authority as a source a while ago. That is, a few years ago, people questioned how each answer was decided and shared on Baidu. Similar to Facebook in 2020: who saw which posts? Who decided which posts would appeal to me?
That’s exactly the right thing to ask! How did it get there? What does appeal mean?
It’s good to wonder about whose answer is at the top of a list and why. Sometimes, the rules of each search engines’ ranking are open and reasonable. But more often, they are not known or shared, and if they leak out, some are scandalized by the inequality in the process. Safiya Noble studied Google Image results of “Black girls.” You can read her book, Algorithms of Oppression, or catch a summary in her talk at Washington Square.
Instead of relying on the unclear algorithms of Baidu or Google, professors rely on the accumulated experience of colleagues, libraries, and librarians to filter out some of the less reliable information. Editors and publishers build international reputations for credibility and honesty. This is different from celebrity because it isn’t about being popular or earning the most money from ads and likes. This authority takes years (decades!) of methodical (rarely exciting) work to verify and re-verify cause and effect.
Searching on Google could take you anywhere like the “View Next” randomly suggested at the end of a YouTube video. Instead, searching Bobcat, JSTOR, or asking a librarian is more effective–like following a trusted friend who cites sources with authority.
Image Citation: Alexander P. Schouten, Loes Janssen & Maegan Verspaget (2020) Celebrity vs. Influencer endorsements in advertising: the role of identification, credibility, and Product-Endorser fit, International Journal of Advertising, 39:2, 258-281, DOI: 10.1080/02650487.2019.1634898