The research project “Google und die Bundestagswahl: #Datenspende” aimed to figure out to what extent algorithms personalise search results. Another objective was to find out which topics related to the German parliamentary elections 2017 were attributed importance by Google Search.
When searching for political content on Google, do I get the same content as my colleagues, friends or family? In case I don’t, where is the difference and why? Which topics related to the election 2017 are in great demand?
The project, headed by the renowned scientist Prof. Dr. Katharina Zweig, is a cooperation between the initiative Algorithm Watch, the university TU Kaiserslautern, the media authority Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) and five other media authorities in Bavaria (BLM), Hesse (LPR Hessen), Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK), Saarland (LMS) and Saxony (SLM). The whole project has been accompanied by the media partner Spiegel Online.
The initiators of this study asked Internet users for support. They were requested to install a plugin programmed especially for the study on their personal computers. As soon as the browser was opened, the plugin would search Google News and Google Search for 15 predefined names of parties and politicians, for example “CDU”, “SPD”, “Angela Merkel” or “Christian Lindner” every four hours. Simultaneously, the generated results were transmitted for further analysis. During participation, the identification number of the plugin and the approximate location were saved. IP addresses were not saved, in order to guarantee the anonymity of the users. The searches of the plugin automatically ended on 30 September 2017, one week after the final election.