Is Google, as its creators (Larry Page and Sergey Brin - as if you didn't know) claim, ‘uniquely democratic’? Well, it is certainly unique, or at least it was when it was founded. However, its claim to be democratic is extremely questionable at best. If it is indeed a democracy, it is one comparable to 19th Century Britain, where only the rich had any real vote, some people had multiple votes and bribery was rife.
Google works on the assumption that by putting a link on your page to another site, you are casting a vote for that website. However, is this assumption a reasonable one to make? The short answer is…no. The primary, and perhaps most fundamental flaw in this is that people can put more than one link on their page. If some people have more votes than others, then surely this undermines the democratic fabric on which Google is said to be based. Furthermore, people often pay for links on high ranking sites - we call this advertising. Google reads every link on a page, it has no 100% effective way of knowing whether it was paid for or not. Can a system where votes can easily be bought, ever be described as democratic, even in the loosest sense?
Another crack in Google’s claim to be democratic is the fact that some votes are worth more than others. The higher a site ranks on Google, the higher the value of its votes. This seems reasonable, a high ranking site must have useful content, (to have been linked to by other sites, although this page may, indeed, have purchased these links!) therefore it is likely to link to another site with valuable content. However, it is not the fairness of Google’s system that this article is questioning, it is its claim to be democratic. Weighted voting cannot exist in a truly democratic system.
Overall, Google’s system is indeed ‘uniquely democratic’, in the sense that it is unique compared to any modern democratic system I know of. With; multiple voting, some votes being worth more than others, buying votes and more, it is extremely doubtful that Google is indeed the democracy of the internet.
Let me know your thoughts.