My paper on the representation of conspiracy theories on search engines opens the 2015 July issue of First Monday. The paper answers the following questions:
(i) what type of content is returned by search engines when searching for conspiracy theories?
(ii) what is the bias of the search results towards the conspiratorial, neutral, or debunking Web sites?
(iii) are there differences between search engines?
(iv) what differences exist between conspiracy theories?
(v) how polarized are the results between conspiratorial and debunking results?
Abstract: Search engine results influence the visibility of different viewpoints in political, cultural, and scientific debates. Treating search engines as editorial products with intrinsic biases can help understand the structure of information flows in new media. This paper outlines an empirical methodology to analyze the representation of topics in search engines, reducing the spatial and temporal biases in the results. As a case study, the methodology is applied to 15 popular conspiracy theories, examining type of content and ideological bias, demonstrating how this approach can inform debates in this field, specifically in relation to the representation of non-mainstream positions, the suppression of controversies and relativism.