Reasons and Rights to be Brave: Rescripting Search to Respect the Right to Truth

20 Apr 2018
3:10 pm - 5:00 pm

107 South Hall

Event Type
Non-CSTMS Event

Deirdre K. Mulligan
Associate professor, School of Information; Faculty director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology

Daniel Griffin
PhD student, School of Information; co-director, UC Berkeley Center for Technology, Society & Policy

What is the function of Google search? Breakdowns, as others have noted provide an opportunity to understand a technical artifact’s function. They allow us to explore the mismatch between the roles and expectations prescribed to and demanded of the users by the designers and the behavior and expectations of actual users. This talk explores a particular breakdown to understand what it tells us about how Google imagines its users, and how users imagine Google search, and how those competing imaginaries contribute to the definition and perception of failure.

Through a close examination of one construed failure we identify a particular responsibility — to respect the collective right to truth rooted in the growing expectation on businesses to respect human rights — that Google failed to enact. We then explore how portrayals of search, and the norms of search engineers discourage Google from acting to respect the right to truth — despite is deep entanglement with the function both Google and its users ascribe to search — while at the same time deflecting work to protect the right to truth onto other participants in the script of search. We leverage Akrich’s de-scription to unpack the breakdown of search’s script, and reveal the potential space for Google to act and perform differently.

We then bring the discussion together in connecting the normative call for action with normative concerns about the manner of action, and offer a framework rooted in human rights to guide a rescripting of search that aligns social expectations of Google’s responsibility to respect human rights in the context search, and protects against the slippery slope of moderation content platforms fear.

This event is sponsored by: School of Information