Using Google For Evidence

from the interesting... dept

We've written about reporters who use Google search result numbers as "evidence" of something, but it seems a bit more serious to realize that judges are doing the same thing. For example, a judge who ordered a mother not to smoke near her daughter cited "a Google search that lists 60,000-plus links for 'secondhand smoke' and 30,000-plus links for 'secondhand smoke children.'" Now, I have nothing against protecting people from second-hand smoke, but the number of results on a Google search doesn't seem like something that should be relied on as an indicator of facts. Others have noted the lack of Google search results as an indicator of proof as well. The article lists a large number of cases where judges have relied on Google "evidence" to back up their decision, which seems a bit scary - though, perhaps it's the new "community standard." Since certain laws rely on "community standards," perhaps judges are using Google results as an indicator of what the internet community feels.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Beck, 13 May 2004 @ 12:21pm

    No Subject Given

    I did a Google search for Ignorant Judge and came up with over 140,000 results. I don't know how many judges there are in this country, but it looks like a great deal of them are ignorant.

    The key quote:

    "The evidentiary requirements are very important. If a judge goes off in his chambers and does a Google search and issues an opinion, the parties have not had a chance to argue about what 40,000 hits means. That's an important safeguard."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Edwin, 13 May 2004 @ 4:28pm

    Google ignorance

    The problem both with the stats in the original article and with the example posted in the reply is that they're not showing what people automatically expect them to.

    If on Google you search for...
    ignorant judges
    ... then the results you see are for pages with the word "ignorant" and the word "judges" ANYWHERE on the page.

    If on the other hand you search for...
    "ignorant judges"
    ... [note the quotes] then you get just a handful of results, because not many pages contain that phrase.

    In the secondhand smoke example, the "real" numbers are 406,000 and 557 respectively.

    This is perhaps the most common search-related mistake I see in print - just about every major news outlet has made it at one time or another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisment

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.