Search quality complaints and imaginary repair: Control in articulations of Google Search
Griffin, D.*, & Lurie, E.* (2022). Search quality complaints and imaginary repair: Control in articulations of Google Search. New Media & Society, Ahead of Print. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221136505 *equal co-authors
In early 2017, a journalist and search engine expert wrote about “Google’s biggest ever search quality crisis.” Months later, Google hired him as the first Google “Search Liaison” (GSL). By October 2021, when someone posted to Twitter a screenshot of misleading Google Search results for “had a seizure now what,” users tagged the Twitter account of the GSL in reply. The GSL frequently publicly interacts with people who complain about Google Search on Twitter. This article asks: what functions does the GSL serve for Google? We code and analyze 6-months of GSL responses to complaints on Twitter. We find that the three functions of the GSL are: (1) to naturalize the logic undergirding Google Search by defending how it works, (2) perform repair in responses to complaints, and (3) boundary drawing to control critique. This advances our understanding of how dominant technology companies respond to critiques and resist counter-imaginaries.