Desperately seeking politics

Via Wired: Kosmix is a search engine that's made a name for itself in developing the "vertical" solutions in the search engine markets-- providing specific search solutions in the travel and health arenas. Now they've jumped into the ring and allowed for search results to be delivered and organized according to three political spectrum categories: conservative, liberal and libertarian.

The creators of the site acknowledge that it's far from perfect in its algorithms; that's why it's in the alpha stage of testing. Still, the three categories that they chose are fascinating and somewhat irritating. Why do the libertarians get to be separated from the rest of the conservatives? Many of us don't consider ourselves "lib'ruls;" we call ourselves "progressives." But how would one teach a search engine to distinguish that?

My first search -- "abortion" -- yielded some unwieldly results that demonstrated this problem right off the bat. Most libertarians that I know are pro-choice, citing privacy and personal health reasons, the good ol' "keep your laws off my body" approach. Yet in the libertarian results, we find some of the head honchos of the forced birth movement: Dobson's Focus on the Family, World No-Abortion Day, and more.

And, interestingly enough, 31 stories from AlterNet got categorized under the conservative label, the top two both penned by staff writer Joshua Holland. The site's engineers are considering removing news sources from the results until these kinds of kinks get worked out. In the meantime, it's certainly an interesting tool when researching topics or digging for an opposing view.

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