, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 233-242
Date: 23 Oct 2008

Search engines and the public use of reason

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Abstract

How should the policies of search engines and other information intermediaries be ethically evaluated? It is argued that Kant’s principles for the public use of reason are useful starting points for the formulation of criteria for such an evaluation. The suggestion is, furthermore, that a search engine can be seen to provide a testimony to the user concerning what information that is most relevant to her query. This suggestion is used as the basis for the development of a broadly Kantian account of a rational searcher. It is argued that the search engine companies are morally required to publish their information policies and act in accordance with them but given the threat of search engine spam they can have no obligation to publish the details of their algorithms.