I remember, rather clearly, the dawn of the “search engine”. Back when Netscape ruled the roost, it was “Webcrawler” and “Infoseek”, among others.
The way that these engines explained how they work was pretty basic. You would enter a search string. The string would be compared to the engine’s database. The “crawler” part of the engine would go around cataloguing websites, and return hits for the string based upon relevance. The sites that most closely matched the string would be listed first. Then people started using tags and metas to self-label their site’s content, to effectively “fool” the engines into thinking a particular site is more relevant and place it higher in the list of search results.
The Internet was something of a frontier. The search engines were not multibillion-dollar enterprises, with integrated shopping, advertising, webmail, social networking, news readers, etc., etc., etc. College students started engines in their dorm rooms, and they sat alongside Internet Relay Chat, FTP, and Usenet. The objective of the search engine was not to direct you to the site promoted by an advertiser or the preferred content of a subsidiary. It was to direct you to the most relevant content.
But as “just google it” becomes evermore ubiquitous, and corporate interests (i.e., pursuit of highest market share and widest margins; all else is secondary to those primary objectives) seek to reshape the cultural landscape — not so much to improve it but to convert it into a tool for maximizing profit — we will have to remain vigilant. Corporations are no more friendly to the individual than the state. The only difference is that the state can force you to pay while the corporation can merely coerce you to pay. You may not even realize you’re being coerced, but that’s the point.
Point is, there are no constitutional protections in place that would prevent a private entity from “censoring” content it deems objectionable. And we don’t even know how bad it already is, really. So welcome to the New Marketplace of Ideas, sponsored by Google, your Newspeak friend.