Let's get one thing off the table. Delisting isn't a violation of freedom of speech as it is described in the US Constitution. The First Amendment (second only in importance to the right of all Americans to own bazookas) concerns government restrictions on free speech--not private restrictions. Since the Google is a private company, the First Amendment does. not. apply.
Of course, as Dr. Steven Novella points out in his excellent blog post, things aren't so simple. We can think of search engines like Google as public utilities. As such, perhaps we ought to be skeptical of excluding sites from results:
Google is by far the most popular portal to the web, which is now an invaluable general resource. Private utility companies are regulated by the government (or in some countries even nationalized) because they provide an essential service to the public. If Google is viewed as an essential utility, you can argue that they should not discriminate in this way.The idea is that since Google has become somewhat of an essential service, we ought not exclude people or organizations from it perhaps in the same way we wouldn't exclude unsavory business from a telephone book.
- 50% of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level
- 45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level
- 44% of the American adults do not read a book in a year
- 6 out of 10 households do not buy a single book in a year
The US ranks 14th in scientific literacy in OECD countries. However, just about every country's rate of scientific literacy is low. So it's kind of like being of average intelligence relative to a group of high school drop outs. Think Not Sure in Idiocracy.
That's not the standard one should be aiming for. 70 percent of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times. Approximately 28 percent of American adults currently qualify as scientifically literate (Source).
Add to the above these statistics on health care literacy:
Only 12 percent of adults have Proficient health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In other words, nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. Fourteen percent of adults (30 million people) have Below Basic health literacy. These adults were more likely to report their health as poor (42 percent) and are more likely to lack health insurance (28 percent) than adults with Proficient health literacy. (Source: Kirsch IS, Jungeblut A, Jenkins L, Kolstad A. 1993. Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.)
- 3 out of 4 people on welfare can’t read
- 20% of Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage
- 50% of the unemployed between the ages of 16 and 21 cannot read well enough to be considered functionally literate
- Between 46 and 51% of American adults have an income well below the poverty level because of their inability to read
- 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read
- 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading
- Approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels
- (Source: National Institute for Literacy, National Center for Adult Literacy, The Literacy Company, U.S. Census Bureau)
Conversely, the higher the level of reasoning and education, the less such screening policies will matter. Such people already have the critical reasoning capacities to dismiss sites like NN as the steaming mound of manure that they are. In such populations, NN will drop out of the search results on their own. No one will go there aside critical thinking instructors like myself who use the site as a valuable source of case studies in reasoning errors.
Yeah but Slippery Slope
Some people might worry that having someone else determine which sites come up in our search is somehow how bad or is a slippery slope to objectionable censorship.
A) No matter what (including now), decisions have to be made regarding the ordering of websites in response to search terms. There is no neutral ordering unless Google's algorithm is a results randomizer. Popularity isn't necessarily a good one either. I'm going to be wildly controversial and say accuracy ought to be the primary ordering criteria of search results.
B) Yeah but who determines what's accurate?
(1) An algorithm can give/remove points based on the credentials of the people running the site.
(2) For some domains of knowledge there won't necessarily be a consensus but where there is, use that as a standard. To the degree that a website deviates from that standard, to that degree they get points.
“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise.” Robert Proctor, science historian.