Imagine if on June 23 this year British citizens looking at google.co.uk found the words #VoteIn towards the bottom of the search page. Perhaps they would ignore it and go about their business, or perhaps it would remind them that they had not yet voted and ought to before it was too late. Whatever their views on the EU referendum, such an expression of partisanship may surprise them.
Why? Because most of us still think of Google – and the services of other tech giants such as Facebook or Twitter – as a neutral platform, driven by algorithms and serving only as an unopinionated conduit between users and the information they seek. But tech giants are not neutral, nor are they simply conduits. In fact my new study suggests they are increasingly taking on civic roles, raising questions about their societal responsibilities – responsibilities beyond those to their customers or shareholders.
An interesting area.