Internet

Startpage launches News tab to help users escape filter bubbles

Search engine Startpage launched its new News offering on November 21, 2019. The new feature promises to deliver news to users that is not curated or personalized. In other words: every user who looks up the same term at the same time gets the same news returned when using Startpage News.

Note: Startpage ownership changed recently and that caused some controversy. Check out our coverage of the event here and here.

Google, Facebook, and other services that provide you with news may do so based on the information that they have accumulated about you. A very basic example would deliver news to you based on your location in the world. If you are from Australia, chance is high that you would like your news to cover Australia more than other parts of the world.

Curation or personalization goes beyond that simple example though. If you read conservative, liberal, or left-leaning media more than others, chance is that services may prioritize sources that fall into those categories over others that don’t. The same may be true in other areas, e.g. science, religion, sports, or other political areas.

The filter bubble may fortify believes and positions and while that is not bad all the time, it may mean that the information is biased to a certain degree.

Startpage users who run a search on the site may notice the new News tab on the results page. A click on News displays only news source as results.

The system itself works similar to Google News and other news providers: type a search term to get a list of recent articles published by newspapers and online sites.

Startpage guarantees that users are not “targeted with select stories and opinions” when the News feature is used. The search engine removes “all personally identifiable information” from search queries before passing the search term to “the search engine” and returning “the exact same results that anyone else in the world would receive”.

Startpage does not mention the service that it uses to display news to users. I asked a company representative about it and was told that News is pulled from Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Startpage displays a thumbnail, title, a short description, the source, and the time the news was published on the results page. A click on the news title opens the site the news was published on in new tab in the browser.

Startpage implemented its anonymous view mode on the News page so that users of the service may open the article using a proxy. Anonymous view hides the user’s IP address from the publication.

Closing words

Startpage expands its service and the inclusion of news is certainly a step in the right direction, especially since the service promises that users won’t be put in a filter bubble and the added ability to open news in anonymous mode.

Now you: do you use search engines to look up news?

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