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Search Engines as Gatekeepers on the Internet

Search Engines as Gatekeepers on the Internet

Alongside the traditional media, online services are becoming more important in forming public and individual opinion. As the commitment to protection, deriving from Article 5, paragraph 1, section 2 of the Basic Constitutional Law, refers to the entire field of public communication, not only the potential but also the dangers of these services must be considered in designing communications policy.

Search engines as aids in the area of providing access to contents in the Internet take a central position here. Through their sway over selection and sorting of the pages displayed and through the associated canalisation of the information flow, search engines gain communicational and economic power. Here, the user can only rarely discern the principles by which the information processing has proceeded.

The survey examines the general legal framework in the four areas it identifies in this context: the way providers permit access to search engines, the prevention of a dominant influence on public opinion in the face of a provider with dominant market power and the transparency of commercial communications (keyword: procured search engine results)


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Project Description

As a first step, the Institute produced a study against the background of the stipulations of constitutional law and investigated how far the hitherto existing regulations under the law on broadcasting and telecommunications, but also those on competition and antitrust are already appropriate for meeting these problem areas.

In an ensuing investigation, it was a question of the protection of search engine indexes from censorship, and of doing that through self- and co-regulation too. As search engines represent a centralised access, they are also open to control measures – from understandable but also from unjustified motives – so that this question is by no means only of a theoretical nature.

Project Information


Duration: 2005-2008

Involved persons

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz

Third party

Landesanstalt für Medien Nordrhein-Westfalen (LfM)

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz
Director (Chairperson)

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung │ Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 0 (Sekretariat)

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