An Analysis of the Impact of Social Media and Search Engines on Decision-Making


  • Angela Petrone SoReMo fellow



information ethics, social networks, psychology, communication, public policy, digital humanities


With the constant advancement of technology and the advent of a global pandemic, as of 2023 it is safe to say our lives are as affected by our physical surroundings as they are by the virtual spaces we inhabit.

Social media and search engines constitute a big part of how people use technology to aid in their decision-making processes. The current state of social media and search engines regulation in the United States is one of stall: while public discourse continues and concerns among experts keep raising at each iteration of existing platforms or introduction of new tools, policymakers have not made as much progress in regulating the actions of the companies owning these platforms, in spite of their awareness of the impact these tools have on the public’s decision-making abilities. In this context, the spread of dis- and mis- information is a particularly dangerous phenomenon that can only be tackled with a radical change in the way platform owners are held accountable for the content they allow the circulation of.

This study aims to serve as a much needed reminder of the effects of social media and search engines usage on the public’s agency, decision-making processes, and ultimately the real-life consequences of the exposure to and interaction with online misinformation and disinformation.

A specific focus on how Covid-19 disinformation (false information which is deliberately intended to mislead) and misinformation (false or inaccurate information) spreading on two specific platforms (Reddit, and Google) was handled by said platforms will serve as a magnifying glass on the aforementioned issues. Analyzing the prominent design and ethics concerns in this landscape, I intend to propose heuristics to inform policy-oriented solutions to a set of issues that has been largely misunderstood and underestimated at the policy level in the United States. I argue that these concerns will only increase in complexity if left untackled, and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to the public might have already exponentially complicated the position of the United States’ governmental entities; while explicitly clarifying their intention to insure people’s well-being, governmental bodies are struggling with either understanding the policy/regulatory options available to them or getting them passed. The influence of the lobbying power of tech companies and governments' conflicts of interests in the matter will be discussed.




How to Cite

Petrone, A. (2023). An Analysis of the Impact of Social Media and Search Engines on Decision-Making. Socially Responsible Modeling, Computation, and Design, 4(1).