Justin Bieber has Swine Flu!

Alright, I admit it, I don’t know if Justin Bieber has swine flu, but you could be forgiven thinking that if you typed “What are the symptoms of swine flu?” into Ask.com:

You’re seeing two things:

  1. An over-reliance on algorithms.  They’re showing other questions asked by people who also asked “What are the symptoms of swine flu?”  The most popular co-occurring questions are shown – and Ask’s computers naively show them as they know nothing about what the questions mean
  2. A glimpse into what people are looking for/how they use their computers.  Usually these algorithms are based on what similar questions people asked in the same session – this means that these people were asking about both swine flu and young Bieber within a short time period of one another or never close their web browsers (so the session never ends)