[caption id="attachment_41239" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="All the major search engines have revamped their formulas to include social media data as key indicators of a website’s importance."][/caption]

A quiet revolution has taken place in recent months, as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and other internet gatekeepers have revised their search algorithms in an attempt to bring users more personalized information. This subtle shift has enormous implications for students, researchers, and society at large, experts say.

When web surfers use Google or Bing to look for information about, say, the national debt,...

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