Controversy Discovery Engine

Here is the search tool described in Computing in History: Googlearchy and the Dawn of Web Time on the “A Chip On Her shoulder” website.

Copy the following page from a DropBox onto your own computer then change the extension from TXT to HTML:

TheControversy Explorer

Click and you will have a new way of searching on Google. Select terms about “Controversy” and “Kinds of Support” to expand your search query. You’ll see fewer glossy pages from the Organizational Web and deeper and darker content from the Analytic Web.

Appearance of the Controversy Explorer (not executable)

Sun with cloud passing
Your Controversy Discovery Engine

Search Deeper and Darker!!!

Get more diverse and analytic content from Google.

Query for Google

List of synonyms for Controversy
List of forms of support
Submit expanded query to Google


  1. Enter your search term in the Edit box. Use quote for phrase. then
  2. Choose from synonyms for “controversy”. Use CNTL to multi-select. Choose the last item, ‘NONE’, to ignore synonyms.
  3. Optionally, choose a kind of support.
  4. Click the search button. Your original query will be augmented with variations of your selections for “controversy” and “Forms of Support”. However, your query might overflow a Google word limit.
  5. You are now in Google. Browse the augmented query results.

Examples of controversial topics

Try these. Compare the main query then select expanded terms.

  • “online learning” + controversy + evidence
  • “federal deficit” + conflict + refute<
  • “wet macular degeneration” treatment + evidence
  • Mars life + opinion

Credits and Caveats

This form and query are based on Google Hacks.. Using “Controversy” to probe into the Analytic Web was explored in the published experimental study “Do Search Engines Suppress Controversy?”, published in First Monday January 2004. Further studies are available at Semantic Scholar (CiteSeer) references on “Search” and Google Scholar references on “Search”.

Here are a few caveats: The Controversy Discovery Engine is meant to help you start exploring a topic for controversies, opinions, evidence, and authorities. Adding common synonyms will often drive your search into long form explainers, essays, position statements, and academic materials. Your search will bypass glossy Organizational Web pages that hold top positions due to link ranking, i.e. popularity, search optimization, advertising, and surveillance opportunities. As always, it’s your responsibility to double check any facts or theories, especially because the expanded search terms may lead to pages with crack pot theories or diatribes.

While this HTML form has worked for over 10 years, Google may change its search interface at any time.

The web page uses the simplest possible HTML, without styles, to permit easy modification. Under Creative Commons terms, you are free to modify the HTML page for your own purposes as long as you reference the original at Controversy Discovery Engine from

Revised: May 31, 2008 and December 20 2016 by Susan L. Gerhart.

This form has been tested for accessibility using FireFox and Internet Explorer on Windows 10 using the NVDA screen reader.

Getting the file:

Copy the following page from a DropBox onto your own computer then change the extension from TXT to HTML:

TheControversy Explorer