New York — September 24, 2021
The G. and R. Loeb Foundation and UCLA Anderson School of Management have named two investigations by The Markup as finalists for this year’s prestigious Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. The Gerald Loeb Awards were established to honor business and finance reporting that informs and protects private investors and the general public.
“Google The Giant,” by Adrianne Jeffries, Leon Yin, Maddy Varner, and Sam Morris, was named a finalist in the Explanatory category, alongside work from the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. This investigation exposed how Google engaged in monopolistic behavior by preferencing its own products in search results. We scraped the results of more than 15,000 popular queries with custom software using a novel technique inspired by biology lab work to analyze the elements on the search result pages. This analysis found that Google devoted 41 percent of the first page of search results on mobile devices and 63 percent of the coveted first screen on iPhoneX to its own properties and what it calls “direct answers,” which are populated with information copied from other sources, sometimes without their knowledge or consent. The facts we uncovered in this and a subsequent investigation were cited as evidence in a historic House of Representatives antitrust hearing and in three antitrust lawsuits filed against Google in 2020 by various state coalitions and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Blacklight,” by Surya Mattu, Aaron Sankin, and Julia Angwin, was named a finalist in the Personal Finance and Consumer Reporting category, alongside work from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. Blacklight is a first-of-its-kind, custom privacy forensics tool that empowers anyone to uncover how their personal data is collected as they browse the internet. The Markup published a months-long investigation that used Blacklight to scan and capture insights about 81,593 of the world’s most trafficked websites. In it we discovered a number of surprising results that paint an unsettling picture about the state of data privacy across the internet, including: 74 percent of sites loaded Google tracking technology; 33 percent used Facebook tracking technology; more than 5,000 were “fingerprinting” users, identifying them even if they block third-party cookies; and more than 12,000 websites loaded scripts that watch and record all user interactions on a page—including scrolls and mouse movements. Since we launched Blacklight, readers have run 2.3 million queries revealing numerous privacy violations. Lawmakers from Nevada even introduced legislation to create new web privacy protections after The Markup found the state’s COVID-19 vaccine information site contained the most trackers in the country of any such state site.
In addition to these two investigations by The Markup, we were also thrilled to see our colleagues, Rina Palta and Gabriel Hongsdusit, named finalists in the Audio category, Rina for work reporting the series “STUCK: Inside California’s Housing” while she was on staff at KPCC Southern California Public Radio, and Gabe for his contribution to “American Rehab” while he worked for Reveal.
For more information about the 2021 Loeb Awards and the full list of finalists, visit the official announcement page here. The winners will be announced this Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, during a live virtual awards ceremony.