Data void

Data voids are engine queries that turn up little to no results. The term was introduced by Michael Golebiewski of Microsoft in 2018. 

Data Voids

Search engines are a key feature of the contemporary digital landscape. We do not only use search engines like Google or Bing, we also use them on social media and on content generated content platforms . YouTube, Facebook and Twiter all have search engines and on all these platforms one can encounter data voids, that is search terms that do not yield results or do not yield useful results. Data voids are thus a by-product of contemporary search engines. 

In their publication "Data Voids: Where Missing Data Can Easily Be Exploited" Golebiewski and boyd focus on how data voids are used and misused by all kinds of actors in search of click or influence. They identify five types of data voids: 

  1. Breaking News
  2. Strategic new terms
  3. Outdated terms
  4. fragmented concepts
  5. Problematic queries

Data voids can be non-problematic, but they can also be used to spread conspiracy theories, fake news and stir up polarization. Data voids, in this sense, Golebiewski and boyd (2018) argue,  'are a security vulnerability that must be systematically, intentionally, and thoughtfully managed.”


Golebiewski, & boyd, d. (2018). "Data Voids: Where Missing Data Can Easily Be Exploited. Data & Society.