Google and Political Commentary–Who is really fooled?

As blogs have noted (see here and here) that if you type in the word failure (or, as Google’s own sight points out “miserable failure“) you will find the official Bush White House site as the top link found. Cute. Funny. But it brings to light something that is far more insidious.

As Google has now pointed out on their own site, this is a result of “Google bombing.” Here is Google’s explanation:

By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. In this case, a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush’s website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases.

Google then goes on to explain that they don’t manually edit or change the search results, even though it appears it is a result of people Google has labeled as “pranksters.” In fact Google writes: “but we’re also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don’t affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.”

So we have pranksters that have fun with this. Rabid liberals get another chance to poke fun at President Bush, continuing their on-going “hit and run” strategies of poking fun at the President without ever having to provide or engage in, any “serious” discussion of the issues. And I am sure that if Google had been as pervasive in the 1990s rabid Conservatives would have had some fun with search words and President Clinton (I will leave those to your imagination!)
But does “google bombing” really not “affect the quality… objectivity… the core of our mission?” In this case, politics is such a “hot button topic” that such bizarre outcomes are immediately questioned and the “truth” comes out. But perhaps there are instances where a persistent attack on other topics could have a more insidious effect. For instance, Ryan Schultz documented an incident where a googlebomb was used to point to anti-semitic sites when the word “jew” was searched.

At another site (Stone Court) a liberal steps up the rhetoric, and advocates google-bombing because it can be used to represent a pro-abortionist point of view. That blogger calls it “bombing for choice. Note for this to work, these “bombers” are using this to influence people who are conducting legitimate searches. This is done to effect outcomes, and not to make a cheap political joke. Other sites actually advocate such attacks, including against Verisign (and another against Verisign), or scientologists controlling their message, and then a more light-hearted one, where a man wants to be the most famous David Gallagher on the net.

How hard would it be to accomplish this? According to one site “Empirical results indicate that it does not take a large number of websites to achieve a Googlebomb. The effect has been achieved with only a handful of dedicated weblogs.”

I haven’t given much attention to “Google Bombing” before. Perhaps it is because I am tired of cheap political shots that seem to serve as a liberal’s way of dealing with important issues. Or perhaps worse, I haven’t given it thought because it is so insidious. Perhaps I never noticed it, even when it was displayed on my screen in search after search, because the successful searchers, like “bombers for choice” are actually working to influence outcomes. And ironically, such influence is usually seen to reduce choice.

So let me join MetaTalk and go on record as condeming google bombing. Oh, heck, let the infantile political stuff continue. Sure, it’s funny. But Google–do something to stop such influence. Google bombing does far more harm to the results than you apparently are willing to accept. Your results are no longer objective.