Rick Santorum Challenges Google

Rick Santorum is tired of "filth" atop Google searches for his name and wants the company to do something about it.

Rick Santorum is tired of “filth” atop Google searches for his name and wants the company to do something about it.

Alexander Burns, Politico (“Rick Santorum contacted Google, says company spreads ‘filth’“):

A Google search for Santorum has generated some inappropriate results since gay columnist Dan Savage organized an online campaign to link graphic sexual terms to the socially conservative senator’s name.

Now, the Republican presidential candidate says he’s convinced Google could do something to remedy the issue, if the company wanted to. “I suspect if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they’d get rid of it,” Santorum said. “If you’re a responsible business, you don’t let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country.” He continued: “To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their website or through their system is something that they say they can’t handle but I suspect that’s not true.”

[…]

A Google spokesperson responded to Santorum by advising that users who want “content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly.”

“Google’s search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the web. Users who want content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly,” the spokesperson said. “Once the webmaster takes the page down from the web, it will be removed from Google’s search results through our usual crawling process.”

The spokesperson said that Google does not “remove content from our search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content and violations of our webmaster guidelines.”

I’m no fan of Santorum and, indeed, would almost surely vote to re-elect President Obama were he my only alternative. Further, Santorum is delusional: If the top 10 results on Google proclaimed him the smartest, most decent man on the planet, he’d still be ranked up there with random hobos in the polls. If a meteorite were to strike the next GOP debate, sparing only Santorum, someone else would get the nomination.

That said, Santorum is right on a narrow point: Google could and should fix this well-known flaw in its rankings.

As I noted back in February (“Rick Santorum’s Google Problem = Google’s Rick Santorum Problem“) when this issue first got attention, people rely on Google and other search engines to give them the most meaningful results about the thing they’re searching for. In the case of a prominent individual, that will almost always be their Wikipedia page, their IMDB page (if they’re in the entertainment business), their personal homepage, and their bio page at the company that employs them. Additionally, if they’re currently in the news for something, recent news items–like the  Politico story linked here–will often appear high on the page.

While I don’t claim to understand the programming involved, I’m pretty familiar with Google’s algorithm and the constant tinkering the company does to give the “best” results. Yes, I know that this is a subjective matter. But, in particular, Google has spent the last several years aggressively downgrading sites who they deem to be gaming the system by selling links, engaging in link-sharing, or otherwise artificially inflating the value of a target site. Partly, this is because Google’s core business is actually AdSense, its advertising system. Mostly, though, it’s because the value of their core brand–the search engine–is based on people trusting the results and not getting junk.

In fairness to Google, the results are much better now than they were six months ago. The “Spreading Santorum” site remains in first place, which I continue to maintain it shouldn’t be. But the Rick Santorum Wikipedia page is 2nd and Santorum’s own campaign site is 4th. In between is another Wikipedia page on the “Campaign for the ‘Santorum” neolosim.” This page probably shouldn’t be quite that high, given that niche pages typically aren’t, but should in fact be on the first page given the amount of buzz the issue has generated over a long period of time. Among other top sites are a ThinkProgress blog piece on “Rick Santorum’s 12 Most Offensive Statements” and a recent CNN story titled “Santorum decries charge of bigotry.” These strike me as perfectly legitimate, in that their rankings are “earned” in the traditional way rather than through an orchestrated campaign.

UPDATE: I noted this in the comments but it deserves addition to the main post: They actually have a history of doing this. As Danny Sullivan notes, they did it for the Bush “miserable failure” one years ago.

Google has finally defused the “Google Bomb” that has returned US President George W. Bush at the top of its results in a search on miserable failure. The move wasn’t a post-State Of The Union Address gift for Bush. Instead, it’s part of an overall algorithm change designed to stop such mass link pranks from working.

A search today now shows the US White House page carrying Bush’s name is no longer top listed. Also gone are pages about Michael Moore and former US president Jimmy Carter that were on the first page of results due to Google bombing actions.

What’s not missing are articles about the Google bombing incident itself, including my own article I wrote back in January 2004 from when I worked at Search Engine Watch. The algorithm change hasn’t impacted these.

This is because the change is designed to stop the pranks from happening rather than legitimate commentary about such activities. Google isn’t saying exactly how this is being done. But Google says it’s done automatically, without any human intervention.

“It’s completely algorithmic,” said Google spam fighting czar Matt Cutts, adding “we’re not going to claim it’s 100 percent perfect.”

That was back in January 2007.  Like that one, the Santorum link bomb is widely known and joked about. They should take similar steps.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Science & Technology, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anon says:

    I’m not sure that there is a good solution, even if Google were receptive. First, I would guess that Google would be very hesitant about putting in a special case rule keyed on “Santorum”. So the fix must be algorithmic, and apply to any similar case. But that would be difficult. Given any search term, there is nothing to prevent a bunch of people from creating web pages that talk about that search term. How can Google’s algorithms tell the difference between “good” Santorum pages and “bad” Santorum pages, in such a way that cannot be easily gamed?

    It’s true that Google does fiddle with its algorithms. But even these changes apply to a broad category of web pages and search terms. Google has a somewhat easier task there, because companies in the business of artificially inflating web pages do not have an army of motivated people dedicated to creating real web pages for the purpose of defining one single search term.

  2. Tano says:

    James,

    You seem to be demanding that Google make a fundamental change in the nature of their product – away from being a representation of what is available on the Web, to a subjective, highly edited “guide to the internet’, more akin to a travel guide..

    How big of an army of people would they need to have working on this if it were to evolve into a general practice, rather than being done only for Santorum? Do you really want to see Google go down that road?

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Tano: It’s never going to be perfect and algorithms can be gamed. At minimum, though, they can manually ignore blatant, well-publicized instances.

    They actually have a history of doing this. As Danny Sullivan notes, they did it for the Bush “miserable failure” one years ago.

    Google has finally defused the “Google Bomb” that has returned US President George W. Bush at the top of its results in a search on miserable failure. The move wasn’t a post-State Of The Union Address gift for Bush. Instead, it’s part of an overall algorithm change designed to stop such mass link pranks from working.

    A search today now shows the US White House page carrying Bush’s name is no longer top listed. Also gone are pages about Michael Moore and former US president Jimmy Carter that were on the first page of results due to Google bombing actions.

    What’s not missing are articles about the Google bombing incident itself, including my own article I wrote back in January 2004 from when I worked at Search Engine Watch. The algorithm change hasn’t impacted these.

    This is because the change is designed to stop the pranks from happening rather than legitimate commentary about such activities. Google isn’t saying exactly how this is being done. But Google says it’s done automatically, without any human intervention.

    “It’s completely algorithmic,” said Google spam fighting czar Matt Cutts, adding “we’re not going to claim it’s 100 percent perfect.”

    That was back in January 2007. This one is widely known and joked about. They should take similar steps.

  4. Anon says:

    James, the link that give is in fact not a case of manually ignoring a well-publicized instance. Instead it was an algorithmic change that was not specific to George Bush. So why didn’t the same fix work for Santorum? Probably due to differences in the link structure/characteristics about his case. For example, it’s a different kind of Googlebomb. The Bush Googlebomb was to have pages about Bush turn up when “miserable failure” was searched. The Santorum Googlebomb is to have bomber-written pages turn up when Santorum is searched.

  5. Vast Variety says:

    You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel any sympathy for a hate mongering theocrat like Santorum. He rightfully earned the ridicule he receives for his attempts at linking homosexuality to pedophiles, incest, and bestiality.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Does Santorum have a cause for action for defamation against Google? I’m not claiming that it does I’m asking whether it does. Inquiring minds want to know.

  7. john personna says:

    The thing about the Bush episode is that it was all probably in the A-tag. Name equals “miserable failure” and URL contains “bush.” That’s easy to discard.

    With Santorum the name and the destination are both Santorum. It’s the deeper meaning, the content at the destination that they messed with. Google would have to look at the destination pages, and try to weigh them as “more sick” or “more politics.” And then keep the “more politics” ones.

    It would be much easier to drop all Santorum links, unfortunately.

  8. Franklin says:

    The question is what do you people who search for Santorum want to see? The only times I’ve searched for him was to look for the history of the neologism (note: this is misspelled in your post, JJ). That’s literally what I was searching for. In my opinion, very few people are searching him because they are interested in voting for him.

  9. Bleev K says:

    Santorum got what he deserved.

  10. john personna says:

    (Google’s suggestion that they send “take downs” to all sites holding the sick pages is actually good in that sense. It may be harder, but this is really about that stuff being on the internet, and not just that it was found by this search engine.

    I note that Bing puts the same ugly page up top.)

  11. john personna says:

    (Heh, does this very page get kept or discarded by google?)

  12. Anon says:

    Google’s suggestion that they send “take downs” to all sites holding the sick pages is actually good in that sense.

    Would that work, legally? Is a site libeling someone if all it does is give a name a definition that is not commonly accepted? Would it be considered parody? These pages are not actually stating anything about Santorum the person. Certainly they are not claiming that Santorum is gay.

  13. blackfrancis says:
  14. mantis says:

    UPDATE: I noted this in the comments but it deserves addition to the main post: They actually have a history of doing this. As Danny Sullivan notes, they did it for the Bush “miserable failure” one years ago.

    This isn’t a Googlebomb, it is a legitimately high ranked page. There is a big difference. Here’s Danny Sullivan, whom you quote, explaining it:

    In a classic Googlebombing — which Google did crack down on when it was used to tie searches for “miserable failure” to George W. Bush back during the Republicans administration — pranksters tricked Google’s algorithm into sending (for lack of a better term) the “wrong” results for a search. An example could be you entered “apple” in the Google bar and got back a page about bananas thanks to people purposefully tricking the algorithm.

    “Google said ‘we don’t like people kind of spraying graffitti all over our results,’” Sullivan said of the Googlebomb. “So they instituted a fix.” Basically, an improved algorithm was rolled out that could combat the Googlebomb practice.

    This is not what happened to Santorum, Sullivan explained. Savage literally created a new definition for the word “Santorum” and then made a website explaining it. That explanation has become accepted and — “in some quarters,” Sullivan said — a topic people actually go searching for when they enter santorum into Google.

    What you are advocating is Google gaming legitimate results to appease one person who isn’t happy about it.

    You set a ridiculous standard in the thread of the previous post to which you link:

    You simply can’t tell me that the average person searching for “Rick Santorum,” a former United States Senator and presidential aspirant, as primarily interested in some nonsense entry a dirtbag columnist concocted and popularized through scamming the algorithm.

    It doesn’t matter what the “average person” in your head is looking for when they search. What matters is what all users of Google are seeking (and clicking) when they search for the term. If Google created their algorithm based on what one person supposed the “average person” wanted to see when searching, well, it wouldn’t even be an algorithm. It would just be Google personnel deciding what the results should be based on vague notions of the average person’s desires. It would also be impossible. They wouldn’t even be a search engine, really.

    What you are asking is for Google to stop doing what has worked very well for them and come up with a new model, or to make a special rule just for Rick Santorum. What happens when the next politician doesn’t like his/her search results?

  15. LaurenceB says:

    To me, the question becomes – Was Savage’s intent to create a Google Bomb, or was it to invent a neologism? If Google judges it to be the former, then they should take action, as Joyner suggests. Otherwise, no.

    In other words, Google should only censor to keep folks from gaming Google.

    Did Savage invent the “Santorum” just to game Google – or did he just want to popularize “Santorum” more generally? I don’t know enough about this case to say yes or no. But, I believe Google’s decision should hinge on that question.

  16. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: @LaurenceB: Contra Danny Sullivan, I think it amounts to the same thing. This isn’t some independent neologism but rather an orchestrated smear campaign using the exact tactics of a Google bomb. It’s absurd to argue that this is somehow a “new definition” for Rick Santorum that has caught on. What has caught on is the meme that Google has been gamed to give this result when searching for Rick Santorum. Big difference.

    Now, if someone were searching for “Rick Santorum smear” or “Rick Santorum Dan Savage” or the like, that should obviously come up. But, frankly, even there the top result should be Savage’s column that set the basis for it rather than the gamed page.

  17. Anon says:

    It doesn’t matter what the “average person” in your head is looking for when they search. What matters is what all users of Google are seeking (and clicking) when they search for the term.

    I agree that the Santorum bomb is not a classic bomb. However, I disagree that it doesn’t matter what the average person is looking for. It does matter, since Google’s job is to provide the results that people are looking for. However, as you implied, maybe most searchers really are looking for the alternative definition of Santorum.

    The other point, though, is that Google doesn’t know exactly the results that the average person wants. It can only infer this from the structure of the web, and what links people click on.

  18. Does actor Dick Van Dyke have cause to complain because the top hits on a search for “van dyke” are about the beard instead of him?

    Now you’re probably thinking “well, he probably doesn’t mind being compared to a beard”, and that’s the key point here. Santorum isn’t asking for a general rule change that people be prioritized above slang terms in search results. He’s asking google to censor a particular slang term he finds offensive.

    It’s not about result accuracy, it’s about imposing Santorum’s aesthetics on the rest of the internet.

  19. john personna says:

    @Anon:

    I am not a lawyer, but I think “take downs” often work without much foundation. Most sites don’t want the conflict. Those that wanted to make a point of it … you could certainly cost them with a defamation@James Joyner:
    defamation suit, I’d think.

    @James Joyner:

    It’s absurd to argue that this is somehow a “new definition” for Rick Santorum that has caught on.

    But that was actually their trick. By making a link for (just) Santorum (not Rick), they created what dumb spiders think is a named link to content. Bing falls for it too, because that’s the way the web usually works.

  20. LaurenceB says:

    Not to belabor my point, but…

    If a marketer at company A produced a viral video in which the product from company B was described as “shit”, and Google Search were to then rank that video higher than company B’s own website, I don’t think Google would be justified in adjusting the ranking simply because company B didn’t like it.

    On the other hand, if that marketer at company A paid web sites to include “product B is shit” in their metadata or something, then Google would be justified in adjusting the rankings. Because that’s just gaming Google.

  21. Anon says:

    Contra Danny Sullivan, I think it amounts to the same thing. This isn’t some independent neologism but rather an orchestrated smear campaign using the exact tactics of a Google bomb.

    You are looking at this as a human, and as a human, I agree with you. It’s an orchestrated smear campaign exploiting Google’s search algorithms to define Santorum to mean something disgusting. It’s a form of childish name-calling.

    But Danny Sullivan is referring to the search algorithms, and they are not human. The link structure between the two cases is clearly different. If they were not different, then the same algorithm changes that fixed Bush’s Google bomb would have fixed Santorum’s. The fact that those changes didn’t shows that the two cases are different. (The only alternative explanation is that Google added special code, keyed on “Santorum”, that exempted him from the algorithm changes, so as to leave his Google bomb in place. I personally don’t find that plausible.)

  22. LaurenceB says:

    One last thing before I go –

    Whether or not Google should take action, I hope we’re all in agreement that Savage’s actions in this case are reprehensible. While Santorum’s comments were ignorant, the “Santorum” is the wrong way to rebut them. The last thing I would want to see is this sort of thing proliferating.

  23. john personna says:

    BTW, note that Google’s “safe search” option eliminates the “Spreading Santorum” site

  24. ponce says:

    It seems appropriate that a terrible human being like Santorum, who blocked Congress from fixing so many “obvious” wrongs when he was serving, should get a taste of his own medicine.

  25. Jay Tea says:

    It’ll be interesting what Google’s response will be should SCOAMF really take off, like it should…

    J.

  26. Jay Tea says:

    Interesting. The arguments put forth by Vast Variety, Bleev, and ponce boil down to “bitch was asking for it.” They won’t address whether or not the move is ethical, only that Santorum is so, so, so very bad in their eyes that he deserves pretty much whatever he gets.

    J.

  27. mantis says:

    Contra Danny Sullivan, I think it amounts to the same thing.

    I like that you cite an authority on the topic, and then when you find he does not support your conclusion, you abandon his expertise in favor of what you feel to be right. Truthy!

    This isn’t some independent neologism but rather an orchestrated smear campaign using the exact tactics of a Google bomb.

    Again, it is not the same as a Googlebomb. The fact that you continue to claim it is shows how little you understand about search engines and Google. As Anon points out above, it this was a Googlebomb then Google’s fix would have eliminated it. The Santorum rank is an “organic” development, not a gaming of the engine.

    It’s absurd to argue that this is somehow a “new definition” for Rick Santorum that has caught on.

    How is that absurd? It happens to be the case. Savage gave the word a new definition, promoted it, it caught on, and now it exists within the vernacular of the Internet. That’s the way it goes.

    What has caught on is the meme that Google has been gamed to give this result when searching for Rick Santorum. Big difference.

    Once again, you claim it is a gaming of the system without any understanding of the system. Your insistence on repeatedly arguing from ignorance only makes you less convincing each time.

    But, frankly, even there the top result should be Savage’s column that set the basis for it rather than the gamed page.

    This is just ridiculous. Why do you bother writing about something you are completely ignorant of. Search engine results are not calculated based on what you personally think should be relevant. Search engine results are calculated based on a number of variables, the most important being links. The reason Savage’s spreadingsantorum.com page is more highly ranked than the column is many more sites have linked to that page than the original column. You seem to want search engines results to be based on subjective notions of primacy and importance that are not supported by data and are impossible to actually calculate.

    And I’ll note that you have completely ignored the fact that the results are pretty much the same on other search engines, insisting instead, like the idiot Rick Santorum, that this is somehow Google’s fault. Does Google run Bing and Yahoo and no one told us?

  28. mantis says:

    However, I disagree that it doesn’t matter what the average person is looking for. It does matter, since Google’s job is to provide the results that people are looking for.

    People. Not the “average person.” There is no such thing as an “average” searcher of the term Santorum, except in one’s imagination. How do you average out search engine users when there are no real values to assign to their actions? The closest you can come to “average” is by analyzing total user clicks and clicks per user. If more people who search a term click on a particular link but not others, than that page will eventually move up in the ranking. Santorum doesn’t have enough people searching his name and interested in his official websites to move those pages above the others. His problem is not Google, it’s lack of interest in the real Rick Santorum.

    You could find some averages in terms of user behavior, such as the average number of results clicked by searchers of a particular term, but that doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the “average person” is really looking for.

    In short, Google is providing the results people are looking for. If more people start seeking different results, the rankings will change.

    I know I’m telling you things you already know, Anon, based on the rest of your comment, but I think it’s important to note that the “average person” in search engine land is a phantom.

  29. ponce says:

    They won’t address whether or not the move is ethical, only that Santorum is so, so, so very bad in their eyes that he deserves pretty much whatever he gets.

    Not quite, Jay.

    Those of us who remember Santorum’s shameful career in the U.S. Congress know he tried to game the system to foist his wacky superstitions on all Americans(and the rest of the world).

    It’s nice to see him get a taste of his own medicine now.

  30. Restless says:

    It’s not Google or Dan Savage’s fault that Santorum has an unfortunate last name. Life is unfair, sir, and we all have our crosses to bear. You don’t see all the people with last names like Cleveland-Steamer, Goldenshower and Blumpkin making a fuss about search terms, do you?

  31. mantis says:

    They won’t address whether or not the move is ethical, only that Santorum is so, so, so very bad in their eyes that he deserves pretty much whatever he gets.

    What move? Savage’s or Google’s?

    And they don’t say Santorum “deserves pretty much whatever he gets.” They seem to say that he deserves this one particular thing. And I agree with them. His equating homosexuals with sexual criminals who prey on children and people who have sex with animals was despicable, and his reputation deserved to be tarnished. Savage found a creative, amusing, 21st century way of accomplishing that. It’s called free speech, and if Santorum doesn’t like free speech, then he isn’t fit for public office to begin with.

  32. Anon says:

    It’s absurd to argue that this is somehow a “new definition” for Rick Santorum that has caught on.

    How is that absurd? It happens to be the case. Savage gave the word a new definition, promoted it, it caught on, and now it exists within the vernacular of the Internet. That’s the way it goes.

    I think you and James are talking past each other. It’s clearly not an emergent definition that arose unbidden from the way we use words. It was orchestrated. I think that’s what James means.

    But from a computer standpoint, a definition is a definition.

    And even if a definition is orchestrated, should we consider it less legitimate? Let’s say that as a political act, the Tea Party decides that “Obamism” means “socialism”. Should Google not show those pages, because it was an orchestrated act? What if they decide that “Obamism” means “pedophilia”? As a human, I might judge that the former is a legitimate political statement, but that the latter is a smear. It would be hard to come up with a page-ranking algorithm that would distinguish the two, however.

  33. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: Actually, all the top results for Dick Van Dyke are, as one would expect, about the actor. (Oddly, at this moment, the same is true of a search for Rick Santorum.) I would expect searches for Santorum and Van Dyke to be more mixed, actually.

  34. @James Joyner:

    “Dick Van Dyke” gets you the actor. “Rick Santorum” gets you the senator. It’s when you search for “Van Dyke” or “Santorum” in isolation that you get other results.

  35. mantis says:

    I think you and James are talking past each other. It’s clearly not an emergent definition that arose unbidden from the way we use words. It was orchestrated. I think that’s what James means.

    So what? It happens. New words and definitions for words enter the language through a variety of means. Sometimes they are orchestrated, sometimes accidentally “orchestrated.” Case in point: refudiate. Search engines don’t care how words and definitions come into popular use. They just care that they are popular.

    And even if a definition is orchestrated, should we consider it less legitimate? Let’s say that as a political act, the Tea Party decides that “Obamism” means “socialism”. Should Google not show those pages, because it was an orchestrated act? What if they decide that “Obamism” means “pedophilia”? As a human, I might judge that the former is a legitimate political statement, but that the latter is a smear. It would be hard to come up with a page-ranking algorithm that would distinguish the two, however.

    Exactly. Search engine results are not some personal commentary on the world. They simply reflect what people are doing, based on data.

    For all James’s talk about this result being a “gaming” of the system (which it isn’t), what he is advocating is that Google actually game their system to appease Rick Santorum. He wants them to de-rank a legitimately ranked page for political purposes. I can’t figure out if he wants that just because he is ignorant of the technology involved, or he simply thinks private entities should bend to the will of politicians whenever they demand it. One explanation is understandable; the other is appalling.

  36. Anon says:

    Actually, all the top results for Dick Van Dyke are, as one would expect, about the actor.

    Yes, but Mantis wrote “van dyke”. I’m not sure if the quotes are intended or not, but if you search for “van dyke” with quotes, the beard meaning shows up before the actor. Though both meanings are pretty high. And the top is a commercial site.

    A search for Rick Santorum (no quotes) shows the Google bomb as the top hit. Maybe you have some filtering turned on.

  37. @Anon:

    And the top is a commercial site.

    Actually this points out another facet of this controversy. There’s a REAL easy way for Santorum to get his page to the top of the search listing: paying for a sponsored link. What this is really about is Santorum using the slang term as an excuse to pressure google to provide him with a service for free that his campaign would normally have to pay for.

    Not only is the former senator frothy, he’s apparently also a cheapwad.

  38. mattb says:

    Like Mantis and others I have to come down on the side that this might have started out as a “Google Bomb” but the result of this has been a neologism that is taking on a life of its own. And the particular proof in the pudding is the differences between googling “Santorum” and “Rick Santorum.”

    In other words the bomb went off a while ago… the word/meaning was successfully created. We’re just dealing with the aftermath.

    There are some outstanding questions about what, if anything, Santorum could have initially done to protect his name/defuse the bomb (his status as a public figure creates a lot of issues). But at this point, for better or worse, the neologism has been adopted and continues to be used.

    Put a different way, apply these rules to other proper names that have taken on quasi-political meanings (Bork immediately springs to mind, but there are others) — should Google filter out references to the verb sense of that name? Ditto the use of brand names that have lapsed into common parlance?

  39. mantis says:

    Yes, but Mantis wrote “van dyke”.

    Just like to note that Stormy brought up Dick van Dyke, not me. Just sayin…

  40. Franklin says:

    I just tried searching Santorum with Google’s “strict filtering”. The neologism page still comes up first. I guess I kind of disagree that this should happen.

  41. doubter4444 says:

    @mantis:
    EXACTLY
    This is about a highly ranked page, not a “gamed” result.
    You should know better

  42. doubter4444 says:

    @doubter4444:
    By that I meant, James Joyner should know better!
    I was not clear, I think.

  43. ponce says:

    I just tried searching Santorum with Google’s “strict filtering”. The neologism page still comes up first.

    Same thing happens when using Bing to search for “Santorum.”

  44. Another thing to notice:

    Under the “Spreading Santorum” link it says “1,234 people +1’d this”. Apparently the reason it’s so high is because a large number of Google+ users are telling Google that this is the right search result. Now that qualify as “gaming the results”, and given that Google+ is only a few months old, it’s likely the search engine hasn’t considered all the ramifications of using the +1’s in search result rankings.

    Now I think I actually have to side with the Senator (as distateful as that is), since there is a content neutral algorithm change here: it needs to be modified to filter out Google+ based SEO games the same way it has been previously modified to filter out web based SEO games.

  45. Anon says:

    I just tried searching Santorum with Google’s “strict filtering”. The neologism page still comes up first. I guess I kind of disagree that this should happen.

    There are lots of variations. If I search for Rick Santorum with strict filtering, the Wikipedia page for him comes up first, the Wikipedia neologism page is second.

    There is some irony in that Santorum’s efforts are probably working against him, since it will cause people to create and click on web pages related to the neologism.

  46. mantis says:

    Under the “Spreading Santorum” link it says “1,234 people +1′d this”. Apparently the reason it’s so high is because a large number of Google+ users are telling Google that this is the right search result. Now that qualify as “gaming the results”, and given that Google+ is only a few months old, it’s likely the search engine hasn’t considered all the ramifications of using the +1′s in search result rankings.

    You bring up an interesting point here. All of this discussion, including the comments I have left, is really referring to the old world of search. Search has changed dramatically in the past year, now relying in part on individual user data and integrating more social media into algorithms. This means two things. First, if a site is hot in social media, it will get ranked higher, and rankings will change more quickly as a result. Second, and more importantly, the results you see are influenced by data the search engine has about you, and thus the rankings you see can and will be different from those others see.

    For instance, right now if I search the word “airlines,” United Airlines is the first result. However, if my search history, bookmarks, social media behavior, etc. were filled with references to Southwest Airlines, then the Southwest site would move higher in the rankings for me, perhaps to the top.

    This is rocking the world of SEO as we speak, as there is no “pure” search result you can rely on all people seeing. It’s all customized to the user (even if you aren’t logged into Google, but less so if that is the case). In many cases it will make little difference, but in others the difference will be quite significant.

  47. An Interested Party says:

    It’s an orchestrated smear campaign exploiting Google’s search algorithms to define Santorum to mean something disgusting. It’s a form of childish name-calling.

    Considering the reasons behind it, this is the least that Santorum deserves…

    As a human, I might judge that the former is a legitimate political statement, but that the latter is a smear.

    So, of course, it’s reprehensible to compare the President to pedophiles but legitimate to compare him to socialists, even though either comparison is false…

  48. Rick says:

    I can feel for Santorum, it’s embarrassing. Does Google do this on purpose? Doubt it. But is this really something Google can and should do something about? This would be a clear definition of the word “censorship” if they changed the search results.

    Doesn’t sound like good politics for Santorum to keep bringing it up. Playing the “filth” card sounds more like a Tea Party comment.

  49. Rick says:

    @Bleev K: Got what he deserved or not, I want my Google searches to be as accurate as possible. Don’t screw with my results, or another search engine will be used.

  50. RED says:

    Rick Santorum started this crap. Now the ex-senator is getting a taste of his own medicine.
    Comparing same sex relationships to beastiality, child sex offenders, pornography, and a host of other disgusting sexual practices is incomprehensible.
    I say, let him have it! In fact, everyone should get in the act. Let the jerk know free speech is a two way street.

  51. Alanmt says:

    I think wonkette actually stated it best:

    Victimiest most victimized ever victim Rick “The President of Victims” Santorum has had a rough time carrying out his life’s mission as an unrepentant homophobic bigot, because his consistent dehumanizing attacks on gay people forced them to start a gay jihad against him (funny how war works, isn’t it, Rick?) that makes filthy results pop up top with any Google search of his name or presidential campaign.