Thursday, October 26, 2006

Political Google Bombing

As we approach election season here in the United States, political groups go to great lengths to make their favorite candidates look good while making the competition look bad. The latest tactic used is Google bombing, the practice of manipulating Google's search results to inflate certain results. One of the best known Google bombs resulted in George Bush's biography page being displayed when someone searched for the term “miserable failure”.

According to the New York Times:

If things go as planned for liberal bloggers in the next few weeks, searching Google for “Jon Kyl,” the Republican senator from Arizona now running for re-election, will produce high among the returns a link to an April 13 article from The Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly.

Mr. Kyl “has spent his time in Washington kowtowing to the Bush administration and the radical right,” the article suggests, “very often to the detriment of Arizonans.”

Searching Google for “Peter King,” the Republican congressman from Long Island, would bring up a link to a Newsday article headlined “King Endorses Ethnic Profiling.”

Fifty or so other Republican candidates have also been made targets in a sophisticated “Google bombing” campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms. By flooding the Web with references to the candidates and repeatedly cross-linking to specific articles and sites on the Web, it is possible to take advantage of Google’s formula and force those articles to the top of the list of search results.


Each name is associated with one article. Those articles are embedded in hyperlinks that are now being distributed widely among the left-leaning blogosphere. In an entry at this week, Mr. Bowers said: “When you discuss any of these races in the future, please, use the same embedded hyperlink when reprinting the Republican’s name. Then, I suppose, we will see what happens.” (Quote from Tom Zeller, New York Times)

While not illegal, the ethics behind manipulating search results seems a bit questionable to say the least.

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