Up until yesterday, when someone typed in ‘miserable failure’ into the AOL search engine, the top result listed was a link to President Bush’s Biography. However, AOL removed the listing yesterday from its cobranded Google results without comment. Ironically, AOL did not remove the links Democrats such as Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter that also appear on searches, as well as filmmaker Michael Moore. Is this a political move by AOL/Time Warner? Are they trying to prove a point via media censorship? The Search Engine Journal decided to look into this further.
Currently, on Google the top four results for “miserable failure” are:
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE TO MICHAELMOORE.COM Tuesday, January 27th, 2004
You Say Deserter, I Say More Dessert… by Michael Moore. Friends,. …
Description: Official site of the gadfly of corporations, creator of the film Roger and Me and the television show…
Category: Arts > Celebrities > M > Moore, Michael
www.michaelmoore.com/ – 13k – 5 Feb 2004 – Cached – Similar pages
Biography of President George W. Bush
Home > President > Biography President George W. Bush En Español.
George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He …
Description: Biography of the president from the official White House web site.
Category: Kids and Teens > School Time > … > Bush, George Walker
www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html – 29k – Cached – Similar pages
Biography of Jimmy Carter
Home > History & Tours > Past Presidents > Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter aspired to make Government “competent and compassionate …
Description: Short biography from the official White House site.
Category: Society > History > … > Presidents > Carter, James Earl
www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/jc39.html – 36k – Cached – Similar pages
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: Online Office Welcome Page
Dear Friend,. Thank you for visiting my on-line office! I appreciate
your interest in the issues before the United States Senate. …
Description: Official US Senate web site of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D – NY).
Category: Society > History > … > First Ladies > Clinton, Hillary
clinton.senate.gov/ – 9k – 5 Feb 2004 – Cached – Similar pages
However, according to an article in the Direct Marketing News, the results for the same search on AOL (which as stated above uses Google for their results) does not list the George W. Bush page. Most interesting.
The links to the political figures’ sites appeared after a group of Webloggers last year began to link to Bush’s bio on Web pages with the words “miserable failure.” Bush partisans followed suit to include liberal political figures like Moore, Clinton and Carter.
Google bombs take advantage of Google’s use of link popularity in its search algorithm. One prank last year linked a search for “weapons of mass destruction” to a Web page that appeared like a Microsoft error message.
AOL, which displays search results by Google, said it removed the link to Bush’s Web site under its policy to take out obviously irrelevant results.
AOL did not explain why Bush’s site qualified as link spam while those of Moore, Clinton and Carter did not, but said it would stop judging individual links.
What is Google Bombing?
WordSpy.com defines Google Bombing as:
(GOO.gul bawm.ing) n. Setting up a large number of Web pages with links that point to a specific Web site so that the site will appear near the top of a Google search when users enter the link text.
—Google bomb n.
Here are four types of Google Bombs whose fuses have already been lit:
1. Humor Bombs. Mathes’ original Google Bomb remains the classic of this genre. It’s pretty funny to see your friend come up in Google as the No. 1 talentless hackin the whole world. Successful humor bombs, like most Google Bombs, require search key words that don’t get a lot of traffic.
2. Ego Bombs. Many bloggers want to be the top search result for their first name or full name. Free-lance writer David Gallagher posted this plea on his site: I’ve decided that I want to be the most famous David Gallagher on the Internet, and if you have a Web site, you can help. How? Link to this site like so: David Gallagher. As of March 22, he’s ranked No. 3 in Google.
3. Money Bombs. So far, no one’s paying bloggers to set off Google Bombs, but the practice is probably inevitable. Last month, Weblogger Brig Eaton floated the idea, saying that her father would be willing to pay to get his site Google Bombed into the No. 1search result for Santa Cruz real estate. A week and a few (free) links later, www.santacruzrealty.net had moved from the No. 189 Google result to No. 39.
—John Hiler, “Google Time Bomb,” Slate Magazine, March 25, 2002
Examples of Google Bombs:
Search on these terms for influenced Google Bomb results:
“litigious bastads” (a jab at SCO, the company recently targeted by the MyDoom virus)
This is not the first time AOL has been accused of censoring their network for political reasons.
In 2000, CNET News reported that AOL’s “youth filters” were preventing young surfers from accessing liberal websites; “your children can easily view the site of the Republican National Committee,” Brian Livingston reported at the time, “but the Democratic National Committee is blocked.”
According to DisInfo.com, AOL and its chat moderators have also previously closed or hidden anti-Bush chatrooms:
As I finished browsing the usual progressive and leftist websites on the internet, I became curious to search the AOL Chatroom listings. One of the public chatrooms I entered was titled, ‘Bush 4 Imprisonment.’ There were four other screen names in the chatroom when I arrived. We started discussing Bush and the 2004 election.
After fifteen minutes of conversation; I was curious to see if there were any similar chatrooms listed. So I kept idle in the original chatroom, and clicked a viewing of the current and available rooms. It came to my suprise to see that our chatroom, ‘Bush 4 Imprisonment,’ was no longer listed under ‘Chatrooms made by AOL Members.’
Our chatroom was still alive and in a deep discussion, but it was like it never existed. This prevented other people from entering or acknowledging that we even had a room. I waited a few minutes and then searched again; the chat room didn’t exist. Which was funny because there were 3 members still conversing in the room.
When such a chatroom is created, and it reaches an AOL Moderator’s attention, it won’t be long until it is silenced.
Know of any other Google Bombs or AOL Censorship examples? If so, please post them in the comments section: