Blown To Bits

Google-Bombing Obama

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

Barak Obama was the object of a google-bombing — searches for “cheerful achievement” got you links to Obama. And Obama inherited from George Bush some of the White-House-directed search results for “miserable failure.”

We talk about Google bombs in Blown to Bits (p. 150). Some conservative sources are suggesting political explanations for the fact that Google moved more quickly against these bombs than it did when the object was Bush. That seems a pretty silly idea — Google would have much better ways to create partisan slant than this. I imagine Google is simply very reluctant to interfere with the natural search results, and it took several years to develop algorithms that could reliably distinguish Google bombs from legitimate shifts in the ranks of pages. They would surely like the whole search engine to operate as an automaton exactly so they could not be accused manipulating results for partisan purposes. But getting algorithms to do things about which human beings might make different judgments is a tricky business.

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