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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Liberal Bloggers Manipulate Google

    There’s a new tactic in political campaigns today, known as ‘Google Bombing.’ The New York Times recently reported that around 50 Republican political candidates have been attacked in this manner.

    Liberal bloggers have been posting names of Republican candidates with links pointing to articles that portray them negatively. The objective is to make Google’s system for cataloging the Internet assign the articles the bloggers are linking to as being the most relevant to the candidate’s name when searched for.

    The New York Times article uses Congressman Peter King, of Long Island, as an example. A Google search for his name yields several articles intended to damage King among the top 100 result. Another, somewhat humorous example is ‘miserable failure.’ The first result that comes up is President Bush’s official Web page.

    However, above it is a sponsored link to an official Google blog explaining the situation. They condemn anything like this, and say they’d rather not manually alter search results. They add that their service strives to remain unbiased. Chris Bowers, the man behind the liberal blogging campaign, says it is simply ‘search engine optimization,’ the act or process of creating Web content to improve your search engine ranking. He adds that if both sides did it, the playing field would be equal.

    Another interesting case of search engine quirks is that of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia which can be edited by everybody. Articles from that site are consistently among the top results when one exists for what you’re looking for, as this site is often cited as a source of information by other sites. Those articles have also been known to have been defaced from time to time, sometimes to convey a particular message, or sometimes for the sake of vandalism.

    Wikipedia’s’ articles are also prone to being less than impartial. However, Wikipedia’s philosophy of trying to be neutral has also resulted in the whole truth being told, including a few very negative points on a subject among many non-negative ones. One researcher found that on average, a Wikipedia article showed up as result #11 on a Google search for any of the top 100 brand-name companies in the country, which places them in a position to impact consumers’ buying decisions.

    These are prime examples of why seemingly impartial Internet sources, like Google, cannot always be trusted to be unbiased. It was relatively easy for a committed group of people to manipulate Google, one of the most widely-used Web services in the world, to produce the results they wanted. However, there’s little more that you can do than to actively seek out views opposing the ones flooding Google.

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