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New Campaign Tactic - Google Bombing 252

Posted by Zonk
from the politics-unusual dept.
jeian writes "My Direct Democracy, a liberal group blog, is trying out a new campaign tactic — Google bombing. From the New York Times article: '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.' Google's policy has typically been to not intervene and let the algorithms work by themselves, but could this change if Google-bombing becomes a common tactic?"
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New Campaign Tactic - Google Bombing

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  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:50PM (#16596846) Homepage
    The classic example is a Google Search for miserable failure [google.com] that returns the WhiteHouse.gov biography for George Bush. Not surpisingly, Michael Moore's page also comes up in the first page of results in the tit-for-tat. Read more about how "ugly" Democrats [uglydemocrats.com] and Republicans [uglyrepublicans.com] are using Political Google Bombs at Wikipedia. [wikipedia.org]
    • by jdunlevy (187745) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:10PM (#16597278) Homepage
      Once a particular Google bomb gets noticed and talked about on the Web, that discussion of the Google bomb itself serves to help "the algorithms work by themselves": in the "miserable failure" example, the third and fourth results in that Google search [google.com] are a BBC article about the "miserable failure" Google-bomb [bbc.co.uk] and the Wikipedia article about "Political Google bombs" [wikipedia.org] -- the Google bomb still pushes its target to the top of search results, but related, following search results provide explanation and context.
    • by Jonas the Bold (701271) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:15PM (#16597360)
      Yeah, but I'm not sure what these people are trying to do will work. Googlebombing works with obscure phrases, like Litigous Bastards or Miserable Failure, because people are unlikely to search for these or link with them in the first place. That way googlebombers can overcome all of the 'legit' uses of those phrases because there aren't very many of them. It's also mostly harmless because you can't accidentally find it.

      By actaully using the candidates name, they have to overcome a whole lot more, all of the actual political blogs, news articles, campaign sites, etc. I don't think it will work at all.
    • by JehCt (879940) *
      In order to successfully Google Bomb an important phrase, like a candidates name, the candidate has to be fairly clueless about search engine otpimization. If the candidate's own site is strong, and the candidate is conducting an effective web marketing campaign, the Google bombers will be stuck on page 2.
  • It took this long? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:50PM (#16596860) Homepage Journal
    People have been google-bombing phrases like litigious bastards [sco.com], miserable failure [whitehouse.gov], french military victories [albinoblacksheep.com], and so on for years. But these are all going about it backwards. If someone isn't looking for "litigious bastards," they're not going to find out you think it applies to SCO .

    I'm amazed it's taken people (outside of black-hat SEO and comment spammers) this long to start with the keywords end-users are likely to start with -- in this case, the names of the candidates -- and aim them at a site expressing the desired POV, rather than the other way around.
    • It is more because it is so much harder to compete with a term that is already widely used. "miserable failure" returns so many less results than George Bush. It requires a much more concerted "attack" to "hijack" the more popular term. In many cases, the hijackings are not going to take over the top spot, but will get in the top two or three.
      • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:49PM (#16598040) Homepage Journal
        Does it pass the 'so, what?' test?
        If the loyal opposition thinks that correlating "miserable failure" with Bush or anyone else somehow a) matters and b) has appreciable effect on the thought process of a voter, then this is a sad thing.
        Not shilling for Bush here, but what a sophomoric use of talent!
        How about some dispassionate critiques of the current world political situation, followed by some fresh, well-researched suggestions for where policy should go, and some non-establishment faces to implement the ideas on the ballot?
        Please?
        • by gfxguy (98788)
          Because we've evolved beyond boring intelligent debates and discussions on the issues and moved on into the 21rst century, where people with short attention spans and spend more time wondering who is going to be the next American Idol (and can name all the finalists but not one of their senators or a supreme court justice) than they spend wondering about their retirement will walk into a booth and say to themselves "dude... I saw that ad about that dude... he hates babies and black dudes... I'm not voting f
        • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @03:19PM (#16599750)
          This can have an appreciable effect. They are not linking terms like "laughable assclown", they are linking the candidate's OWN NAME to a news article about the candidate. Therefore people who are searching for information about the candidate are more likely to read the targeted article. It's simple and not at all misleading.

          Example: Conrad Burns [billingsgazette.net]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LihTox (754597)
          The "miserable failure" thing seems more like a (politically motivated) joke than a political strategy; it's amusing to people who think that Bush is a m.f. (double entendre intended), but it's not going to change anyone's mind.

          The new technique, having a candidate's name bring up a damning article on them, is more potent. Around election time, people WILL start googling candidate's names to learn more about them, and they WILL stumble upon these articles, which probably make accusations that the reader mi
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I thought of this idea a long while back when google bombing was first mentioned. I tried getting people to link "Microsoft Office" to the OpenOffice.org site. I know that OO.o got up to around the second or third result. I mean, the other examples such as the 404 WMD page are funny, but the other way around works much better for educating people about alternatives.
    • by garcia (6573)
      I never understood why they chose "litigious bastards" instead of something much more common to search for, say "assholes", "douchebags", or "whiners".

      Google Bombing unpopular search terms is of no importance. Making certain that when you search for "DFL" or "GOP" and it redirects to the Wikipedia definition for something negative is what they should be doing.
      • The value of google bombing unpopular search terms is that they become popular due to viral marketing.

        I've had a LOT of people email and message me about "miserable failure", and these are typically non-technical and non-political people.

        So in that respect google bombing is effective, and quite so.

    • by CODiNE (27417)
      Perhaps earlier demonstrations were simply advertisements, now it seems the customers have come and we get some REAL demonstrations of what they can do.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CokeBear (16811)
      The only problem with linking miserable failure to that whitehouse page is that when the next president comes along, they may not be as much of a failure (hey, I'm an optimist) and it will still be linked.
    • by Zenaku (821866)
      I'm not really convinced that this particular example mentioned in the article can legitimately be called a google bomb. The page linked is an article regarding one of the "victim's" positions, and being a controversial position, it doesn't seem that odd that the political blogosphere would have linked to it a ton while talking about Congressman King.

      So what makes it a google-bomb? The fact that the most linked to article about the congressman is unflattering? Does that mean congressman Foley was also go

    • Come on, "Santorum" is the granddaddy of them all! Best Googlebomb ever. Have to mention that one!
    • by yoha (249396)
      RTFM - the article states that the search for the representative's name yields an article from a local paper with a specific point of view as one of the first results.
  • by Thansal (999464) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:52PM (#16596910)
    I thought that when the idea first became popular Google worked on making it harder to google bomb something. Isn't this infact one of their key aspects on developing google itself? Return RELEVANT sites? not things with lots and lots of links and the same 2 words every time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646)
      Very true. Strictly speaking, I'm sure Google is "intervening" in the sense that they're trying to improve the algorithm so as to maintain its effectiveness without allowing people to use it for Googlebombs. The goal is to shut down these pranksters WITHOUT specifically making exceptions for their targets as part of the algorithm. It's kind of an arms race between Google and the pranksters, the result of which will most likely make the search engine better.
      • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:14PM (#16597334) Homepage Journal
        They haven't changed the algorithm just because pranksters have hijacked a couple of phrases and generally made people more aware of google (by advertising "have you tried going to google and typing ...."), they have done it to stop link farms and spam from getting through.

        Linking by keywords is a very important aspect of how google manages to return relevant results.
        The text a person uses to actually link to a site gives weight to the use of the destination site, to this end when linking we should always try to give a relevant phrase.
        Linking slashdot as this [slashdot.org] is less useful than something like Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters [slashdot.org].
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Nafai7 (53671)
          Something I found interesting: the word "here [google.com]" links first to the download for Adobe PDF Reader (for obvious reasons?). 2nd link is mapquest and 3rd is apple quicktime.

          Except for obvious linkfarms, which I believe google has been trying to decrease their effectiveness, google bombing is fine and ultimately will self correct for anything important.
  • by Speare (84249) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:53PM (#16596938) Homepage Journal

    If Google adjusts their code to "rectify" a politically-oriented gaming of the system, then Google would appear to many people as politically biased. "You fixed it for Johnny Blue, but you didn't fix it for Sally Red, so you must be one of them blue-state LIBeral activist fanatic type companies!" "You tweaked Sally Red's ranking but left alone Johnny Blue's sort results, so you must be one of them red-state NEOnazi NEOcon corporate welfare hack jobs!"

    • by cultrhetor (961872) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @02:37PM (#16598964) Journal

      In our present climate, it's impossible to avoid the appearance of bias. The word has, sadly, lost almost all meaning because of partisan wankers who use it as the default defense against one media outlet or another. "Bias," like any other broadly interpreted term in political contexts, is determined by the ideological lens through which the finger-pointers whine. By doing nothing, Google will be viewed by some (the objects of the Google-bombing) as "biased," because it did nothing to protect what they see as fair discursive practice: even if the algorithm is neutral, the uses to which it is put are not, and to Ma & Pa Kettle (remember: as a demographic, people over 50 vote more than the rest of us), who don't understand the Internet, when looking for information about politics, the appearance of neutrality is more important than actual, underlying neutrality.

      On the other hand, if Google were to adjust its algorithm, or begin quashing "Google bombs," the free-speech squad would go nuts, claiming that Google's actions are quashing the freedom of expression of online lynch-mobs. The EFF would go to court. Slashdot's YRO section would be packed with cyberlibertarians bitching about censorship and bringing up the legendary, mythical (and fictional) "neutrality" of the Internet.

      What fun.

  • my gut feeling is let it be, and let the republicans do the same to democrats. welcome to politics. its nasty. always was, always will be

    however, google in a very short time has come to inhabit a very important space in the media

    it is largely unregulated in the usa now (not so in other countries), but it won't stay that way for long. too many powerful interests will have too many concerns about google and its power,and google will not survive unscathed

    so i say: no regulation

    but my brain tells me regulation of google is coming regardless
    • by hal2814 (725639)
      By let it be, do you mean to suggest that Google should let it be or that any outside influences should let it be. As far as outside influences, I do agree. However, Google really should be doing something about this. If I'm searching for a political candidate via Google, it's because I'm searching for information on them. Info crafted by the opposing candidate or party that is heavily biased against the person being searched is not what I'd consider a relevant result.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Xtravar (725372)
        In this particular instance, it seems like they're just making a negative article turn up for the search result.

        So, I don't really see a problem whether you get positive or negative information. They're not going to spam the top 20 pages of search results with all negative articles, and also, negative articles for some are positive for others. Example: I think racial profiling is swell, and I hate those damn hippies who oppose it!!

        If they get fake articles ranked up, then I guess that could be a problem,
    • google in a very short time has come to inhabit a very important space in the media
      I don't know about everyone else but I go to Google when I need information. I don't get a clear view of what's going on in the world from the infotainment media. Googleboming interferes with that. Anyone abusing Google's algorhythms as a political tool cares more about pushing their propaganda than my right to self education. I try to keep that, disrespect for me the end user, in mind as I look through my bombed search res
      • by krell (896769)
        "Googleboming interferes with that."

        The only reason it occurs is that there is a flaw in their default search algorithm that returns result pages that don't even contain the searched phrase or words. It used to be that search engines did this basic check, and results were more relevant. However, just now, I checked altavista and lycos, and like Google, they produce inaccurate results on such searches now.
      • by joshetc (955226)
        I agree. Kind of. I go there for porn, not information. Googlebombing affects online porn searches just as much, possibly more than information, though.
    • by adavies42 (746183)
      If they had any real social conscience, they'd just shut down the moment the government tried to regulate their results. Submitting to regulation only encourages more regulation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      welcome to politics. its nasty. always was, always will be [...] so i say: no regulation

      Love.
      War.
      Politics.
      Industry.
      Commodities Trading.
      Real Estate.
      Sporting Events.
      Academia.

      Pretty much any situation where people allow ambition and greed to supercede ethics and morality is, without regulation, nasty. The minute you deregulate something, the sleaze comes crawling out of the woodwork; all it takes is a fraction of a fraction to ruin it for everyone.

      The sad truth is that an individual can get very,

  • The irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:56PM (#16597000) Homepage
    "Negative attack ads" are considered poisonous to democracy, but using spammer SEO tactics which are sleezy and destructive to Google's usefulness are not considered even worse. This is nothing less than an attempt to create a propagandistic effect with Google, whereas "negative attack ads" have to operate in the clear and open and are already covered by libel and slander laws. There are no laws against using a Google bomb to create a potentially false impression by the order in which things come up. You could have a guy who's say... obsessed with ending the War on Drugs, but a Google bomb could make him out to be some racist ass by bombing up all of the links that point to the one time he said "blacks are the most common drug dealer suspects, so profiling them before anyone else is the most effective strategy for DEA to use." Even if it's out of context, who will know now?

    This is why I'm against all of the restrictions on campaigning. Instead I support 100% transparency on money. If you want to publish an ad, all you should have to do is say "I'm __INSERT__NAME__ and have the following (non-)affiliation with Candidate X." Just transparency so the public can decide.

    Ironically, all the "campaign reform" advocates in the public have done is to support the things that incumbents enthusiastically support, like negative, privately-funded campaign ads that highligh what Group X doesn't like about a candidate, thus informing the public. And... if it's false, the candidate can always sue for libel.
    • by viniosity (592905)

      This is why I'm against all of the restrictions on campaigning. Instead I support 100% transparency on money. If you want to publish an ad, all you should have to do is say "I'm __INSERT__NAME__ and have the following (non-)affiliation with Candidate X." Just transparency so the public can decide.

      That's great if you restrict it to citizens instead of PACs. But PAC's have such confusing names sometimes that you really can't be sure what they're pushing.

      What I'd like to see is the restriction of donat

    • That's fine and dandy, but stating "who you are" has no indication of who you're working for. What party would be affiliated with the "Council for Better Education?" Would that be the democrat who what's to spend more money in public schools by making sure that vouchers are not provided to students attending private schools, or is it repuclican who wants to expand the voucher system to give those families who want to seek better education for their kids the financial means to do so?

      What about the "Foudnatio
  • The poster missed past articles on Google Bombing. Certain tactics to affect pageranks are against Google's pagerank policy and Google has already been known to remove these pages.

    Albeit, I've only seen them do it with advertisers and corporations.
  • ...Google-bombing has been a campaign tactic attempted by activists on blogs in the past, including the notorious Bush "Miserable Failure" google bombing. It might be novel if it was coordinated by the formal campaign, other than that, nothing new at all.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:00PM (#16597076) Homepage Journal

    This is why I don't listen to radio or watch television during election season.

    One might assume for the same reasons I might now stop surfing the net, but I won't for the simple reason I don't know anything about anybody or any proposition. I'll figure it all out the hours before I vote.

    For those who trust the internet for information, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious.

    this is not the candidate candidate you should be voting for...

    • by Thansal (999464)
      This is why I stop answering my phone as well.

      3 heavily slanted "oppinion polls" on my machine is enough to get me incredibly ticked off (not to mention that all 3 were exactly the same, if you are going to use an autodialer PURGE any duplicate entries you have!).

      Admitedly I never answer the house phone and don't watch TV/listen to the radio ever......
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kelson (129150) *

        3 heavily slanted "oppinion polls" on my machine is enough to get me incredibly ticked off

        I hate the way political surveys construct the questions, and the options for multiple choice answers, such that they'll always get the results they want, rather than what you actually think.

        Do you approve of XYZ?
        (A) Strongly approve.
        (B) Mostly approve.
        (C) No opinion.
        (D) I disapprove, because I hate America.

        It's never quite that blatant, but they always seem to be structured so as to discourage you from choos

        • by Thansal (999464)
          heh, these ones were the other way:

          XYZ Is a horrible thing that only satenists and terrorists aprove of!
          Are you infavor of it or not?

          yup, does not matter to me if it is Dem/Repub/Green/Lib/whatever. I hate these tactics, and thus ignore everything about elections, exept for facts and the Daily Show
  • It would be nice if Google searches automatically weeded out result pages that did not contain the phrase you were searching for. I always find such results to be irrelevant and they clutter the actual desired result lists. I know that the inanchor specification is there, but that is a clunky way to ensure 100% search result accuracy/relevance.
    • I think that if you're using quotes, your argument is valid. However, sometimes when I search for a word, I get a web-site that doesn't contain that word, but does contain the concept I was searching for.
      • by krell (896769)
        I always look for words and phrases, never "concepts". That's why I hate bogus, irrelevant links in my results. If I ask for ABC, I expect ABC, not mostly ABC with a few ABD's and ABQ's in the list. This is one aspect in which search engine usefulness has actually declined. I have to use tricks to try to get relevant results, which used to come by default with no tricks.
  • When I searched Google with Peter King's name the #1 hit was his home page, it was not until the 2nd page that anything like the article mentioned appeared, and as we all know most people do not go beyond the first page. So either google did something, or there has been some reverse-google-bombing. I think this is the link they were referring to Peter King [newsday.com] and here is his home page Peter King [house.gov] to balance things out.
    • by benhocking (724439)
      Well, if you RTFA carefully (I know), you'll see that it starts with the phrase "If things go as planned for liberal bloggers in the next few weeks," when referring to "Jon Kyl", and "would bring up a link to" for Peter King. The article states what Direct Democracy hopes to happen and not what has already happened. To be fair, I misread it the first time, as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:07PM (#16597224)
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned one of my personal favorite google-bombs...
    Google for Santorum (as in Rick Santorum) and you will see the funniest ever.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Bassman59 (519820)
      Google for Santorum (as in Rick Santorum) and you will see the funniest ever.
      An apt description of that douchebag. He won't be a US senator for much longer, praise $DIETY.
  • It is fundamentally time to employ third (and fourth) party as viable options. The whole us vs. them false dichodomy is destroying this country.

    And while I am a Libertarian, and would love to see the Libertarian Party actually start making some ads, I would also support the developement of a couple of other parties (Green, Conservative Christian Party, etc) just so there would be more .... pressure on the republicrats and demicans. In fact, if all the third parties got together, and produced a single ad t
    • by Speare (84249)

      The whole us vs. them false dichodomy is destroying this country.

      I agree, but not quite for the same reasons or solutions you describe.

      I would like anyone who talks to their representatives to remind them that the Constitution does not mention parties at all. Whigs, republicrats, democans, greebertarians nor libereens are mentioned in the actual job description of being a representative. That relegates ALL of their party behavior to HOBBY status.

      I'm paying my representative to represent ME. Her pa

      • "but I'll be damned if I will pay for your party power-jockeying shenanigans"
        Assuming you are a tax-paying American, then yes: we are paying for it, and (in the eyes of much of the world) we are damned.
      • "I agree, but not quite for the same reasons or solutions you describe."

        Except you did describe exactly what I was saying, only you specified which special interest groups you specifically have an issue with. I have an issue with ALL special interest groups, because they "divide" the populace into an "us vs them".
  • Subject is my take on it. Whether it is done to pro- or demote one's merchandize or a political leader, it is still abuse and should be frowned upon and condemned.

    The intended beneficiaries of the practice should speak out against it, and the victims should weight their legal options.

  • News stuff should really get de-listed from the main results pages, because my site now got bumped almost out of the top 10, thanks to tons of articles about an unfortunate homicide by someone with my same name... argh.
    • Annoying to you, yes, but don't you think most random people were (at the time) more interested in the homocide than in your page?
  • How do you go about gaming Google's search engine to insure that searches for a specific politician are more likely to find negative stories?

    • FTFA:

      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 MyDD.com 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."

      That's a pretty coordinated effort, but I guess that's politics.
  • ...is what the right would say. But, seriously, it's free speech, it may be tacky, but since when did we ever make a law against something being tacky? I mean, we have tabloids, for god's sake! No reason for Google to get involved unless any laws are being broken, or people put in danger.
  • Frankly, I think that this is a very positive way to use the idea of Google bombing. The whole point of PageRank is that people vote with their links and other expressions of interest in certain pages. So when people pull a prank like linking 'miserable failure' to Bush or Moore, this is just sort of silly and unimportant. But when people really want others to know about an article that exposes an important aspect of a political figure, and they all link to that article, that seems to be perfectly in lin
  • Google bombing of Kerry occurred during the last US Prersidential election cycle. Those swift boat dudes, I think.
  • primitive economy = hand-to-hand warfare
    manufacturing economy = mechanized warfare
    information economy = information warfare

    This google-bombing competition is only the beginning.

    Where are the Friends of Privacy when you need them? (I say 'where', but maybe I should say 'when'?)

  • .. this is used against Democrats. AS long as you can find GWB when you search for 'miserable failure', it's A-OK. But once you begin finding Barack Obama when you search for 'style over substance', for example, THEN and only then will Google do something.
  • Unlike linking an uncommon word like "miserable failure" to the main page for a famous person, this is the reverse, an attempt to link the person's name to the uncommon word.

    I don't think this is really going to work. There are too many "correct" links for that famous person.

    I went and tried "George Bush" and "GW Bush" and lots of other variations. All came up with news articles and the whitehouse web page and right-wing blogs. Only after I started getting very negative and adding words like "George Monkey
  • While I personally find this kind of "public information vandalism" to be quite sad (and a candidate will instantaneously lose my vote if it is prooven they employ such tactics), it just shows how important it is that we, as individuals, must rely on PRIMARY SOURCES for our information. If you want to learn about company x, go to company x's website, *THEN* compare what they said with what others say about them. The problem happens when people go to secondary or tertiary sources with out ever cross checki
  • Google has a PAC (Score:4, Informative)

    by funwithBSD (245349) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @02:28PM (#16598796)
    Google has recently registered a Political Action Committee.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1930008,00. html [guardian.co.uk]

    So we will see how they react to it. The claim is that it is for advocating the free distribution of information so it will be interesting to see if they intervene and if they do, how they intervene.

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