March 27, 2005

Juan Cole and Google-Newsbombing

Juan Cole discusses what he calls a "Google Smear":

The GoogleSmear as Political Tactic

The Google search has become so popular that prospective couples planning a date will google one another. Mark Levine, a historian at the University of California Irvine, tells the story of how a radio talk show host called him a liar because he referred to an incident that the host could not find on google. That is, if it isn't in google, it didn't happen. (Levine was able to retrieve the incident from Lexis Nexis, a restricted database).

It seems to me that David Horowitz and some far rightwing friends of his have hit upon a new way of discrediting a political opponent, which is the GoogleSmear. It is an easy maneuver for someone like Horowitz, who has extremely wealthy backers, to set up a web magazine that has a high profile and is indexed in google news. Then he just commissions persons to write up lies about people like me (leavened with innuendo and out-of-context quotes). Anyone googling me will likely come upon the smear profiles, and they can be passed around to journalists and politicians as though they were actual information.

The interesting Google aspect here is that what's going on is not the typical Google-bomb, of link-text words. It's a Google-NEWSBOMB. Which isn't primarily affected by link-text words, but rather the general "newsworthiness" of the site.

That is, currently a Juan Cole Google News search, brings up as its first value a right-wing hatchet job. Because, roughly, it's the most powerful "news site" which has the necessary factors (it's not PageRank alone, but PageRank here is the critical relevance factor which is extremely "expensive")

This is really quite interesting in terms of implications. Because, remember, the news sources in Google News are all selected by Google. And their process for selection is very opaque.

Again, the implications for the selection algorithm are different for the news search than for the web search. In the web search, the first item when searching for a person is typically that person's own site, if they have any web presence at all. It'll certainly be in the top ten. But on a news search, their home site will never appear. The top items will be the top "news" sites, roughly by "volume". Imagine if there was a "radio search" and it was ranked by number of stations. Thus, anything said by syndicated talk show hosts would come up on top. The effects would be worrisome. Because it's a lot easier to buy ranking in general that way.

Follow-up: See Guilt by Blogroll Association, or Google-Abuse

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on March 27, 2005 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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