Saturday, October 28, 2006

Google War Begins in U.S. Senate Race

by Christine Stuart

In an attempt to influence Connecticut voters searching the Internet for information about the U.S. Senate race, Democratic candidate Ned Lamont’s campaign has set up a Web site that encourages people to do specific Google searches in an attempt to influence the rankings of a given page.

The site, set up by Lamont campaign webmaster Tim Tagaris, links to sites with flattering comments about Lamont and other sites with unflattering articles about incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose campaign was accused by Lamont’s campaign of starting the "Google bomb war."

At the top of Lamont’s Google Bomb CT Web site it reads, “Every day, hundreds of people 'Google' various terms looking for information about the race between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont. With a concerted effort, we can make sure the first returns of those searches are the information we want them to see.” Here's the link:

A posting this past Wednesday on Lamont’s blog said that eight days before the August primary, 70,000 voters in the state Googled “Ned Lamont.” It’s unknown how many may have Googled “Joe Lieberman,” whose official campaign site failed the day he was defeated in the Democratic primary. Lieberman alleged the site was hacked, but no charges have been filed and no officials who were asked to investigate will comment on the record about what happened.

The Lamont campaign staffer who offered initially to help fix it alleged the Lieberman campaign used a crappy web host, whose server couldn’t handle the traffic.

Google bombs are nothing new for political pranksters.

More than a year ago, webmasters used the words “failure” and “miserable failure” to describe and link to President George W. Bush’s biographical page on the White House web site. The webmasters successfully pushed Bush’s official page to the top of the searches for the word “failure” and the phrase “miserable failure.”

In 2005 Google’s Director of Consumer Web Products, Marissa Mayer, defended the company’s decision not to alter the algorithm that allows Google bombs to occur.

“We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up,” she said. “Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.”


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