Google: Good (Web traffic) cop, bad cop?

Google: Good (Web traffic) cop, bad cop?

Summary: Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows the number one $148 billion dollar market cap search engine he oversees is a magnet for manipulation. While Schmidt acknowledges “terrible people” seek to game Google, he is quick to disclaim any Google responsibility.

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TOPICS: Google
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Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows the number one $148 billion dollar market cap search engine he oversees is a magnet for manipulation. While Schmidt acknowledges “terrible people” seek to game Google, he is quick to disclaim any Google responsibility. 

In “A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data,” the New York Times discusses “Google bombing” campaigns designed to influence U.S. political campaigns:

a sophisticated “Google bombing” campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms. By flooding the Web with references to the candidates and repeatedly cross-linking to specific articles and sites on the Web, it is possible to take advantage of Google’s formula and force those articles to the top of the list of search results.

In his keynote Q & A at the Search Engine Strategies Conference last August, Schmidt was asked about Google’s role as a “middleman” in presenting the world’s information:

not everyone in the world is perfectly honest and honorable. There are crazy people, and there are criminals, and there are evil people in the world, although the vast majority of the people are not. We would be very, very concerned if the information that Google managed to search was used to harm someone.

Schmidt quickly advised, however: 

Google is simply an aggregator of information. And the people who publish that information had better have a pretty good reason for publishing it. I'll give you an example of one of the worst sites I can think of is a site of people who list abortion doctors and their home addresses. And they start by saying this is not a site by which you can use to kill them. And the reason is that it's illegal, thank goodness, to encourage murder. So they put the disclaimer in, and then they put the home addresses in. Now come on, guys. This is not a hard question. So again, a little bit of judgment helps a lot here.

So, what about Schmidt’s judgement? Google “do no evil” speak to the rescue: 

The good news about these sites is that they're not on the first page [of search results]. They rank poorly, thank goodness. The smart people are ahead of the crazy people. But the problem we have with that kind of information is it's easy to hide it. It's easy to obliterate it. So even if we were to eliminate one category, the terrible person could do it again [on another site]. So we worry a lot about this because we want Google to be used as a positive force in the world. And we are convinced that the overwhelming value of having all that information available to you whenever you want it and so forth really does justify what we do. And we take that as our mission.

The New York Times, however, alludes to the bottom-line component of Google's (for profit) mission: 

An accompanying part of the project is intended to buy up Google Adwords, so that searches for the candidates’ names will bring up advertisements that point to the articles as well.

SEE ALSO: Why Digg fraud, Google bombing, Wikipedia vandalism will not be stopped

Topic: Google

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