Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
Salon has a very interesting piece on blogging’s effect on Google. In it, Steven Johnson wrote:
There are significant political consequences to the Blogger Effect: Because the blogging community contains a disproportionate number of libertarians, it’s possible that Google searches on certain hot-button issues will start skewing toward libertarian-friendly pages. Given Google’s increasing prominence, this libertarian slant could prove to be more significant than the more familiar concerns about liberal bias in the major networks, and conservative bias on Fox News. No sensible person thinks “The O’Reilly Factor” is free of political slant (save O’Reilly himself). But the great oracle of Google is supposed to be above such partisan concerns.
We’ve seen blogging’s effect on Google with the recent impact on Operation Clambake, the anti-Scientology web site. Searching on Scientology, Clambake once showed up fourth in the list. Scientology attempts to get Clambake pages pulled from the Google database, weblogger respond, and the end result is that Clambake is now first in the page when searching on “scientology”. Webloggers pat themselves in the back for a job well done.
Yet consider the implications behind this: webloggers have a disproportionately large influence on Google and therefore the information that’s returned when people perform Google searches. And as more people are going online and using Google to find information, webloggers are skewing the data that they see.
We strut and gloat about our power while applying it on a whim. And that’s scary.
Don’t agree with Scientology? Googlebomb the church sites off the Google results front page (something the Church itself tried to do with anti-Scientology sites). Don’t agree with the “liberal” bias of online news sources? Googlebomb them off the front page.
Don’t like a political candidate? Bash them in your weblog and get other weblogs to link to you so that searches on the candidate name return your weblog first. Get all your weblogging buddies to link to other sites and articles that also bash the candidate until eventually page after page of Google search results point to material that says only negative things about the candidate.
Webloggers aren’t influencing decisions — they’re influencing the information that influences the decision, and that’s dangerous.