Should we trust Google?

UPDATE: A number of people are coming here from Google’s own blog entry on this topic (which I just realized dates from 9/16/2005!). Let me summarize my point in a single sentence.

  • Since Google will not remove Google bombs they are undermining their usefulness and objectivity as a search engine.

Talk about convergence. Last week a number of blogs noted that searching Google for “failure” brings up the President’s webpage at the White House site. It sounded fishy to me and indeed it is; it is something called “googlebombing.” Google themselves have blogged on the “failure” bomb.

My brother commented on this last night and offered some cogent thoughts about what this practice, and Google’s refusal to address it, might mean for our use and trust in Google.

As Google has now pointed out on their own site, this is a result of “Google bombing.” Here is Google’s explanation:
By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. In this case, a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush’s website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases.
Google then goes on to explain that they don’t manually edit or change the search results, even though it appears it is a result of people Google has labeled as “pranksters.” In fact Google writes: “but we’re also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. 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.”

But does “google bombing” really not “affect the quality… objectivity… the core of our mission?” In this case, politics is such a “hot button topic” that such bizarre outcomes are immediately questioned and the “truth” comes out. But perhaps there are instances where a persistent attack on other topics could have a more insidious effect… Read it all here

I too am concerned and, although this is amusing, I find it disturbing that Google will not address it because it now brings into question to validity (and objectivity) of their results. Whatever happened to “Do no evil“?
So then today I noticed that Danny Zacharias at Deinde has set up a very nice Google custom search.
Google Bible Scholar

…with the Google custom search capabilities I thought I would be able to harness it in order to specifically search for biblical studies and theological journals. So I have created yet another Google custom search, I call it the Online Biblical Studies Journals Search, catchy hey! With this search, together with the biblioblogs search (somewhere around 115 biblioblogs indexed), and the Deinde biblical studies web search (indexing 1600+ reputable URLs), I think I am allowed to claim the title Google Bible Scholar for our search page (or the external link if you want). The code for these search boxes are free for anyone to use via the links above.

With the restrictions of this search within the Google Scholar this search should not be too adversely affected, but there is now a question of doubt that was not there before.

What I still don’t understand is why Google, once it is aware of a “bomb,” doesn’t correct it. The assertion that “they don’t affect the overall quality of our [Google’s] search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission” is hollow…. Google, please, it does you no good and potentially evil.

(Via Deinde.)

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