“Democracy of the web”, my donkey!

This post on Dean Esmay led me to this post on The Forest For The Trees. Duane’s got a screen shot of the Google Help Center page on “Does Google Censor Search Results”. It says (er, said):

Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.

Let me call out one phrase again: We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web. Just to be sure that you didn’t miss it.

Duane shows a screen shot of the cache, because apparently the page had been removed. He also shows a shot of a “did not match any answers” page of a Help Center search results page for ‘Does Google censor search results?’ and not the page. At first glance this made Murdoc think Duane was showing two different things, but it turns out that searching for that now takes you to the ‘Priciples’ page noted earlier. With slight differences:

They REMOVED the “We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web” as apparent sentimental nonsense which is out of place and out of fashion. They KNOW that this flies in the face of the “democracy of the web” and they’re doing it anyway.

Here’s the text:

Does Google censor search results?

It is Google’s policy not to censor search results. However, in response to local laws, regulations, or policies, we may do so. When we remove search results for these reasons, we display a notice on our search results pages. Please note: For some older removals (before March 2005), we may not show a notice at this time.

Something else ironic is Google’s statement on their ‘Does Google ever manipulate search results?‘ page in the ‘Principles’ section, which reads:

Does Google ever manipulate its search results?

The order and contents of Google search results are completely automated. No one hand picks a particular result for a given search query, nor does Google ever insert jokes or send messages by changing the order of results. Occasionally, when a particular website is the subject of public attention, other sites begin linking to it. This may elevate its importance as gauged by our ranking software, which assigns a PageRank value based in part on who links to a given page. Higher ranking in Google results may lead to more awareness, which may lead to more links and so on.

One side effect of not using an editorial viewpoint to determine the ranking of results is that anomalies occasionally occur. We view such occasions as opportunities for us to learn more about how the web works and how to improve our algorithms for all searches in the future. [emphasis Murdoc’s]

First, it seems that because this “particular website is the subject of public attention” and “other sites begin linking to it”, the effective “PageRank” has fallen off the bottom end of the scale.

Secondly, it seems that anomalies also “occasionally occur” when an “editorial viewpoint” is used.

I’m just saying.

Here’s Murdoc’s take on the ‘Principles’ page:

For the record, I will (for the short-term) continue to use Google. First, it’s obviously a valuable research tool and a central pillar of what MO is built upon. It will probably take some time to decide on a replacement that is suitable. Secondly, I will continue to use the Google Toolbar and I will continue to host Google AdSense ads on MO for the time being.

I’ve not given up hope that Google will realize that they’ve made a grave error and will change course. Unfortunately, if they don’t, Murdoc isn’t quite sure what to do. Suggestions?

Comments

  1. You are making too much of this. They just took down the post to edit it a little. ‘Google for the most part does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the communist dictatorship of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results. Your government will inform you if any information is missing.‘ The only reason it is taking them so long to put that page back up on the web is because they are considering adding ‘…subject to the approval of various mullas and ayatollahs’.

  2. Wow, they already fixed it! Did you see this? Paraphrased it’s ‘we don’t censor unless asked to.’ Crap, I think I have to switch to Yahoo, and I hate that homepage :(

  3. Yahoo? How does that help? You are aware that they’ve been doing this for awhile as well, no? All the major search engines do this, you can’t just switch to another to try and boycott one of them. Google just hit the headlines because they have lots of mindshare this year.

  4. Yes, I’m aware of Yahoo. It was a sort of sarcastic comment from a sarcastic guy. I’m aware that all the biggies do this. If they didn’t a boycott might be useful. As it is, I’m not really sure what to DO, other than whine. I have a bit of hope (though not much) that Google might reconsider. I understand their business position, but it seems to me that if anyone is going to make a stand it would be Google. Yahoo’s been subjugated for a long, long time, IIRC, and Microsoft has much much more to lose. My humble opinion. Really, I’m just very disappointed in all of them. And lots of other businesses, too.

  5. I’m always amazed at the creativity & freedom new technology can bring to people. Then again, I’m always dismayed at how governments & greed can stifle… I mean, ‘regulate’ said creativity & freedom. Yeah, that’s it regulate. :p