Rick Santorum took his well-known Google problem to the next level Tuesday, telling Politico that he’s reached out to the search giant to have his results cleared up and accusing the company of ignoring him for political reasons.
“I suspect if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they’d get rid of it,” Santorum told Politico. “If you’re a responsible business, you don’t let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country.”
There’s just one problem with Santorum’s new line on Google, one search engine expert tells TPM — it’s utter garbage.
Danny Sullivan is editor of SearchEngineLand, a go-to home for news and information about the world of internet search. He explained Tuesday that Santorum is not actually the victim of a “Googlebomb” in the classic sense, but rather has been bested online by critics led by LGBT activist Dan Savage.
In a classic Googlebombing — which Google did crack down on when it was used to tie searches for “miserable failure” to George W. Bush back during the Republicans administration — pranksters tricked Google’s algorithm into sending (for lack of a better term) the “wrong” results for a search. An example could be you entered “apple” in the Google bar and got back a page about bananas thanks to people purposefully tricking the algorithm.
“Google said ‘we don’t like people kind of spraying graffitti all over our results,’” Sullivan said of the Googlebomb. “So they instituted a fix.” Basically, an improved algorithm was rolled out that could combat the Googlebomb practice.
This is not what happened to Santorum, Sullivan explained. Savage literally created a new definition for the word “Santorum” and then made a website explaining it. That explanation has become accepted and — “in some quarters,” Sullivan said — a topic people actually go searching for when they enter santorum into Google.
That basically takes the whole thing out of Google’s hands.
“At his point there’s nobody who could not argue [Savage’s definition of santorum] is not a definition in a lot of quarters,” Sullivan said. “So for him to say Google could get rid of it would be like him saying, ‘I don’t like the word unicorn and I think that that definition should go away.’”
“They’d have to go in and de-rank [the Savage] website,” Sullivan added, “which would be saying that website is not relevant — which of course it is.”
Sullivan noted that Google does censor the results of a “santorum” search under certain circumstances. If you search for the phrase with the site’s SafeSearch family filiter on, you won’t get Savage’s definition.