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This 125 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 125 ( 1 2 [3] 4 5 > >     
Google says it cannot change results

 2:02 am on Apr 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Our search results are not manipulated by hand. We're not able to make any manual changes to the results."

So much information...not sure who is telling the truth.

Please, let's keep this to a discussion about Google and not the controversy of the topic.




 5:02 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

GG, it was nice to see your participation in addressing this issue.

And bear in mind that this is just my personal take, based on my experience of working at Google. One of the reasons I wanted to join WebmasterWorld was to be able to explain Google's stances on questions in greater detail, dispel misconceptions, etc. So I wanted to explain the context of the original quote, and describe why Google tries not to take manual action other than in cases of spam or when we're legally required to do so.

I've said many times on this forum that Google prefers to write new algorithms to improve our quality instead of trying to fix problems by hand. I do believe most users would prefer a search engine that tries to avoid hand editing their search results. I remember once noticing that for a rather obscene query, another search engine had hard-wired the first result for the search to return Google's executive biographies page. I also remember when another well-known search engine hard-wired it so that a search for "Google" would return the text "Google: The Inferior Search Engine" before the regular results started. I'm sure the people at those search engines considered those to be funny pranks, but I find that sort of hand manipulation of results more disturbing, personally. If those results were selected by hand, what other searches might be chosen with bias like that? Both of those search engines are no longer around at this point.

By the way, danny makes an excellent point in message #51, because this actually happened to Google as well a few years ago. Do folks think that for the search "scientology," we should have hand edited the results to remove an anti-scientology site from the #1 result? I do think many users who step into our shoes and try to come up with a policy on requests for results to be hand-edited can at least see the potential difficulties. Google tries to be fair and consistent by limiting the situations in which we take manual action.


 5:38 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Perhaps this is emphasizing how transparency is the solution... perhaps as long as G hides the secret formula for ranking, these controversies will be G's and not just the public's.

If it were a level playing field, the h8trs and the lovers could compete, and the searcher would see the end result (as it changed day by day, for sure).

PR was useful that way... if h8t site was PR 6 and love site was PR 5 then h8t beats love. No reason for G to get involved. If love site wanted to beat h8t site, then love site webmaster needed to be better at getting PR.

With filters and secret weighting factors, the G tree is ripe for conspiracy theories.


 5:52 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't have a problem with Google's editorial policy (anything goes unless its illegal) - that's fine. However, I think it is rather disingenuous to state that everything is automated and Google does not have the ability to hand-edit results.

A more honest answer would be
It is company policy to hand-edit results if and only if
a) extreme strategies have been used against our search algorithms.
b) required to do so by law.



 9:08 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yup, and that's the answer I'm trying to give (except don't forget the third tiny category of security-related stuff such as credit card numbers or social security numbers posted up on the web). David Krane doesn't work in my building (I'm not in PR), but I saw him today at lunch and we bemoaned the misunderstanding together--he was talking about not editing the results for that specific search. So he said thanks for trying to clear it up a little more. Thanks for expressing it in nice bold though, kaled. :)

I'll try to make sure we express it more clearly in the future.


 9:22 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

>...Is Critical Mass an advocate group or an extremist group? You can see where it would get problematic if people had to make value judgments like that.

What if Critical Mass SEOs its website so that it appears on top of serps for searches like "buy car" with the title "Don't Buy Cars" with some suitable description? Will all those big adword spenders remain quiet then? And what will Google do? [Just a hypothetical example]


 9:23 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Frankly, based on the article, I'm not sure if David would have said it that clear and concise, it would have been quoted entirely anyhow because the article appears to have some other inaccuracy in it (i.e 50,000).


 10:17 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

kaled, get you job app into Google asap.


 2:50 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Is fomenting of racial hatred not an offence in the US? First Amendment? Would a corresponding web site about the Afro-Americans be legal in the US? Or is it so that assisting in making such a web site known is not an offence that forces Google to take action?

In a post that has now been removed from this thread, a UK member pointed out that fomenting of racial hatred is a criminal offence in e.g. Germany and France (and it probably is in most European countries). It has been noted that Google.de and .fr do not serve the same SERP as .com for this keyword.


 7:06 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

At the risk of being Bill Maher, isn't an anti-keyword site just as important a result as a pro-keyword site? I hear people using terms like "poor-quality search results" when results come back with anit-keyword sites and that scares me. I may be vehemently opposed to an anti-keyword site, but that doens't mean it isn't relevant to the query. In fact, if I'm having a passionatly negative reaction to it, then that means it hit a nerve, or another way to put it, it's highly relevant. If G starts to make decisions about which results are the "good" results, then we end up missing half of the real world. It's not Google's responsibility to make the internet as sterile and fake as American TV in the name of "morality." If I query G for results, I better get the whole picture. I'm sorry if there are crappy people in the world, but that's not G's fault. If we don't like their message, then we need to speak louder, and that doesn't mean whine. If G has the ability to remove listings and tweak their algo, then they could manually edit their results. All of us are smart enough to know that some kind of kluge could be implemented to effect SERPs in any fashion G desires. When I hear them say they can't edit the rankings, I hear them defining their position on the issue of what essentially amounts to censorship. Although, G is a for profit corporation made of humans, so I'm also sure they have been forced to do things they don't want to.


 7:30 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hypothesis follows:
A search for American places a site created by Al Q@eda supporters in the number one position. This site praises the events of September 11th and is filled with blatant lies and bile about the USA and American people. It changes history to say that Americans were to blame for the holocaust and for just about every wrong that has been committed in the World for the last 2000 years.

This is picked up by the press and Google are asked for their comments. Would they then have the cojones to say that they could not change the results? Would all of you who think the "Jew" search is acceptable still agree?

Only asking ;o)


 7:42 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

>This is picked up by the press and Google are asked for their comments. Would they then have the cojones to say that they could not change the results?

A popular middle east online journal whose offices were bombed by the USA and has been denounced as anti-American by many influential leaders of the USA, has PR8 and shows up very high on relevant searches on Google.


 8:30 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

> Would all of you who think the "Jew" search is acceptable still agree?

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
- The Friends of Voltaire (1906)


 9:46 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is a statistic about one in four, or is it one in three, internet searches being concerned with a particular topic that we aren't supposed to talk about here, at least not in any detail.

In very many countries, including the one I am in, the possession, etc. of such material is illegal. When it extends to the involvement of children the relevant laws in most countries become stricter still, (repeated downloading of images, which can amount to merely the caching of them, counts as possession).

Not rhetorically, does Google make any attempts to comply with these laws given that in other cases mentioned (French and German political laws) it apparently does?

Patrick Taylor

 10:03 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Voltaire (1906)

Exactly so. The position set out by GoogleGuy and kaled.

For all we know, the people responsible for the site in question stand at Hyde Park Corner in London and repeat their message to anyone who will listen, as do many other advocates of views that go against the grain, like the UK National Front, who, as far as I know, still get BBC air time for their party political broadcasts whenever they comply with the technical requirements. As soon as a search engine adopts an editorial policy, the rest of its SERPS start to become propaganda, and thus devalued.


 10:18 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I may be vehemently opposed to an anti-keyword site, but that doens't mean it isn't relevant to the query.

If you want SERPs for "anti-keyword" because YOU think "anti-keyword" SERPs are relevant to YOUR search, then type it in the search bar. Otherwise, a RELEVANT search for a "keyword" should only result in "keyword" SERPs ---if it is going to be genuinely relevant.

Ahh, the simplicity of truth. ;)


 10:30 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Patrick (and the others who maintain this position), what is it that makes a search engine so sacrosanct that it should be allowed to advertise any website that it likes criminal or otherwise? No other medium is allowed to do this and normally it is accepted that advertising = condoning.

If a newspaper carried adverts for this kind of stuff it would not last ten minutes. Why should search engines be allowed to publicise this kind of material and lots more that serve only to incite hatred and promote other more blatantly illegal practises?

I would also defend the right of anyone to hold opinions but this is carrying the principles of free speech too far. I am not pro-censorship per se but I get totally disillusioned when I hear people trying to make a case for the appearance of some of the stuff that can be found on the 'net and I am not just talking about the site in question.

Why do we do it?

I am just glad that my family were more or less grown up before the Internet came along because its power to corrupt should not be underestimated or for that matter defended.

Patrick Taylor

 11:16 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Balloch, newspapers have editors and are known to be politically biased, but what are generally thought of as the best newspapers report all strands of opinion even though they might take a stance. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a politically biased search engine in principle (nor one that concentrates on a particular area, as some do). As long as they're privately owned, they can represent what they choose, but it would be most unfortunate if the likes of an all-topic provider like Google began to skew their results according to what they thought was tasteless or not. It would probably be counter-productive anyway. Are you in the least bit corrupted by the site this thread is all about? I suspect quite the reverse.


 11:55 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I do not agree with Patrick that newspapers "are known to be politically biased". (Of course some lesser ones may be.) Neither that "the best newspapers report all strands of opinion". I cannot believe that Washington Post or New York Times would give publicity the opinions such as those seen in J** W** just because they represent one kind of opionion. They try to publish the truth. I presume few American papers would publish racist opinions regarding Afro-Americans. I also find Patrick's expression "tasteless" a bit mild to describe the kind of opinions we have been discussing here.

<Removed specific name.>

[edited by: geekay at 12:59 pm (utc) on April 9, 2004]


 12:23 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Comparing search results with (newspaper) adverts is fundamentally wrong. If you wish to compare a search engine to a printed medium then it must surely be a library.

In a library anywhere in the free world, material may be found that would not be considered suitable for use in adverts.

In the UK, adverts have to be Legal, decent, honest and truthful. With some exceptions, none of these apply to the contents of a library, therefore there is no reason why these rules should apply to search engines.

I'm happy to criticise Google when they get something wrong, but their editorial policy is pretty much exactly right.

I think it is ludicrous that you can find instructions on how to make explosive and biochemical weapons on the internet, but it is up to Governments to sort this out. If Google stopped indexing this stuff, others would continue to do so.


Patrick Taylor

 12:27 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm not discussing whether the content of that site is tasteless, obscene, or acceptable. I'm simply arguing that we need this particular search engine to be politically unbiased. Of course they could set their algo to weed out stuff like that, just as they set it to do other weird and wonderful things. As it was me who brought up newspapers I suppose I can't say I'm not discussing newspapers, but the point of it was to make a comparison (distinction) where a newspaper is politically biased, which many undoubtedly are.

Now, Google isn't advocating the contents of a website when it appears in its SERPS. It's simply a mechanism, whereas in the case of a newspaper, conscious human selection takes place, and that's a difference nobody can deny.

<added>kaled, I just read your post and I pretty much agree with you, especially in regard to Google being more like a library than a newspaper</added>

[edited by: Patrick_Taylor at 12:35 pm (utc) on April 9, 2004]


 12:38 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree with Kaleds post, Google is more like a Library


 12:45 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Now, Google isn't advocating the contents of a website when it appears in its SERPS. It's simply a mechanism, whereas in the case of a newspaper, conscious human selection takes place, and that's a difference nobody can deny.

Patrick, it is the fact that Google and the other SEs prefer NOT to employ conscious human deselection that is the subject of this thread. "Google says it cannot change its results."

In my earlier message I was not talking about political bias. I was not even talking specifically about the J**watch site. I was talking about the sites of terrorists, murderers, criminal perverts. child molestors et al. No one will ever convince me that to give them a platform is right, in the name of principle. If you want to call their deselection "censorship" then fair enough. This is the kind of common sense censorship that I am sure we could all live with.

Patrick Taylor

 12:52 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

... No one will ever convince me that to give them a platform is right, in the name of ...

... the law.


 1:02 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

While I do believe that it is wholly and algorithmically possible to have SERPs differentiate "anti-keyword" sites from "keyword" sites, I believe that the advocacy of the concept of "acceptable censorship" is downright hostile to the very notion of freedom.

We already know that some topics "now acceptable" in modern beliefs and even legalities were not always so. It takes DISCUSSION as the forerunner for political change where oppression or tyranny occurs, even if not realized at current times.

For an extrapolative example, applying such a ghastly oppressive idea of "acceptable censorship" a century ago into could have then been used to "justify" the prevention of any discussion about inter-racial marriage, for one example. And if that discussion was never allowed to occur in the first place, the current freedoms free people have in that matter would never have occurred.

That's why, to choke off that discussion from even occurring ---and worse, to ACCEPT THAT AS SUPPOSEDLY ACCEPTABLE--- is to walk away from ever having a free society ever again in the history of man --unless it generates a successful revolution to get back to freedom again, of course.

We never know what is "currently acceptable" may be realized by the future as oppression or infringement of freedom.

Freedom begins with discussion.

Patrick Taylor

 1:23 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Google's search results are solely determined by computer algorithms that essentially reflect the popular opinion of the Web," he said. "Our search results are not manipulated by hand. We're not able to make any manual changes to the results."

... except in cases of spam or where a site breaks the law. Anything else is censorship, whether it's by hand or by the algo, both of which Google is technically capable of doing but which, thankfully, it seems it will not.


 1:38 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I eventually came to the conclusion that it was probably better to let whoever say pretty much whatever via the media of any kind ....then when you know who they are for sure ..you get to do their dental work down a dark alley

Ah, I see - violence is the answer to opposing viewpoints.


 1:44 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

(obviously not directed at yourself merely explaining the way I think )

and I don't have a problem with it ....

I have never thought it worth discussing anything with someone who wants to be allowed to do harm to my kid ...

But then I'm just a reactionary ex hippie :))


 1:46 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think we've strayed off the point*.

It's unreasonable to blame Google for the positioning of this site - however much you might find it distasteful. I disagree with virtually everything on it, but you have to admit, it is not short of content!

The real point of this thread was to discuss the remarks made by Google that they can't / don't tinker with results - that's the interesting bit - correct me if I'm wrong :)

* removes large plank from eye :)

(I'm always doing this, prob. due to Planck's constant :)

[edited by: SyntheticUpper at 2:30 pm (utc) on April 9, 2004]


 1:47 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Kaled, libraries can't 'cache' illegal content. Google, and other se's, disgrace themselves everyday with what they make available to sometimes vulnerable, and sometimes evil, people. What's worse is they make money off it.


 2:17 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Material that is legally held in one library may be illegal in another.

Search engines cannot be expected to interpret the law in every country. On the other hand, if a Government makes an official request that a site not be displayed in results in their country, generally, such requests should be granted (but I'm sure we all have some misgivings here).

Google should not have denied that they have the ability to hand-edit results, but equally, they are not in the business of censorship - that is a matter for governments and only for governments.



 2:25 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

"Google should not have denied that they have the ability to hand-edit results, but equally, they are not in the business of censorship - that is a matter for governments and only for governments."

I think that was what GG was trying to clarify earlier.

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