April 22nd, 2008
While you’re waiting for the verdict of the good people of Pennsylvania today, why not check out the beneficial effects of a Googlebomb for a candidate? Go ahead, type “Barack Obama Muslim” or “Obama religion Muslim” into your favorite search engine and see what you get. As former Edwards staffer Tracy Russo mentioned at last week’s Internet Advocacy Roundtable, the first sites you’ll see in the search results debunk the claim that Obama is a secret Muslim Manchurian Candidate. A couple of links claiming the opposite do show up, but they’re well down from skeptical articles from the likes of Snopes, CNN and the Obama campaign itself.
Tracy didn’t go into too much detail about it, but she definitely implied that this distribution of search results was the result of a Googlebomb, which was at least partially encouraged by the Obama campaign behind the scenes. Googlebombing is the deliberate attempt to influence search results through encouraging people across the web to link to certain sites to make them appear authoritative, and it’s been used commercially as well as in the 2006 elections. Lo and behold, here’s a Daily Kos diary piece from March encouraging that very tactic, and note that it mentions that several “yes-he-is-a-Muslim” pieces then appeared much higher in the rankings than they seem to now (not bad results for a month’s work). Andrew Sullivan also reports on various right-wing attempts to bomb Obama over communism and the flag lapel pin, but those seem pretty lame by comparison.
Whether the Obama campaign encouraged or influenced this apparent effort in any way is unclear from the public record, but I would be shocked if their blogger relations people hadn’t been involved in it at some level. It’s another measure of the subtlety of the ways campaigns can interact with the public via the ‘net.