An offensive picture depicting Michelle Obama as an ape has proven the Streisand Theory again over the last week, but in all the coverage little to nothing has been said about the splogs hosting the image.
For those who missed the story, Google came under fire when the offensive image appeared as the top result in Google Images when searching for Michelle Obama. This happened not once, but twice. The first time, Google banned the site hosting the image on the basis that it was hosting malware, even though (as Search Engine Land pointed out) it apparently wasn’t.
The second time (and seemingly one day later) another site hosting the image took first position. That site has since removed the image, saying (per Google Translate):
“I am very sorry for this article, and that this is the program automatically issued a document from the article. Do not the subject of race and politics make the discussion too radical and sincere hope that the world is very peaceful.”
The emphasis is mine, but it’s a key point: the second site, like the site before it (both hosted on Google’s Blogger) are automated splogs. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes or a statement like this to prove the point either: visiting either site clearly shows that both are splogs.
So how does Google reconcile its statements about the image?
After removing the first image:
“Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results, or images from our Google Images results, simply because the content is in very poor taste or because we receive complaints concerning it.”
and on a landing page for an ad apologizing when it reappeared on the second site:
Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query
It’s more than a bit rich to cite the integrity of Google’s search results when in both cases the image was hosted on splogs that were not only hosted on Google’s Blogger, but also showing Google Adsense Ads.
But it gets worse, because at least one of the two sites has undertaken a massive amount of link spamming that led to the top result in Google Images to begin with.
Here’s the incoming links count for the second site (453,000 incoming links)
I don’t believe that for one minute that Google should be censoring images such as this in Google Images; once you start censoring some, it sets a dangerous precedent. But likewise it’s not censorship when you ban a site for splogging, one that in this case is also supporting itself with link spamming.
Google’s Blogger Content Policy:
Spam: Spam takes several forms in Blogger, all of which can result in deletion of your account or blog. Some examples include creating blogs designed to drive traffic to your site or to move it up in search listings and posting comments on other people’s blogs just to promote your site or product.
Violation of any of the foregoing, including the Blogger Content Policy (http://www.blogger.com/content.g), may result in immediate termination of this Agreement
Or how about Google’s Quality Guidelines for Webmasters?
* Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
* Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
* Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
Blogger has long been a hot bed for splogging and yet as the years have passed, Google has done seemingly very little to nothing about the issue. Surely the embarrassment caused by these splogs should be used a wake up call for Google to finally take some sort of action.