| US President George W. Bush shows the tattoo of a Home Depot employee in Lansdowne, Maryland. (Reuters)
Washington, Dec. 6: A search for the phrase “miserable failure” on the popular search engine Google brings up the biography of President Bush on the official White House website, in one of the more prominent search-engine manipulations with political overtones.
The phrase appears nowhere in the bio. But computer users rigged the search engine results by posting the phrase on web pages and linking it to the Bush bio, in a technique called Google bombing.
“I thought it was absolutely one of the funniest ideas I’ve ever heard,” said Don Waller, owner of Don Waller Interactive, a web design company in Islip Terrace, New York, who joined the prank in late October. “I just decided to jump in with it.”
It appears first in Google’s list of search results for the phrase. So users who input “miserable failure” and click on the “I’m feeling lucky” button are brought right to the first result, the Bush bio.
Search engines work much like an index in the back of a book, allowing people to look up words and directing them to the page in which the words appear. The search engines scour web pages to create the index.
In this case, computer users wrote links labelled “miserable failure.” When users click on the link, it brings them to the official Bush bio.
When Google software creates its index, it notices the association between the phrase “miserable failure” and the Bush bio. So a search for the phrase brings up the bio. The White House spokesman had no comment.
Google bombings are created by people who run websites and web logs, or blogs, which allow people to post information about particular topics. One person posts an idea for a bombing online, then it spreads like, you might say, webfire.
The latest Google bombing appears to have spread within a matter of weeks.
It apparently doesn’t take much for Google to make the association.
At least 826 pages link to the Bush bio but just 32 of those pages include the phrase “miserable failure,” according to a Google search.
In previous pranks, tricksters have rigged Google to bring up spoof pages. For instance, after France refused to join the coalition forces fighting Iraq, a Google search for “French military victories” brought up a spoof page that said no documents were found and asked: “Did you mean ‘french military defeats.’”