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I sat next to a a guy I’ve know for years from a major public relations/media relations firm at the World Economic Forum in Davos two weeks ago and he told me how his company manipulated search to improve the image of its clients. It was a harrowing conversation that I’m sharing here because it opens up a whole host of issues and problems concerning the truthfulness of search in general and the authenticity of Google search in particular.
This guys PR firm—and all major PR firms—monitor Google and the blogosphere in general for any online negativity among blogs, websites, and media stories on their clients that pop up in search. The PR firm then spends money to create what I would call fake blogs, websites, and stories that are positive about their clients. The goal is to change the ratio of negative/positive mentions on the web in general and in Google search in particular.
And this PR firm is very successful at manipulating search, he said. All the PR firms are successful at creating "independent" blogs and sites that spin out positive news and images about clients.
So I ask, what are we getting when we search for something on Google or Yahoo or anywhere. The game is being rigged and we don't know by whom or how. Search isn't transparent and it isn't objective.
Next question--can we believe digg?
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