Is Google Censoring Climategate? Google Says No.

Dec 7, 2009 - 7:55 am 23 by
Filed Under Google

A Google Web Search Help thread I have been tracking since November has an interesting history. In short, some searchers are suspecting that Google is censoring the search term [climategate] from the search results.

On November 28th, Richard Sharpe asked if Google was censoring the term:

If I use Google to search for pages about ClimateGate, it does not put up any search suggestions after I have entered "Cli" however, Bing offers many terms, with "ClimateGate" at the top of the list.

In addition, google says there are about 10M pages that match my search, Bing says there are as many as 50M.

If Google is going to censor the pages I can search for, then I am switching to Bing.

Then on December 2nd a different member noticed Google started showing search suggestions, such as "climate-gate" and "climate gate scandal" on Google Suggest. In fact, a Googler named Jem confirmed this saying:

Thanks for voicing your concerns. We haven't made any adjustments to our suggestions to limit the appearance of [ climategate ] in Google Suggest. So you know, it's totally normal for a suggestion to take time to appear consistently in our query suggestions (it's even normal for it to appear in some but not all cases).

So why wasn't it showing before? Well, she explained that before it wasn't such a popular topic and now it is. She added:

Since [ climategate ] is a growing search trend, it's likely to start appearing more and more consistently over time. I can't promise, though -- suggestions are generated automatically, and Internet fame can be fleeting :)

If you're interested, below I'm linking to some Google Insights for Search data about [ climategate ].

So why today is it no longer showing up in Google Suggest? Isn't today the big climate conference? Looking at the search data does show it is still very popular.

Danny Sullivan has a ton of details, with pictures and additional analysis at Search Engine Land, he concludes:

Overall, there’s no doubt that Climategate is a popular topic, no doubt. However, those who want to demonstrate how popular would be better advised to use Google Trends, rather than the far less dependable web search results counts.

As for Google, I’ll wish again that they’d provide better results counts. I’d also hope for more consistency on how, when and why it shows suggested terms. Finally, I’m still hoping that Google will show precisely what it searched for when it looks for more than the word you’ve entered. Last year, Google grew more transparent about how it customizes results but failed to deal with broad searching as part of that. Clearly, that type of disclosure is overdue.

I am just shocked it was removed 'automatically' a few days after it came up, especially after Googler's Jem response.

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.


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