[Grant Crowell's Interview with Michael Roberts - October 30, 2010.]
GRANT: What is the "Google Humility Algorithm?"
MICHAEL: Please understand that I am answering these questions with the presupposition that it does in fact exist because my assertion is based on my empirical observations... I believe it really is out there!
Originally I called it “Google's Humiliation Algorithm”; however, I realized that I might have been jumping to conclusions because in context “humiliation” could imply that Google is deliberately humiliating the subjects being Googled. I opted instead for “Google's Humility Algorithm” to give Google the benefit of the doubt with respect to intent; humility is considered by right minded people to be a noble state of being although I would argue that it should be voluntary. I believe the humility algorithm is a provision within the Google search formula giving what would otherwise be unmerited high search rankings for a small number of web pages containing derogatory or demeaning words in close association with proper nouns such as personal and business names.
GRANT: How does it occur?
MICHAEL: I don't know; I would expect that Google guards its algorithms like KFC guards its secret recipe. Notwithstanding, although I cannot see the wind, I see its effects. Based on my observations and the tests our team have run, if I were to hazard a guess I would say there is a list of “humility words; nouns and adjectives that bring the hypothetical algorithm to life. These words include ponzi, scammer, abuser, whore, tax cheat, playboy, felon, conviction, indictment, bankrupt, molester, fraud, cheater, pyramid scheme, etc -- I'm sure you get the idea. There are also some web sites apparently designated as humility domains by default and they include the likes of ripoffreport.com, complaintsboard.com and, interestingly, blogspot.com.
GRANT: What is the reason for it occurring?
MICHAEL: I sincerely hope that Google's intentions were pure and that they were simply trying to ensure that the search results were diverse and balanced; lest genuinely bad individuals and organizations use expensive SEO techniques to bury legitimate dissent, competition and whistle blowing.
GRANT: What effect does it have on Google's search results (and search relevancy)?
MICHAEL: The humility algorithm seems to have special reservations for positions 3 and/or 4 on page one of Google search results. My close observations suggest that these high-ranking results have almost without exception, some type of a humility keyword in close proximity to the search subject's name. This year's "Caffeine" release of Google search has shifted the weight somewhat with humility search results being more random between #1 through #4 on page one and now it seems that #1 on page two has been reserved for humility results, but not always.
GRANT: What examples can you provide as evidence (can cite both existing and past)?
MICHAEL: I cannot really go into too much detail here because much of our work is based on real-life cases for clients. In some instances we have individuals literally on the verge of suicide because of the problems this was causing; unfortunately the child of one of our clients succumbed to the pressure several months ago. That being said, now that your readers have been told what patterns to look for, it won't take long to verify my assertions. And I would invite any brainiacs out there who have a better head for maths than I, to do some serious testing. I would appreciate being privy to the results.
GRANT: If you are correct, what do you think this is this accidental or intentional on Google's part?
MICHAEL: I believe the algorithm is very deliberate; but it is the intent that I am more interested in. In other words "humility vis-à-vis humiliation", or "don't be evil vis-à-vis evil is relative".
GRANT: If intentional, what would you argue is Google's motive or motives?
MICHAEL: If it is a humiliation algorithm [i.e. evil], then it could be argued that Google could benefit when users decide to click on a Google AdWords link to a humiliation victim's competitor once the user has read the negative results for the business he or she found in organic Google search results.
GRANT: What are the problems this creates?
MICHAEL: That is a whole 'nuther conversation which stretches from mild emotional annoyance for some individuals right through to suicide and breakdowns. I have personally witnessed these two extremes and everything between in the last three years. For businesses, the same emotional toll for the individuals involved through to insolvency; once again I have seen it all. I would even go so far as to say that the Wild-Wild-Web combined with the US Congress' existing subsidy for Internet libel, through Section 230C of the Communications Decency Act, is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. A competitive market driven economy can no longer function on a level playing field in these conditions; in many vertical markets the only businesses that can win are those willing to stoop to either “doing evil” by smearing their opposition with "googledoo", or looking the other way when it is within their power to act. I am referring here to the many thousands of tear soaked letters sent to Google et al, begging for the removal of egregious allegations from search engine results. These are usually met with canned template responses encouraging the victim to simply create more online content with positive spin to dilute the negative postings.
I find such narcissistic corporate cultures to the reprehensible on at least two levels.
(1) The very law that gives ISPs the immunity to turn a blind eye to such requests is in fact titled “Good Samaritan” protection, clearly implying that it was Congress' intent that the recipients of such letters would do the right thing.
(2) Such letters encouraging the creation of more online content serves the purpose of creating more advertising platforms for AdWord campaigns; victims effectively become slaves at worst or indentured servants at best to Google by creating more of what it devours and profits from, information.
GRANT: In your opinion, would this put Google in a position of increased liability? Or are they fully protected by the CDA?
MICHAEL: This would be a good opportunity to make it very clear that I am not an attorney, although I consult for many of them in these matters. As such, I would rather defer to the wisdom of suitably qualified, but more importantly qualified professionals to express such opinions.
GRANT: What do you think needs to be changed and why?
MICHAEL: I would start with the human heart and the nastiness epidemic, but that comes only from a miracle of God. Otherwise, if I could wave a magic wand I would like to see some common sense amendments made to the communications decency act which still gives generous immunity for Internet service providers but conditional upon reasonable attempts to comply with the intent of the “Good Samaritan” clause which is found specifically in TITLE 47, CHAPTER 5, SUBCHAPTER II, Part I, § 230(C).
GRANT: What questions do you think Google needs to answer for in light of this evidence?
MICHAEL: My questions would be simple:
(1) “Does the humility algorithm exist, and why?”
(2) Do your family members receive the same cookie-cutter responses when they ask you for junk results to be removed from your search index?
OUR THANK YOUS TO THE SUPPORTER WHO SENT THIS TO EOPC!