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[dvd-discuss]DMCA and the Church Of Scientology
- To: dvd-discuss(at)cyber.law.harvard.edu
- Subject: [dvd-discuss]DMCA and the Church Of Scientology
- From: "Michael A Rolenz" <Michael.A.Rolenz(at)aero.org>
- Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 08:04:44 -0700
- Reply-to: dvd-discuss(at)cyber.law.harvard.edu
- Sender: owner-dvd-discuss(at)cyber.law.harvard.edu
Google hit by a case of xenu-phobia
By Ben Tudor [16-04-2002]
Google bombing - a technique for
boosting a site's popularity with the
Google search engine - has hit the news,
but could it hit Google's famed
impartiality as well?
The highly-respected search engine was
forced by the Church of Scientology to
remove sites after xenu.net was ranked
first after a search on 'scientology'.
What started out as an innocent enough
prank has steamrollered into a full-on
human rights debacle. The human rights
issue has little to do with the original
practice and more to do with the US
Digitial Millennium Copyright Act.
But why should network managers care?
It depends on two things: the importance
businesses set on being found through
search engines, and the use of them
Tony Lock, a senior analyst at Bloor
Research, explained that some search
engines allowed site promotion for
commercial benefit, but warned that if
companies beef up their search
appearance with inappropriate
meta-tags, they could face legal threats
and negative publicity.
"There are examples of companies that
put the name of their rival in their
meta-tags. This led to a flood of legal
letters and the tags were removed before
it came to court," he said.
Google is and was a breath of fresh air
among search engines. It ranks sites by
popularity rather than the amount of
money paid by site owners.
It's purity of function made it an
excellent tool for finding the exact site
you were looking for.
But this strength has made Google a
target, according to David Woods, a
research director at Ovum. "Google has
moved the goalposts a bit," he said.
"Part of the penalty of that has been that
it is now attractive to people who want
to get a higher ranking. It's just taken a
while for people to work out how to
attack it successfully."
Google bombing can improve a site's
ranking artificially. An IT vendor - or
any other business, for that matter -
could make sure that key phrases would
return its site at the top of the rankings.
This can distort Google's key strength -
By linking in the same way across many
sites, it is possible to artificially boost
the rankings of the target site when
linked to certain keywords.
The recent spat with the Church of
Scientology and xenu.net is a good
example of this.
Weblogs linked to xenu.net with the
word 'Scientology', which boosted the
site's rankings in Google to the extent it
ranked first in Google's search results,
over and above sites owned by the
"It is difficult to believe the Church of
Scientology got such a large array of
meta-tags, without a bit of politics or
manipulation going on," commented
Google bombing has been treated as
harmless fun over the past few weeks.
But as the stakes get higher, things could
well get uglier. Citing the DMCA, the
Church of Scientology has already
forced Google into delisting links to
certain parts of xenu.net.
Most popular and independent
search engine is not infallable
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Anti Church of Scientology website