Stuff About Google I Don’t Understand

Over the past few days, I’ve written a few posts about the efforts to criminalize revenge porn, led by Miami Lawprof Mary Anne Franks. This won’t be another post on the subject, so don’t make a face. Rather, this is a post about the efficacy and legitimacy of searching.

Shortly after publishing this post, where Franks is named in the title, I searched Google to see what, if anything, else had been written on the subject. My post was there in the results, on the first page, about midway down. After Kaimipono Wenger posted the faux interview of Franks at Concurring Opinions, I heard from commenter “AP” who told me the weird story of how his comment to Wenger’s post included a link back to mine.  He did what any normal person would do, cut and pasted the link into the comment.  And yet, it somehow morphed:

AP – October 10, 2013

Sorry Mary Anne but Scott Greenfield’s post was filled with many arguments against your law. People should take a look for themselves here: http://blog.simplejustice.com/2013/10/08/new-york-to-revenge-porn-any-selfies-of-lawprof-mary-anne-franks/

Tricky stuff. Note how the  URL is blog.simplejustice.com?  Except the URL here is blog.simplejustice.us, and not .com.  The implication, since it would be impossible for the link to change on its own, is that somebody went in there and altered the link to kill it.  Another commenter there, ClarkB, reposted the link noting the error. AP tried to post some additional comments, but they were never approved.

So this amounted to a curious, but ultimately uneventful, attempt to conceal the existence of a dispute. Frankly, Co-Op has no duty to be fair to anyone else, including me, and if they want to put on a play about the glory of one of their own, so be it. Concealing disagreement is a time-honored tradition of academics, and this happened on their turf. I have mine. They have theirs. That’s how stuff happens.

But then I googled again to see whether there was anything new on the internets, and that’s when things got weird.  A Google search of Mary Anne Franks no longer had my post on the first page. Or the second, third, fourth or fifth. It wasn’t there at all. Go ahead, check for yourself.

You will see the phony Co-Op interview there. If you go to the second page, you will see Mark Bennett’s post about Franks’ phony interview. But my post is nowhere to be found.

Now, it’s not that I harbor any belief that what is written here is so critical to the existence of the internets that it must be found, particularly given Franks’ comment that I’m ”really just not that important.”  But Simple Justice has some pretty good Google juice and, for better or worse, usually is found, and usually pretty high up in search results. And when the search term used happened to be part of the title of a post, it tends to be even higher in the search results.  In this case, the name “Mary Anne Franks” was in the name of the post.

As I said, weird.  Being less knowledgeable about technology than some other people I know, I asked them why this would be. They didn’t know either. It made no sense to them.  I hesitate to allow my head to go toward paranoid theories, but I wondered whether there was some Google Magic Disappearing Post trick about which I was unaware. Did Google have some horse in this race that caused it to take sides?

Then it occurred to me that there were also two words in the title of my post that might indeed be the root of the problem.  The title included the words “revenge porn,” and maybe Google, because it’s trying to be a good internet citizen, downplayed results that include those words. So I googled them, but found that there were tons of results relating to news stories and commentary about the evils of revenge porn.  So the words alone weren’t the problem.

But the results for the two words, revenge porn, seemed to have one common theme; they were calling for its elimination and criminalization.  Now that could be because most people agree that revenge porn is a horrible blight on the internet, and lots of people agree that we should eliminate bad things online.  I certainly didn’t anticipate that there would be many of us who, while agreeing that a particular course of conduct was disgusting, were reluctant to create new crimes that could trample constitutional rights. This is a lawyerly concern, and most commentary is from non-lawyers who don’t understand the unintended and collateral consequences of whatever they’re screaming about.

Yet, my question remained unanswered.  It struck me that if a legislator was to do a Google search, under the auspices of his intern perhaps, he would find only voices screaming to criminalize this blight on the internets.  He would not find anyone cautioning that a new law would impair free speech and sweep the innocent into the same net as the guilty.

If they were to query whether the model law drafted by Mary Anne Franks had any detractors, say by googling her name, they would find nothing but love, admiration and applause.  And if Google says so, it must be.

So why is it that Simple Justice doesn’t appear anywhere in the Google search for the name “Mary Anne Franks”?  Beats me.

43 comments on “Stuff About Google I Don’t Understand

  1. BL1Y

    Are these results any different from what you’d except if the legislator checked the calls and letters coming in to his office? Or if he conducted a poll of his constituents?

    1. SHG Post author

      Aside from your question missing the relevance of the post (I know, you got it but the Cheetos got in your eyes), that’s pretty much the point. It’s likely to be the only way a diverse view is found, and that’s very much the problem. The superficial reaction is to applaud any law that eliminates a generally agreed-upon evil, as revenge porn is, and so one would expect the public to be very supportive of the law.

      Only later will they realize the problems they created, as has been the case so many times before.

  2. the other rob

    I just tried searching for “Mary Anne Franks revenge porn” on Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Your post comes up as the second result on the latter two, but had not appeared in Google by the time I got bored with looking – around page 16 or so.

    Curiously, however, searching with Google for “Mary Anne Franks revenge porn simple justice” produces it as the first result, demonstrating that Google has indexed the post in question (which we knew from your earlier search) and retains it in its index (which we did not know for certain until now).

    This, then, lends credibility to the speculation that some other factor is causing it to be demoted in Google’s search results, although we still have no idea as to what that factor might be.

  3. Brian Tannebaum

    Perhaps it’s time to hire one of those studs from Bangalore to “get you on the first page of Google.”

  4. Eric L. Mayer

    I just did a search for “Mary Anne Franks Revenge Porn Scott Greenfield Simple Justice Blog Legal New York Criminal Defense Blawg Hot Pants,” and you were the first result in Google.

    Just thought you should know.

    1. SHG Post author

      And that will no doubt be the most popular search du jour on Google, thus eliminating all problems whatsoever.

  5. Wheeze The People™

    Perhaps Google is the only company smart enough to realize that you, operating under the nom de plume SHGee So Horny, is the mastermind behind the global revenge porn pseudo-industrial complex racketeering organization. And your covert lobbying efforts in favor of Teflon-coating the villains in your sleazy enterprise against criminal sanctions will NO LONGER BE TOLERATED!! The fact is, Google is doing what they are doing to save ‘Merica’s children from monsters like you. You should be on a list somewhere, I say, a list . . .

    1. SHG Post author

      I wondered about that myself, but then I realized I was too small-potatoes to make it onto Google’s list. Hey, wait…

      1. Wheeze The People™

        “Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
        See you heaven if you make the list (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)”
        From: Man in the Moon, R.E.M., 1991

        I believe you have made the list, so I’ll see ya on the other side . . .

  6. Jake DiMare

    You could fill a room with the number of things your generation doesn’t get about the internets but I’ll bet my collection of Hardy Boys paperbacks you solved the crime in this very post. The “Google Magic Disappearing Post trick about which I was unaware” does exist and is found here: link redacted since it violates your commenting policies. *Ed. Note: Redacted is such a lawyerly term, suggesting necessary concealment for protection. But in this instance, my policy notwithstanding, the link is a necessary and worthwhile part of your explanation, so here it is:

    https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?rd=1#ts=1115655

    One of the categories of results Google will remove is: “My full name or the name of my business appears on an adult content site that’s spamming Google’s search results.”

    WARNING – SPECULATION AHEAD: It’s quite probable the person who first considers requests made through this mechanism is a low level Googler. Even an intern…And they probably don’t need to get approval to remove a search result in the ‘my name is on an adult content website’ category. AND they probably don’t do much follow up/background work when one of these requests comes in…What with all the surfing of revenge porn apparently going on.

    Thus, if Mary Franks whatever her name is wanted to have your voice in the conversation stifled, the means exist. Since I read all the links on this page…Seems like she also has a motive.

    1. SHG Post author

      Are you suggesting that Mary Franks whatever her name is has gone to Google and falsely complained in order to disconnect a post critical of her from Google results of a search of her name?

      Why, that would be dishonest, deceptive, deceitful. Would a scholar be so flagrantly dishonest to do something like that to conceal disapproval of her work?

          1. SHG Post author

            I hate to be the one to say this, but it seems quite likely this phenomenon only affects law blogs. (See how I nicely skirted the issue to avoid hurting your feelings?)

  7. Rick Horowitz

    Interestingly, the current article — i.e., the one to which I am posting this comment — is showing up on page four after clicking the link you provided in the link attached to the words “Check for yourself.”

    But, like another commenter, I finally gave up clicking the “next” button, and never found the original article.

  8. Barnassey thomas

    I believe that she make a requeste to google about Hateful speech which will get the post in question taken down from the search. Or she might be one of those ones who put a copyright notice about said post. Either way i suggest you utilize the Streisand effect to push this far and wide. I would submit this to Mike Masnick over at techdirt.com so he can check it out. I bet you then it will return. [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

      1. barnassey thomas

        Why you say it like that? Something i don’t know about? I’ve only been a reader for about 2 years.

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  10. Kaimi

    Ahem. Can I interrupt this bizarre conspiracy mongering for a second to point out the obvious?

    Simple Justice has a google page rank of 4/10.
    Concurring Opinions has a google page rank of 7/10.

    (See, e.g., http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php )

    It’s not rocket science, folks. In fact, it’s pretty basic.

    Either that, or Mary Anne and her army of minions have secretly manipulated the database to plot your destruction. You pick.

    1. SHG Post author

      Funny. SJ gets a 6/10 when I do it. Maybe you used simplejustice.com? Seems to be a common mistake of late. But what remains unclear is how other links in the Google search page with lower (and substantially lower) PR is higher in the results. See all those other links in there? See no SJ? Not rocket science. And as for Mary Jane and her army of minions, it doesn’t take too many to complain to Google. Still not rocket science.

      But as long as you’re here, maybe you can explain how AP’s copied and pasted link morphed from .us to .com? It’s also not rocket science, Kaimi.

      Anything else “obvious” you would like to point out? Feel free. I’ll post your comment unaltered, and I’ll even give you a pass on my “no links” policy, to avoid any hurt feelings.

        1. SHG Post author

          If you use the correct URL (blog.simplejustice.us), you get the correct answer. Try again. If you’re still challenged, I’ll post a picture for you.

          1. BRIAN TANNEBAUM

            I took Eric L. Mayer’s advice and Googled “why is the mary franks thing on simple justice not on the first page of google” and it came up fourth.

            What is the problem?

    1. SHG Post author

      I would strongly suggest you try using the “reply” tab, so instead of starting a new threat with every comment, it makes a little bit of sense to others who read it and you come off as totally incapable of using the internets.

  11. Ruth

    I’m a little late to the party, but I just googled “mary anne franks revenge porn” and your October 8 post was the third hit.

    1. SHG Post author

      Indeed it is. I noticed that earlier today as well. From not there at all to the third link. It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

    1. SHG Post author

      It would seem that the binary nature of technology would preclude such mysteries from happening, but apparently this defies tech wisdom.

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