Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is Google "PageRank" a good proxy ?

The struggle over the Obama Eligibility Controversy essentially amounts to a propaganda war. The pro-Obama forces have essentially a huge advantage, being much better organized and better funded.

Those of us wanting to see the Obama Eligibilty Controversy addressed are a rag-tag group of volunteers and amateurs. We do not have the support of the mainstream media, which is still powerful but represents a slowly waning influence. We do not even have the support of most mainstream conservative media, for the most part, including Fox News and conservative talk radio. We do not have the support of the Republican Party, which one would expect to be our natural ally [1]. The conservative special interest groups, advocating controlled immigration, gun ownership rights, a pro-life agenda, etc have mostly avoided us so far, and been essentially silent, although we have reached out to them. We have been branded as fruitcakes, flakes, nutjobs and conspiracy theorists; lunatics who wear tin foil hats, worry about One World Government and the end of the world. Even in the "new media" arena on the internet, getting the message out about potential problems with Obama's eligibility has been an uphill struggle.

Since Google has a huge market share among search engines[2][3], ranking of links in Google searches is a vital way to get information out on the internet. At the moment, the top 10 hits on a Google search for the phrase "Obama birth certificate" are heavily weighted towards pro-Obama sites. Here are the current links that I obtained:

1. A "Politifact" article from June 27, 2008 debunking rumors that the Obama birth certificate posted online is suspect (supposedly owned by St. Petersburg Times). There is no evidence that "politifact" is neutral or the result of any scholarly effort. It references the "Fight the Smears" website, the official Obama Campaign website, as a reliable "authority".

2. An LA Times blog article from June 16, 2008, and supposedly updated in August, 2008, presenting the "Fight the Smears" Certification of Live Birth as a valid Hawaiian birth certificate, allegedly "proving" eligibility. I would not trust the LA Times editorial page in this matter, and I have even less respect for an LA Times blog article.

3. A "" article, last updated November 15, 2008 but apparently originally written in June of 2008, quoting material from the websites "Fight The Smears" and "" (uncredited) and quoting the dismissal of the first Berg case. Although the Berg case was dismissed on the issue of "standing" and not for the substance of the evidence or arguments presented by Berg, the supposedly neutral "snopes" site spun their article in a completely partisan way. Snopes was started by a husband and wife at home, although might have been purchased later. We do not know who owns snopes at this point. However, the credentials of the original founders has never been ascertained with any degree of confidence. Do you trust two essentially anonymous and self-appointed bloggers writing a website at their kitchen table to determine the eligibility of someone who will occupy the most powerful office on the planet?

4. A Google news news article; depending on what is the top news item judged by the Google algorithm at any given time, this entry might be favorable to Obama, or it might not be, or it might be irrelevant. At the moment, the search I just performed produced an irrelevant news article.

5. The "" article purporting to show that Obama's Certification of Live Birth is an unaltered official copy that proves Obama's eligibility. Many questions have been raised about this article and the document presented. An investigation into the staff at shows that the team consists of theatre majors, political science majors, undergraduates and other nonexperts. This were no forensic document experts involved. Connections of with the Annenberg Foundation at least give the appearance of impropriety.

6. An Israeli Insider article describing in detail some reasons the presented Obama COLB(s) appear to be fraudulent.

7. A link to a Youtube video describing reasons that the Obama COLB is suspicious

8. The original Fight The Smears article about the Obama birth certificate. This is the official Obama campaign website.

9. A link to the Chicago Tribune article about the dismissal of the Donofrio Case on December 8, 2008.

10. A second link to the original Fight The Smears article.

11. A list of 3 blog posts on the issue:

a. The left-wing Huffington Post's December 8, 2008 article on the dismissal of the Donofrio case

b. A December 4, 2008 article from Latest News blog about the flourishinng of lawsuits

c. A December 9, 2008 article from the left-wing Huffington Post entitled "Obama Birth Certificate Kooks In Court"

So at the moment, on the first page of Google-retrieved links, I find seven out of ten are pro-Obama articles, 2 of which are from Obama's official campaign site, and all seven of which are somewhat doubtful. In addition, Google retrieved three blog articles, and two out of 3 the blog posts are pro-Obama articles. Most of these articles are weeks if not months out of date.

I know that the Googlebots update rankings more frequently than that. It is awfully hard for me to believe that the top-ranked articles from the Google PageRank algorithm on this issue remain two articles from June of 2008, namely the politifact article and the LA Times blog article.

Previous searches using the Google search engine over the last 2 or 3 months showed that the LA Times blog article was the top-ranked hit for weeks on end and has never dropped out of its top ranking until this "politifact" article replaced it. At that point, the LA Times blog article assumed its current position in second place.

Of the three remaining articles, one is the result of a feed from Google news, so does not quite count. One is from Youtube, so again it does not quite count. Of the 8 "regular" articles chosen by the Google algorithms for top-ten ranking, 7 are pro-Obama. Of the 3 blog articles chosen by the Google algorithms to display, 2 are pro-Obama. The pro-Obama articles are almost all wildly out of date. Ancient history, by internet standards.

This is probably the result of either (1) "pagerank engineering" or (2) intervention by Google. It is fairly easy to get a link to rise in search engine ranks. It mainly involves linking to the site from other highly ranked sites, at least in the case of Google Searches. It would not be too difficult to believe that the Obama internet team, with its funding and depth and resources, would easily be able to accomplish.

Less likely, but still possible, is that Google itself has "pinned" certain articles to be high ranking. Reportedly Google CEO Eric Schmidt backs Obama, has campaigned for him, and even is being considered for a position in the Obama administration.

Even if I go to the second page of Google-chosen articles, I find something similar going on, although it is not quite as extreme. I find 3 pro-Obama articles (again, mostly out of date), 5 links associated with the Obama Eligibility Controversy, and 2 news articles.

Maybe I am confused and misleading myself, but I put a fair amount of stock in the reports of uneasiness of the US military with Obama's presidency [4][5][6], the informal AOL survey showing 53 percent believe there are some unanswered questions about Obama's eligibility and accounts that Obama's base of support is fracturing. When I look at reporting of polls in the mainstream media, the results appear to be "cooked" to make Obama look more popular than he is.

I suspect we are observing what is essentially a "new age" publicity campaign, using the internet, to convince us that Obama is universally wildly popular and there are no serious questions about his eligibility. Even the numerous "o-bots" that turn up on our comment pages here seem to be extraordinarily driven to spread disinformation. Why is that?

What are they so afraid of? A little openness and transparency?