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Google responds to Climategate-gate

Jerry Stratton, November 30, 2009

I received a response from Jake Hubert of Google’s Public Affairs department a little after noon today. +1 for responding, -100 for not actually answering the question.

I asked:

Is the hints algorithm being hacked in some way? I'm nearly certain that climategate was showing Thursday morning.

Jake responded:

I can verify that Google has not removed the query [climategate] or variations of the query from Google Suggest. In fact, [climategate] is already appearing as a suggestion (see attached screen shot).

Google Suggest uses a variety of algorithms in order to come up with relevant suggestions while the user is typing. We do remove certain clearly pornographic or hateful or malicious slur terms from Suggest.

To learn more about Google Suggest, read the following blog post: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/at-loss-for-words.html

I suspect it’s a form response answering the question everyone else was asking, rather than the one I asked. I never believed that Google itself removed the variations on climategate, which is why I didn’t ask that question. We know from experience that other aspects of Google can be hacked to provide desired responses, so I thought it might be happening here. It could also be a rogue employee; or it could be that everyone who noticed it is misremembering the term showing up earlier; I doubt the latter.

For what it’s worth, I saw climategate return as the top suggestion (after typing “clim”, which wasn’t quite as good as Bing’s “cli”) by quarter to five on Saturday. I was waiting to see if Google was going to respond before posting.

It’s too bad there isn’t a wayback machine for trending suggestions on Google and other search engines. That would be interesting to browse back through.

In response to Google hacked by climategate deniers?: I can’t believe that Google would actually remove climategate from their common search drop-down. But something appears to be happening here.