|Voting began last night for the U.S. mid-term election to select 33 senators and 435 congressmen. But this time many candidates chose to campaign with their fingers, rather than on their feet.
Thanks to "Google Bombing," or "Google Washing," an attempt to influence the page ranking in search results by clicking on certain articles or Web sites purposely and repeatedly, candidates' supporters can influence the kind of exposure their opponents get in the online world.
Since the 2004 U.S. presidential election, this new campaign tactic has become another major means for election campaigning along with the "old school" television advertisements.
It's the same kind of attack method, but a bit more subtle.
The new method became so popular that the term "Google Bombing" was introduced in the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005.
This is how it works: Depending on how many times a link is clicked in Google, its page rank goes up, and when the same words are searched, the search engine automatically generates on top of the list the page that was visited most often.
Taking advantage of this function, "Google Bombers" purposely click away on the same negative articles on candidates their choice is competing against, so that when voters log on to find out more information on candidates, they are met with unpleasant stories.
One famous example is on the U.S. President George W. Bush. You type in "miserable failure" and you are directed to many results linking you to the president.
It is unclear where those words came from but its first public application related to the Bush administration was by Dick Gephardt, who claimed during a discussion, "This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy; and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced."
The mid-term election is not an exception for manipulating Google data.
If you google George Allen, a Republican U.S. senator from Virginia who is running to keep his seat, many negative articles such as "Allen Quip Provokes Outrage, Apology" show up right below the link to his official Web site.
Google, one of the most powerful search engines, has responded that it will not alter the results (or other Google bombed results) because it wished to preserve the integrity of its search engine.
As for the new tactic's effectiveness, Chris Bowers, who is an author of the popular liberal blog MyDD.com and conceived of the Google Bombing project aimed at 70 Republican candidates, cast doubts.
"I think Internet users are very smart and most are aware of what a Google Bomb is," he said in an interview with the New York Times. "And they will be aware that results can be massaged a bit."