Googlegate?

Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. According to an anonymous search-engine industry professional, questions regarding Google’s Suggest function are an everyday occurrence, fruit of what he described as “endless conspiracy theories.” Google Earth image by Martin Stehr.

Among the points of interest in the unfolding climate scandal is the fact that the term “climategate” rapidly eclipsed global warming in the number of links produced by a simple Google search.

As is standard, Google’s auto-suggest function facilitated this, several days into the story’s evolution. Anyone typing in the letters c-l-i would see the suggested time-saving choice of “climate gate.” Within a day or two of the auto-suggest function being added for “climategate” it had become the top item in the list.

Suddenly, though, on Monday December 1, Google stopped offering “climategate” as a choice to those who typed c-l-i and even to those who typed c-l-i-m-a-t-e-g-a-t. Strange.

Intrigued, I sent a few questions to Google’s Global Communications Department and a polite gentleman by the name of Jake Hubert responded right away.

This is what he wrote back in an e-mail:

Hi Harold,

I can verify that Google has not ever removed the query [climategate] or variations of the query from Google Suggest. It was never a “decision” as you suggest in your question, but instead it may have disappeared from the Suggest feature because of a normal update of the Suggest feature.  The suggestions change dynamically over time through automated processes based on relevance algorithms.

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, but we have not removed anything in this case.

Hope this helps,

Jake

In my response, I pointed out that the number of links produced by a “climategate” query was growing by leaps and bounds, drawing attention to the fact that “climategate” had eclipsed global warming (by that point) by more than half. (The doubling would be completed in the next 24 hours.)

Could he double-check with his product team?

His response was not surprising:

Hi Harold,

I hear what you’re saying, and I have already verified my prior statement with our product team.

Thanks,

Jake

At this point, although I suspected I was getting the run-around, I thought I’d give Jake one last shot at solving this problem:

Hi Jake,

I’m not questioning whether your product team confirmed your statement. Thank you again for that. I wonder, though, whether they have the complete story.

For instance, I wonder whether you and they have run some experiments just to see how odd this is? In your first response, you wrote, “The suggestions change dynamically over time through automated processes based on relevance algorithms.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the relevance algorithms work according to numbers of searches and links. Google Suggest fills in, for instance, both your name (although your name search produces only 680,000 links) and my name (which produces only 1,690,000 links). Climategate, on the other hand, yields 16 million links (growing by the hour), but Google Suggest doesn’t provide suggestions. So, the math doesn’t appear to add up.

Would it be possible to give me an example of another word or phrase that is yielding more and more hits (has more than 15 million already) but that Google Suggest does not in-fill (or stops during the word or phrase’s ascendancy)?

Barring such examples, this has the appearance of a political decision from high up the chain of command.

Would it be possible to provide me with contact information for a press officer at Google at the executive level?

Thank you in advance.

Regards,

Harold

Unlike the previous efforts at communication, this one was met with silence. At that point, I thought it might save time to work my way up the chain of command. I e-mailed a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, to whom I forwarded my correspondence with Jake. Toward the end of my letter I wrote the following:

Unfortunately, what this situation appears like is one in which someone with an interest in suppressing Climategate prevailed upon someone within the Google structure to remove Climategate from the list of auto-suggests. (Other phrases starting with climate are still Google-suggested even though they have many fewer links than Climategate.)

I asked him if it would it be possible to have someone from his staff look into this. I also asked if it would be possible to interview him by phone. Failing that, I said, perhaps I could send him a list of questions?

After sending the message, I went out to pick up my daughter from nursery school. When I returned, there was a message from Jake on my answering machine. Without boring readers with the entirety of the message, the takeaway was the statement “No need to contact the CEO.”

I returned Jake’s call and we spent a pleasant ten minutes on the phone, during which he explained that there was “no conspiracy,” that the algorithm governing Google Suggest simply had its own idiosyncracies, things of that nature. Nothing remotely credible, I am afraid, although I have no doubt that Jake was sincere.

I decided then to try another e-mail to Eric Schmidt (Sorry about that, Jake!). In the meantime, I’d seen that Google searching “climategate” (if one was willing to type in the whole phrase) now produced 22 million links.

Dear Mr. Schmidt,

Thank you for following up with Jake Hubert, who has reached out to me by telephone.

Unfortunately, the explanation makes no more sense by phone than it did by e-mail.

Climategate generates 22 million links on the main Google search engine. Global warming, by comparison, generates fewer than 11 million.

The idea that a numbers-driven algorithm stopped Google Suggest from filling in Climategate is absurd on its face. (Google Suggest, as it should, continues to in-fill global warming when a user begins typing it.)

These are my questions for you and your staff:

1. Was Google contacted by Al Gore or any one of his business associates regarding climategate searches on Google? If so, when did the approach take place?

2. What was the process that led to the decision to remove Climategate from the Google Suggest function?

3. Will Climategate be added to the list of Google Suggest items again?

4. Does Google feel that it acted according to its own highest ethical principles in this matter?

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Harold Ambler

I pushed send, got my daughter into her gymnastics gear, and rushed out the door. When I returned a little less than two hours later, I put my sleeping daughter on the couch and rushed upstairs to check my e-mail. Nada. Then I did a Google search, typing c-l-i-m … and there it was – offered by the gloriously user-friendly Google Suggest function – “climategate.”

Coincidence?

You never know.

Was Google briefly complicit in the largest scientific scandal in at least a generation, attempting to minimize it behind the scenes? Like I said, you never, ever, ever, ever know. Ever.

P.S. Four hours after the function returned, Google Suggest on “climategate” was altered again. Instead of the single word “climategate,” which yields 27 million links per search, Google now offers “climate gate scandal,” which yields 6 million. Only by hand-typing the complete word “climategate,” to the last letter, can users view an additional 21 million links. The evident message from on high? “Tamp it down.” The apparent success of the strategy: close to non-existent.

P.P.S. As of six days after this post (today is Tuesday December 8), Google Suggest no longer offers any choices for C-l-i-m-a-t-e-g-a-t-e, no matter how many letters one types. The total number of links appears to be stable around 30 million. The first reader who finds any Google search with 30 million or more links that Google Suggest doesn’t assist with wins the prize.

About these ads

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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211 Responses to Googlegate?

  1. GORE LIED says:

    Good work, Harold.

    Along the same lines, sans the “auto-suggest” part, I posted earlier today on the fact that in Google search results first passed the phrase “global warming” (as noted by Anthony Watts, then a day or two later it surpassed “Al Gore”, and today it had even passed “Barack Obama”. I figure at this rate, in about a month it will pass “sex” (which has about 98 million results right now) – joking.

  2. GORE LIED says:

    Here’s the link to the post I mentioned above…

    http://algorelied.com/?p=3326

  3. Pachelbel says:

    I notice that “climate gate scandal” does auto suggest but with a fraction of the number that can be found in “climate gate”, “climategate”, or “climate-gate”.

    I think I will switch to “Bing” as my primary search engine.

    • durox says:

      Bing does the same… 2 days ago, they both had auto-suggest on, regarding climategate. so, until further info, im inclined to believe we’re not being told the truth.

  4. Loco says:

    Although I haven’t tried it myself yet, I just read on WUWT that Bing has now also turned off the auto-suggest!!

    • Harold Ambler says:

      They all seem to be shifting around a bit. As of 9:17 CST, Bing is auto-suggesting “climate-gate.” Although the term is hyphenated almost nowhere on the internet, and thus Bing’s auto-suggest is an oddity of its own, at least the search engine is acknowledging the reality of ClimateGate’s significance more than Google.

      • Bob Kutz says:

        My bing is suggesting both climategate and climate gate above the line, and climate-gate below the line.

        I’ve yet to have bing not suggest it.

  5. Matt says:

    Below is a link to a post on Google Earth Forums. Before a single response—it got locked.

    Sad people.

    http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1283469#Post1283469

  6. tim heyes says:

    source wikipedia

    …a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Inc., and a senior advisor to Google.[5] …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Gore

  7. Art Horn says:

    You need to get this information to FOX news ASAP.

  8. Pachelbel says:

    I just checked “Bing” again.

    “Climate-gate” hit 50,600,000

    “Climategate” hit 50,300,000

    “Climate gate” hit <8 million.

  9. J Carr says:

    Looks like google.ca has removed climategate from its auto-suggest. Just checked it and it’s not there. returns 27.9 million results!

  10. syphax says:

    Keep up the good sleuthwork, gentlemen.

    Res ipsa loquitur.

  11. jacquesdelacroix says:

    Excellent work. Little pissed off guys are going to save both democracy and science. What this story makes clear again is that monopolies are dangerous. We need a non_google Google.

  12. Pingback: Some posts of interest « Watts Up With That?

  13. Neil Jones says:

    It’s clearly a problem with the Al-Gore-rithm.

  14. Bulldust says:

    Hey there – thanks for the good read. Just popping in as the chap acredited (cursed?) with the original reference – which, as I explained on the Telegraph (UK), I made in cynical jest… now look what has happened.

    I live in Australian (WA) and the Aussie version of Google still doesn’t autosuggest Climategate, even if you type in all but the last “e”.

    This brings me no end of mirth … perhaps I have an overly dark sense of humour.

    Cheers,
    Bulldust

  15. Hans Kelp says:

    They can jump and they can shout and they can go silent or drop dead, but they cannot make Climategate go away because it´s here to stay…

  16. Richard Lawson says:

    Seems like the algorithm was replaced with an AlGoreithm!

  17. J.Hansford says:

    Bing gets it everytime….. Give google the ping, try bing. hehe.

  18. LeeW says:

    I just jumped on Google and started typing…

    c – nothing
    cl – nothing
    cli – “climate gate scandal” (6th in relevance)(6,480,000 results)

    “climategate” never appeared in the auto-fill, but now shows 28,600,000 results.

    I wonder if they restored it for a short period, and when heard nothing from you they assumed you went away happy and removed it once again?! Just seems a little odd!

    In all fairness, Yahoo! and Bing also failed to provide an auto-fill selection. Go figure!

  19. Daryl H says:

    Both google and bing autocomplete return nothing for climategate. Typing in the full search term results in <20 million hits on Google and over 60 million hits on bing. WTF is going on?

  20. David Walton says:

    Wow! No coincidence. The giant blinked. A job well done, but evidently short lived for the Web search at least.

    I just tested cli on Google Web and Google News pages.

    Web, no climategate suggestion.
    News, climategate suggestion at the top of the list.

    It is my experience that many blogs and independent news services and such never appear on a News search but do appear on a Web search so it is not at all unreasonable to conclude that they have been pressured to remove the suggestion from the Web search given their answers to your queries.

    But really, what difference does it make except to make Google look foolish? I usually just type in climategate anyway and don’t even bother to use the suggestions. In fact, I find the drop down list annoying.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      I long found the drop-down lists annoying, too, but now use them to save time whenever possible. Reasonable people can disagree about their usefulness. On the other hand, for those who are somewhat less net-savvy (and news-savvy), the auto-suggest function can mean the difference between successfully finding a story whose proper name they can’t quite remember and not finding it. That is the reason, in my view, why Google is evidently fighting this battle at all. Staggering sums of money and vast swathes of influence are in play.

  21. junkkmale says:

    Careful. If you persist in asking awkward questions in opening up a new ‘gated’ community, the way becomes clear for the next ‘denier’ backatcha one from the knee jerks.

    How about ‘Objectivity Of PublisherS’ denial? Or ‘Oops denial’ for short?

    Whatever happened to ‘hew close to the line; let the chips all where they may?’ in how we were served our information and news, as opposed to being ‘fed’ it these days?

  22. Tom Graham says:

    2:50am Google now suggests, “Climategate” with “c-l” prompt. 2nd thoughts from Big Al?

    • Josh says:

      yea, google news suggests climategate right away but I found this article on the twelfth page. The first is filled only with articles about climategate being no big deal, and most of the next few are as well.
      I didn’t check every page up to twelve, but there should be at least one on the first page explaining the severity of climate gate.

  23. anon says:

    As of right now even typing the full word climategate in google.ca doesn’t produce it on the auto suggest list. I get “climate guatemala” and “climate guatemala city”

  24. M Johnson says:

    I respect the investigation into this, but sometimes algorithms are just quirky. There are probably plenty of odd things with Google’s auto-suggest algorithms that we don’t notice because we don’t put every result under this level of scrutiny.

    From purely a coldly calculating cost-benefit analysis, Google’s impartiality (and specifically, being perceived as impartial) is worth a lot more than helping cover up after some scientists in the UK behaving badly. They’re not gonna touch this. It’s not worth touching.

  25. Chris C says:

    google.com may have got climategate back, but google.co.uk still does not auto suggest it. Climategate returns about 30 million hits, but google is more interested in suggesting “climate change facts” which has about 6 million.

    Chris C

  26. Hi

    just read this article, google seems to have removed climate gate again, type it in doesn’t even appear, climtate gate, auto suggests climate gates, that’s all
    if you manually enter climategate you get 30,000,000 hits

    Dark forces are at work!

  27. durox says:

    @Harold we do appreciate your time and tact.
    Google did and does a huge ‘good’ to us all, no question. But let’s not forget that Google has its own close relationship w/ some questionable individuals and policies regarding the AWG. It’s not an excuse; it’s just an unfortunate event.
    Thanks again, have a great day.

  28. Gregg E. says:

    “Using gate as a suffix for scandal names for 37 years.”

    Can’t anyone come up with something original?!

    • Harold Ambler says:

      If the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., had instead been named “The Piedmont,” or some such, things would have turned out differently in this regard. — H.A.

  29. Ben says:

    In France, there is still no auto-suggest for “climategate”. But 28 800 000 references for the word (dec. 4th, 10h38 – local time).

  30. techapilla says:

    While I don’t know anything about the autosuggest algorithm that Google is using, I do know that autosuggest algorithms can produce results that just don’t seem to “gel” with logic. Take, for example, the Lucene/SOLR search engines. Their default relevance algorithm is based on not just the frequency of occurrence, but also the length (e.g. shorter words which occur more frequently are deemed to be less relevant), words which occur frequently across different documents are ranked lower (may help to explain the apparent dropping of “climategate” from Google’s autosuggest. Word stems can also be factored into the algorithm, e.g “climategate’s” stems include “climate”, “climateg” etc (stems don’t have to be actual words). Depending on how the relevance algorithm is tweaked, this may result in words such as “climategate” being indexed as “climate”. One of the effects of such algorithms is that the more common a word is, the less likely it is to be considered relevant.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      What you describe, accurate so far as I know, is what Google is counting on to lend their actions plausible deniability here. Bear in mind that this is one of the biggest news stories of 2009, growing in the number of hits by the hour. The algorithm had figured out how to auto-suggest Climategate when it only had a few million hits. The fact that the auto-suggest function is not working with Climategate at 10 times that number of hits does give one pause.

  31. Ecotretas says:

    Googlegate is an interesting discovery. I discovered today that the Google pagerank for my blog went down, despite the fact that I’m receiving 20x more visitors, and that links to my blog have increased exponentially.
    Makes me wonder…
    Ecotretas

  32. Vorlath says:

    No auto-suggest of climtegate on Google Canada. It was there several days ago, but not for at least the past 4 days.

  33. Sgt Relic says:

    It is a small wonder that Eric Schmidt couldn’t get back to you. It appears he was preoccupied assisting Governor Arnie to give a presentation on how San Fransisco is going to be underwater, due to AGW.

    Climategate…..29 million and headed north.

  34. Phil says:

    Here on the .co.uk version there is no sign of climategate when you type it into google. We get “climate camp” as the first suggested term and even when the whole word climategate is typed into the search function i get “climate guatemala” with 4 million hits. But if i search climategate i get 30 million.

  35. Carl says:

    Google.com/au still gives “climate Guatemala”.

  36. Chuck says:

    well done Harold!

    i just checked, here in Australia.

    if i type ‘clim’ up comes ‘climate gate emails’ in about 7th spot

    but searching ‘climate gate emails’ on google yeilds 3,490,000
    where searching ‘climategate’ yeilds 29,900,000 responses

    not that in the real world this would make any difference i guess, but its a regular thing mentioned on blogs about how many hits a certain phrase receives on google. Seems more petty than anything, surely an ex google employee will mention this one day

  37. Pingback: Climategate.nl » Blog Archive » Google-gate?

  38. T J Linzy says:

    I’ve just tried this from the UK at 10:24AM on 4 December 2009 and I received no suggestions even after I typed in ‘c-l-i-m-a-t-e-g-a-t-e in full. The only thing I could finally get it to do is ‘climate gate emails’. What else are they manipulating? I have been trying Bing a little lately, I think I will switch the default to Bing.

    “Don’t be evil.”
    It’s kind of cute how dumb smart people can be. Like a really clever 5 year old.

    I wonder how many other good names will be dragged down by their actions or non-actions on this jaw dropping scandal.

  39. Rational Debate says:

    Hi Harold,

    Excellent job!

    I’d love to see you continue it, however, with a followup letter to the CEO (& I suppose cc Jake too), updating them on the situation after your last contact with the CEO. For that matter, why not cc Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly – and anyone else you can think of along those lines? Include a link to this post of yours too for that matter.

    Let Google know they are being watched, and we do care, and when shenanigans are pulled, someone will notice and call them on it – and not even be put off by partial success.

    Go Harold!! :0)

  40. Omar says:

    Guys…
    I am on your side as far as being skeptical about all the climate change nonsense, but as a longtime Silicon Valley engineer who is very familiar with search technology and Google’s approach, you are way off base on this one. Google’s algorithms are incredibly complex, and seeing “climategate” appear, disappear, and then morph its phrasing doesn’t strike me as the least bit odd.
    Seriously, before you get carried away with this, dashing off emails to Eric Schmidt, could you find a Computer Science PhD to talk to? This stuff is not as simple as it seems from the outside.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Perhaps you can offer an example of another phrase growing in search hits by the hour that a search engine stops suggesting or suggests in an illogical way?

  41. John Page says:

    A search on Google UK just now for climategat offers two suggestions:

    climate guatemala

    climate guatemala city

    You’d think Google could do better than this.

  42. Duncan says:

    http://www.google.com.au No sign of climategate at all (29,500,000 hits currently)

  43. Omar says:

    If it helps, realize that Google is continually under attack from spammers inventing new tricks to get their sites ranked higher in Google’s results. Google can’t simply add any new keyword that starts appearing without a great deal of automated analysis and experimentation. This takes time, and what the user sees changes along the way.

    Also, the “results” numbers that you are quoting… Those are meant to impress and are more or less bogus. That part is marketing, not science. They get away with it because “results” has no official meaning. (Do you seriously think “climategate” has half as many results as “sex”?! )

  44. HPI says:

    Google.fi does not suggest climategate at all. Also returns only 1 820 000 hits while googlefight returns 14 000 000 results.

  45. Perry Debell says:

    I tested Google and had to type all of climategate and hit return before I got a result.

    Results 1 – 10 of about 29,200,000 for climategate. (0.07 seconds)

  46. Here’s the suggestions I get in Chrome in Canada, Dec 4th 2009 7AM.

    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=rjqd6w&s=6

    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=p0u8i&s=6

    ClimateGate is not even in the list

  47. Rich says:

    I’ve tried Bing, Exalead, Yahoo and Cuil. Even with their versions of “safe search” turned off, “Climategate” is never offered in the suggestions list. The number of hits returned varies enormously with Cuil down at 925. Odd.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Bing offers “climate-gate” (with a hyphen), after c-l-i is typed, although nearly all the results come back without hyphens, which is how the term generally exists in the blogosphere. Yahoo offers “climate gate” (two words) after c-l-i-m-a-t is typed. I focused on Google because of its popularity as well as to simplify the story.

      • Rich says:

        Focussing on Google may have simplified the story but surely Al Gore isn’t a director of all these search engines? If they’re all doing it then references to Gore’s possible intervention are misleading, aren’t they? I’m not a fan of Al, I just think we don’t need to invent things to throw at him.

        btw I didn’t get any of those variants when I tried it.

  48. helvio says:

    Excellent work! I too noticed last night that by typing c-l-i, Google suggested ‘climate gate’ something. Right now ‘climategate’ shows in its full glory after just typing c-l ! I believe it was no coincidence! What you did is what ‘activism’ should be all about. ;) Right now, climategate produced over 30 million hits!

    • Harold Ambler says:

      As of 7:37 CST this morning, Google’s back to offering nothing. I accept that the algorithms have a “life of their own.” However, “global warming” and other terms that I have been searching do not appear to get tossed around on the sea of algorithm this way.

      • ben says:

        isn’t this just proving that the results are fuzzy? he might see it, but you don’t. hence this is “climatechange in a teapot”.

    • helvio says:

      I must apologize! I just realized that the ‘climategate’ I was getting in Google Suggest was in my web history. After I cleared cache, it’s back at no results. :/ Sorry I was so sloppy.

  49. Peter Taylor says:

    Harold – greetings and much appreciation for your persistence and humour – I have had similar things going on here in the UK – since the scandal broke my book ‘Chill’ has propelled me into the media – but it is fascinating to watch their response – the right-wing press are asking for online articles, having ignored the book because it does not advocate ‘business as usual’ and talks about a potential new Little Ice Age – but now are opening up, however, the left-liberal press continue to block coverage.

    There are some ructions – people in one of the main news channels are pressing their superiors but are getting a lock-down, and now the Times, the Daily Mail and Al Jazeera (an Arabic equivalent of CNN) are opening up. The scandal is causing a deep re-examination of the issues and the more the top tries to repress things, the more they will create rebellion in their junior ranks – which, incidently, is what I think happened at the UEA – the ‘hacked’ material has all the hallmarks of deleted files dumped and then retrieved internally and leaked – not sure if you know this already but the ‘hacker’ sent all the material to the BBC a month ago and they sat on it!

    Keep up the good work!

  50. Ken says:

    climategate 28 million has now surpassed ‘climate change’, 22 million, and ,global warming’, 11 million. I also looked at Yahoo and climategate isn’t even mentioned on their top 10 popular searches.

  51. Keith says:

    Google auto suggest for climategate still not functioning when it was working earlier this week. This is not algorithm driven.

  52. Hosco says:

    Just amazing!

  53. perianwyr says:

    I was going to look for climategate and google made me TYPE THE WHOLE THING OUT before it sent me millions of pages about it!

    Censorship!!!!

    • Harold Ambler says:

      I make no claim of censorship. What I do claim is that this gives the appearance of corporate engagement in a current event in a way that, gently perhaps, tamps the story down. — H.A.

      • perianwyr says:

        It is still rather weak, all things considered. If you are looking for climategate chances are you don’t need autosuggest to save you.

  54. ben says:

    oh god this is as pathetic as the “youtube viewer counter doesn’t reflect that at least hundreds of people saw this video”-things that pop up over time. Then people go bananas because they fail to realize that the counter isn’t updated often. In this case it might be that the exact mirror they are hitting doesn’t replicate the same data, or that there are many much more used expressions.

    this is just a case of recentism and adrenaline fueled internet raging. i can’t see anyone involved with this “scandal” has anything to be afraid of because this thing doesn’t matter in the big picture. it only matters to a bunch of people who are looking to get their adrenaline-urge satisfied in terrible comment-threads.

  55. Mae says:

    Interesting post, I had been wondering about that. Google UK insists on me typing the whole word and then still does not suggest it “Climatega” yields “climate Guatemala”! Results as of now for climategate: 29.2 million.

  56. AllAboutMike says:

    I thought Google was a search company.
    They are supposed to find things, not hide them!
    Very bad precedent Google.

  57. ben says:

    29.2 million is not correct at all. It does then search for “climate gate” as two seperate words that might be seperate in text.

    Try searching for “+climategate” which forces it to search for the exact word and you’ll get 1.88 million results (and 330,000 for +”climate gate”/+”climate-gate”)

    For reference “climate guatemala” gets 4,170,000 hits.

  58. Denbo says:

    Let me fix Google’s response:

    “The suggestions change dynamically over time through automated processes based on relevance Al Gore-rithms”

  59. Corrinne Novak says:

    The question is, is there censorship of the news?
    For what it is worth Mr John Munsell told me in an e-mail that a New York City reporter visited him for a few days to gather information about the Conagri e-coli coverup. The story was written, approved by the editor and then squashed by the owner. Derry Brownfield got fired for criticizing Monsanto.

    In the Congressional Record for 1917, we find “…the J.P. Morgan [banking] interests…. and their subsidiary organizations got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press of the US…. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. …an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information….”

    Does JP Morgan have a dog in this fight?
    According to Richard Folland advisor to JP Morgan banking interests:
    “The financial sector has a major stake in Copenhagen. Decisions there will affect investment and business. At J. P. Morgan, we are significant participants in the carbon market as traders, project developers and in voluntary carbon offsetting.Our hope for Copenhagen is that we get clarity, to set out the long-term policy framework that investment needs…. Our fear is that an inability to reach an agreement puts these decisions on hold, thus delaying investment…”. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427366.800-great-and-good-share-hopes-and-fears-for-copenhagen.html

    So yes censorship is alive and well in the USA.

  60. Bob H. says:

    AltaVista now shows 29,200,000 links

  61. ben says:

    Ok, some people believe “climategate” surpassed “global warming”. Take a look at this link:

    http://google.com/trends?q=climategate,+global+warming,+al+gore

    You can see “climategate” is a blink in the rader, even if it surpasses “al gore”. It does however also report “climategate does not have enough search volume for ranking” which seems to indicate that the index hasn’t made it a “real term” yet.

    Please, you people who are skeptics and “scientific” about this should try examining the data. But I’m afraid that the answer to this conondrum is too complex for anyone to understand; much as the rest of this “scandal”.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Hi Ben, I’m not sure that the phenomenon that is Climategate is complete yet. –H.A.

      • ben says:

        Sure, but it is still recent. As you got explained, the algorithm has idiosyncracies, and perhaps mistakes the recent surge of a new term as a googlebomb of sorts. And second, if this really was an act of censorship they would remove stuff from the index. I have seen cases of that before that took ages to rectify, and in the recent case of the Ft. Hood shooting the witness testimonies that said the shooter was trying to get discharged has supposedly the articles has supposedly been deleted or removed.

        And then trying to force you to type out the esoteric expression “climategate” in order to try limiting peoples knowledge of it is bizarre.

  62. Not Jack says:

    Used Google to check just now.

    The is no auto suggest for ‘climategate’. When I typed in the entire word, there were 29,600,000 hits.

    The people at Google are helping to perpetuate a fraud.

  63. Anders M says:

    This is a satire site. Right?

  64. pete says:

    They turned it off again. I just tried it and could not get the auto-suggest even with “c-l-i-m-a-t-e-g-a-t-e”. That is right. Even if you type in the whole word, the suggestion is “climate guatemala city”.

  65. Bruce Attah says:

    Nice work! Currently, Google Suggest gives “climategate” as an autosuggest if you search through google.com, but not through google.co.uk. So, I guess maybe the command still has to filter down to the provinces.

  66. Brian says:

    You don’t have to look any further than this…

    http://www.generationim.com/about/team/gore.html

  67. Rossa says:

    As the well known saying goes….just follow the money!

    http://faustiesblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/smart-meter-specification-big-brother.html

    Both Google and Microsoft are behind the smart meters that the UN wants every home to have so that they can control the energy supply. Here in the UK the government is putting in place EU legislation to get the power companies to instal these in every home. It will be mandatory, no exceptions, and will allow the utility companies to switch off your power as and when they choose to do so.

    Oh and of course guess who pays……

    Not really a surprise that they will do whatever if takes to suppress this.

  68. Bob L says:

    Great reporting, Harold. If the mainstream press operated like you do, it wouldn’t be dying…

    Thank you!

  69. bob P says:

    Google does NOT suggest climategate in Germany.

  70. helvio says:

    Funny enough, g-o-o-g-l-e-g-a-t suggests “googlegate” (which is better than no suggestion at all), and this very page is ranked first ;)

  71. Pingback: “Main Stream Media” Tries to Suppress Climategate | One Utah

  72. Scott says:

    As of a couple minutes ago, for me, Google would not suggest “climategate” even while I’ve got it fully typed into the search result. It will not suggest “climate gate” or “climate-gate” either.

    It will, somewhat surprisingly, suggest “googlegate” when you’ve only got “googlegat” typed in.

    Someone in their group, whether the management knows about it or not, has inserted code into their algorithm blocking these terms from showing up.

  73. ben says:

    this is the worst conspiracy ever

  74. john says:

    I have been following this over the past few days (USA) and just want to offer this observation to update/advance the thread.

    The search terms seemed to be appearing yesterday. Then this morning, they had once again vanished from autosuggest.

    just checked at 12:15 pm eastern time – “climate gate” appears as the first suggestion.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      That’s interesting; I fully trust that Google’s algorithms vary the way the search engine works. How that is playing out with apparent manual “adjustments” remains to be seen. Meanwhile, “climate gate” (with a space) yields 10 million hits. “Climategate” (one word) yields 30 million. So, by whatever means (innocent or what have you), Google users are being directed away from two out of three links to the story.

      • john says:

        Harold – I am a software engineer and have written autosuggest routines myself.

        There’s nothing innocent about it as far as I’m concerned. What we’re observing can only be achieved by introducing artificial “excludes” to the usual algorithm.

        I’ll be interested to see if they’ve been embarrassed into letting the thing work as it should or not.

    • Omar says:

      John, I don’t believe your claim of being a software engineer who has “written autosuggest routines” yourself. A tech guy who has implemented routines that others have written, perhaps, but a software engineer who has written them yourself? Unlikely. I say this because your comment is too naive. What exactly is “the usual algorithm”? There is no such thing as a “usual algorithm” for auto-suggest. This technology is evolving, and there are millions of ways an auto-suggest feature might be designed.

      Let’s examine the problem: How do we decide which, out of millions of search phrases, should be added to auto-suggest (since we can’t add them all)? One way is to analyze a variety of data and compute a “quality score” for each phrase. Maybe we assign scores from 0 to 100, and we allow anything with a score of 90 or higher into auto-suggest.

      Now, what if a new phrase appears, climbs up along a choppy path until it reaches 91, falls back to 89 for a brief period, then climbs back above 90? Wouldn’t this cause an appearance, disappearance, and reappearance?

      Or do you still want to claim the only way that can happen is through “artificial excludes” (whatever that made-up term means)?

  75. PJ says:

    You know, I’m skeptical about the significance of anthropogenic global warming myself, but this theory that someone at Google is trying to block searches is just a little bit paranoid. I suggest you find out more about how the auto suggest feature works before you make strange accusations.

    – skeptical about “google gate”

  76. Geoff says:

    I am glad to see searching “climategate Eric Schmidt” turns up this page.

  77. Guys, there are a couple of real problems about this: first, the google algorithm is well known to adapt to individual search interests as well as global number of searches, so any time you try to make an inference from *your* search suggestions it doesn’t mean much.

    And second, for at least some of us — like me, and I have the screencaps to prove it — “climategate” does come up first.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Hi Charlie. I think you’ll see that “climate gate” (two words) comes up first, which means that two-thirds of all references to the story are excluded by the algorithm (and/or manual adjustment) at present, even for you. “Climategate” (one word) yields 30 million hits; “climate gate” (two words) yields 10 million. — H.A.

      • ben says:

        if you type +climategate you’ll only get exact hits (but try the other permutatons “climate gate” and “climate-gate” as well) – that limits the real number of hits to max 2.1 million hits. The numbers are estimates!

  78. Peter Moon says:

    Hi Harold,

    At 5.45am – Saturday Dec 5 – Melbourne Australia time – I tried c-l-i and got nothing so typed in the complete word and got two autosuggests ‘climate guatemala’ and climate guatemal city’

    Wonderful wonderful Copenhagen …….

    They must be running s##tscared these frauds. Keep up the good work. As we say here “nihilis bastardus carborundum” Don’t let the bastards wear you down

  79. Old Crusty says:

    In the US, we often create a compound word to describe a scandal by adding the “gate” suffix. We don’t use the new word as a two-word phrase, nor do we hyphenate the new term, nor do we capitalize the “g”.

    Try Google for “cybergate”, or “textgate”, or even “bananagate”. The examples are almost limitless. Hell, there’s even a “beergate”. Autosuggest seems to work just fine for them, even for those terms with just a few thousand hits.

    I’ve yet to see any reasonable explanation for Google to treat climategate differently, especially as it grows by tens of millions of results.

    Thank you, Mr. Ambler.

  80. Larry Matula says:

    Interesting that the number of hits for “climategate” are now down to 13,800,000 in the U.S. Version. There were close to 30 million this morning. What gives?

  81. john says:

    Ben, that’s right – but none of this explains the period of time where no permutation of the term appeared in Google autosuggest at all, while Bing and Yahoo found them.

    Doesn’t necessarily indicate anything nefarious, but something or someone intervened on the normal operation of autosuggest – and Google hasn’t really explained.

    • Omar says:

      John, your argument that there was intervention in the “normal” operation of auto-suggest is bogus. Unless you work for Google and know the trade secrets involved, you can’t possibly know what is “normal” and what isn’t. What background do you have to say that terms cannot appear and disappear–that this is not normal behavior for terms relating to an evolving news story?

      Back your claims up, everyone, and leave the baseless conjectures to the other camp, please!

    • ben says:

      The only problem is that some people experienced the term and some didn’t. As we can see from the comments the variation is not easily determinable. I know myself that the search for my own name can vary greatly from day to day or search to search.

      But the original article clearly tries to indicate a nefarious action behind this “censorship” while I believe it is a regular systemic glitch. Getting registered as the “important search terms” is a [snip] high thing to reach.

      Yet poeple here believe that al gore through his connection to google has actively modified the ajax-type-ahead to censor this term – yet not censor any of the search hits on google.

      I need a [snip] proof other than somebodies lousy experience with software that is extremely variable as seen from the chat. Some report they get the keyword while some don’t.

      [snip] — watch your language and tone — H.A.

  82. Librarian says:

    ~climate gate

    use in google, 54,000,000+ results

    includes
    climategate
    climate gate
    climate-gate
    climate change scandal
    ect…

    • ben says:

      Search for +climategate – that’s the only way to get the exact hits for the word “climategate” and not any other permutation that google deems valid.

  83. Omar says:

    Scientists oversimplifying and drawing conclusions in an area of science that they have limited knowledge of…

    That gave us “manmade global warming.”

    And now it’s giving us “google gate.”

    Do any of the “google gate” activists posting here have a computer science background? Speak up!

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Hi Omar. I have taken some pains not to claim more knowledge of the out-of-view goings-on at Google than I possess: 1. The headline of the article is in question form; 2. I present Google’s company-line statements in toto; 3. The conclusion of the article says that some level of conjecture, either way, is inevitable regarding the algorithm’s doings. I did ask Google, more than once, for an example of another term that was skyrocketing in the number of hits associated with it when the Suggest function ceased in-filling the most popular version of the term. The company never produced an example. If you have such an example yourself, feel free to post in a comment. — H.A.

      • Omar says:

        I doubt Google collects examples of this that it is willing to share with the public. And I certainly don’t have my own stash of historical auto-suggest pattern data.

        Since you are the one making an extraordinary claim (that Google is involved in a conspiracy), how about providing some more evidence yourself? The appearance, brief disappearance, and then reapprarance of a newly coined term in a fluctuating list of auto-suggest results is anything but convincing.

  84. john says:

    Try reading the thread, tough guy.

  85. I am a system admin with 25+ years of experience… If this auto-suggest is based on an algo, than it does not make sense that it disappeared.

    But again, like climate gate, we would need the raw data and code released to verified.

    There is also the complexity of the google network, farms, clusters, DBs etc… that could potentially explain some discrepancy.

    The best way to deal with this would be to compare with other “fixed” searches on terms that where there for many years.

    Another source of info would be on google employee blogs or discussion boards.

    • john says:

      Simon – fair enough, but those sorts of (network) explanations would go more to a general failure of autosuggest rather than the omission of certain search terms.

      Also, there is the possibility that they suspected an attack (googlebomb)as someone noted earlier.

      However, when Mr. Ambler asked Google for an explanation, there was no suggestion from any of their responses of a malfunction.

  86. Gerard says:

    Google Australia still does not auto-suggest

  87. Ken says:

    *****HEADS UP******

    Earlier today climategate was up to 28.5 million. I just did a search on googlegate and the number has been halved to 13.8 million. There is no doubt Google isn’t manipulating the results.

    Google puts the Algore in Algorithm.

  88. Mike says:

    Update – checking at about 4:15PM EST, Dec 4 2009, searching in the eastern USA:

    GOOGLE: Suggests “climate gate” #1 at “clim”; never suggests “climategate”. Never suggests “hide the decline”. Never suggests “harry_read_me” or “harry read me”.

    BING: Suggests “climate-gate” #3 at “cl”, #2 at “cli”; never suggests “climategate”. Never suggests “hide the decline”. Suggests “harry read me” #2 at “har”, #1 at “harr”.

    YAHOO: Suggests “climate gate” #3 at “clima”, #2 at “climat”; never suggests “climategate”. Suggests “hide the decline” #5 at “hide t”, #2 at “hide th”, #1 at “hide the”. Suggests “harry read me” #3 at “harry r”, #2 at “harry re”, #1 at “harry rea”; suggests “harryreadme” #1 at “harryr”.

    ASK, DOGPILE, WEBCRAWLER: Never suggest any variation on “climategate”. Never suggest “hide the decline”. Never suggest “harry read me” or “harry_read_me”. Looks like they all give the same suggestion lists, but I didn’t go back to verify that.

    I wonder – a Google search on +”climategate” shows 12,900,000 pages, but +”climate gate” only 311,000. Perhaps part of the suggestion algorithm looks at the ratio of searches to hits for some reason? So, if “climategate” has 40x the pages of “climate gate” but is only searched for 4x as often, “climate gate” would have a 10x better ratio and maybe get a higher suggest rating? Just pure speculation on my part.

    Make of it what you will.

    • Omar says:

      Google’s algorithms are trying to figure out whether the spelling should be “climategate”, “climate-gate”, or “climate gate”. They are also processing regional differences so that they can show the hyphenated version to UK searchers and the one-word version to Americans. That’s what might happen, anyway. For now, “climate gate” is likely getting a bonus because both words are in the dictionary. Only Google knows for sure, but the point I’d like to make is that it takes time for a computer program to get this right. If “climategate” “sticks” as the preferred spelling, then it will make its way into auto-suggest. But give it weeks, not days.

      • Harold Ambler says:

        Except that (1) Google’s algorithms had figured it out correctly a week ago and have “lost the thread” since then (if you assume they’re still in control), (2) every major UK publication that I have read uses Climategate (unhyphenated), and (3) “climategate” is clearly the preferred spelling and has been for more than a week.

  89. SamA says:

    We deduce that, somewhere in the “algorithm”, there is a file containing terms which should not auto-suggest.

    It’s now pretty clear that “climategate” (spelled like that) is one of those terms.

    This, of course, begs the question: “What else is in that file?”

    —-

    “Don’t be evil.” Ha!

  90. Diogenes says:

    No autosuggest on google.com.au
    Either for climategate or climate-gate

    Thats why I use scroogle (no autosuggest) http://www.wscroogle.org – uses google without the ads and google can’t track your search habits

    Why on earth would you not autosuggest climategate (32,000,000+ results) and offer climate guatemala (6+ million resuts) – how how many searches from australia would ask for for climate guatemala

    • Morry says:

      I just had the same experience. Typed as far as “climatega” and very weirdly got “climate Guatemala” in the auto suggest. Still got it when I typed the last “te”. No “climategate”, “climate gate” or anything like. Even stranger, when I tried Google (as opposed to Google-Australia), I got the same thing.

  91. Diogenes says:

    Forgot to ask what is Eric Schmidt’s emai?

    I would like to ask him about this.

  92. steve says:

    I find it hard to believe all of these search engines would blacklist climategate due to some mild prodding. Surely, one of them would see it as a chance to gain market share. No, this took some serious threats.

  93. twawki says:

    Google have launched this site to show your vote for Copenhagen

    http://www.showyourvote.org/vote?skin=mini&bg_color=

    http://greensmps.org.au/blog/show-your-vote#comment-6330

    But there is no option to vote against it! Hardly what I would call democratic. Also expands the meaning of Googlegate

  94. alex says:

    lolbolt indeed

  95. John Angelico says:

    Discussed with my geek son who comments
    a) Google now defines online search
    b) they have never advertised Google search
    c) from his use he deduces that the algorithm appears to use a combination of number of web hits with number of people searching to populate auto-suggest
    d) Google.com has many sites and many domains including national TLDs
    e) therefore results can and will differ in different places and for different users

    My conclusion: keep hitting the searches folks!

  96. Ari Tai says:

    Wow. If google did this, you’d think they couldn’t keep it a secret for long, right? Someone’s sense of right-and-wrong would kick in and they’d leak it. The employees at google can’t be that homogenous, and certainly a fair number of libertarians would take exception of others playing censor. Amazingly corrupt organization and people if it turns out they are cooking the books and able to keep it a secret.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Bear in mind, I asked Google to provide a single example of another news item increasing its number of hits by the hour that Google Suggest failed to handle logically. The company was unable (or unwilling) to do so. — H.A.

      • Omar says:

        It seems to me that you’re shirking your resposibilties. It’s up to you to support your claim, not up to Google to refute it. You could have observed the way auto-suggest evolved as the Tiger Woods scandal unfolded and made some comparisons, for instance.

      • Harold Ambler says:

        I have observed the way the Woods scandal unfolded on Google Suggest. There are no analogous oddities. If the Woods story or any other relatively innocuous one had provided a counter-example, Google would have provided it. — H.A.

      • ben says:

        It’s up to you to prove it. The fact you’re still allowing people to throw around the faulty 30 million figure when you know searching for +climategate will limit it to “just” a couple of millions shows you are yourself driven by an agenda – while you have not presented any better proofs that google is having other than a glitch that has no impact on anyone.

      • durox says:

        youtube doesn’t autosuggest “hide and decline” nor “jon stewart talks climategate”. but they do offer some suggestions related to the search, w/ way fewer hits… go figure.

      • Omar says:

        Okay, Harold, *how* did it unfold? If you really observed it, then share your observations!

      • Harold Ambler says:

        My article speaks for itself. Perhaps, “Omar,” you’d like to write an article with independent reporting on your own website and leave us with the link? Beyond that, no one here seems to find your thoughts all that compelling. — H.A.

    • helvio says:

      Google is THE web search leader, no matter what. They’re in first place, and there is no comparable second place, and that’s worth billions. If there was a reasonable, clear, innocent explanation why ‘climategate’ doesn’t show up in their AutoSuggest – but it does in rival search engines such as Bing or Yahoo -, then I would think Google would be the first to clarify it. If they can’t, in a reasonable, clear and/or innocent way, then they won’t!

      There might very well be an earthly explanation for why this is happening, but it could be either revealing of Google’s searching algorithm inner secrets, or they maybe think that they would be fueling a Googlegate unnecessarily (which would be unprofitable). I simply doubt that. If Bing and Yahoo did it fast, Google could and should be able to do it even faster. Does it really take more than a week and tens of millions of hits in a word to figure out if it’s a good one for AutoSuggest?

      Because of all of these facts, suspicion IS valid here! I am suspicious of all this, even though I have no idea what motive would lead to such a bad behavior. All I know is that, if they cooked the books, they wouldn’t just uncook them immediatly, as that would look much more suspicious than waiting a little while longer and blaming a slow algorithm. Do not be mistaken, ‘climategate’ IS a word now, a very popular one, and if it is not recognized by Google’s algorithms, then either 1) the algorithm is cooked, or 2) the algorithm sucks very very badly. Both reasons are negative for Google, but only one is immoral and the other one is very unlikely.

      Do not forget something! Google is all about profit, plus Google is not just about his Search engine. So please, do not assume Google is an innocent angel just because it provides an apparently innocent and useful service. By not having ‘climategate’ AutoSuggested, that could be as profitable as having Google Ads in the main page. It wouldn’t be the only case of a giant cooking dirty books while trying to keep a clean surface: Enron, Lehman-Brothers, AIG, they were not fiction!

      Again, Google is #1, and there is no clear #2. So, all of you who are dismissing a Googlegate in the basis of Google’s clean sheet, I assume all of you are American, or the like, who (or his/her family) never experienced true political dictatorship, and hence might think that a dominant position does not necessarily imply some level of corruption. If you have a dominant position, you *will* use it! I’m not saying they used it in this particular case, but their silence is not helping them getting rid of the suspicion.

      And if you’re waiting for material to be leaked from Google clarifying the ‘climategate’ issue, then you are just as bad as converted global-warmists, who needed to see the Climategate files to believe something is wrong with climate science, even though scientific reasoning and common sense pointed in that direction for years.

      Sorry for the long comment.

  97. Mk says:

    Still no auto-suggest results here in Indonesia (google.co.id). All suggestions (non of them ‘climategate’ or ‘climate gate’) dissappear as soon as you write the ‘g’ in ‘climateg’. Still no suggestions even if you write ‘climate g’, ‘climatega’, ‘climategat’, etc.

  98. DavidM says:

    It’s not giving any climategate suggestions to me now. Typing “climate gat” will suggest “climate gates” which is something else.

    I tested with Paris Hilton and she doesn’t suggest either, I guess they decided she is overhyped and decided to do something about it.

    Bing suggests “climate-gate” as an early option and does provide an expected search result.

    And while I’m at it they suggest for Paris Hilton too (but not [snip])

    Google just won Microsoft a new Bing user.

  99. TruthSeeker says:

    YOUTUBEGATE – they dont autosuggest Climategate and they are owned by google. Remember folks, Google was started by MIT computer scientists.

  100. asmilwho says:

    Hallo,

    here in Germany “climategate” scores 27 800 000 hits on the main search page but does not appear on the “suggest” list at all.

    Interestingly, “global warming swindle” with 390 000 hits *does* appear on the suggest list, as does “global warming hoax” with 1 980 000 hits and even “global warming kaffeebecher” with 674 hits. (Kaffeebecher = coffee mug)

  101. Joe says:

    ABSOLUTE UNDENIABLE PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF:

    MORE PROOF (needs proof reading):

    ABSOLUTE PROOF. These are posts I put on another website

    [below is regarding an article discussing the lack of "climategate"
    and "climate gate" in auto suggest despite the fact that both terms
    were searched for more than "climate change" in the past week]
    29 11 2009
    Joe (04:03:54) : Your comment is awaiting moderation

    After I type in all of these letters: “CLIMATE GATE” it suggests
    “climate gates” something different.

    when i type “climateg” all the way to “climategate” IT SUGGESTS
    NOTHING!
    29 11 2009
    Joe (04:08:20) : Your comment is awaiting moderation

    BTW the results on google for “climategate” have GONE DOWN to
    6,690,000. IT USED TO GIVE >12,000,000.

    When a story breaks the reuslts normally INCREASE for at least hte
    first month. But in under a weak the numbers have decreased by over
    half.

    I wish them edia covered things. It disgusts me.
    29 11 2009
    Joe (04:11:53) : Your comment is awaiting moderation

    OMG “climate gate” (two words) gives even less.

    RUNDOWN:

    “climategate” and “climate gate” both gave over 12 million results at
    first.

    NOW:

    “climategate” : 6,690,000
    “climate gate”: 6,180,000

    TO SHOW THAT THIS IS ABSURD AND DIRECT CENSORSHIP

    “climate wall” yields: 32,600,000 !!!!!!!!!!!!

    WHAT WHAT??? Google you [snip].

    29 11 2009
    Joe (04:14:36) : Your comment is awaiting moderation

    Also more proof of tampering “climate gate” is yielding less than
    “cliamtegate”. climate gate should always yield more as it SHOULD
    result in all sites with the word “climategate” (thaks to google’s
    algorithm) BUT also any websites taht have the words “climate” and
    “gate” in them.

    THIS IS DISGUSTING

  102. Great work, Harold, please keep digging away at this!

    There is, however, one possibility I’ve not really seen in the comments. As we know, spammers and “search engine optimisers” create lots of fake web pages linked together to try to boost their PageRank. It’s possible that the AutoSuggest feature includes some sort of rate protection which automatically excludes keywords growing in popularity “too fast” on the grounds that a high flux is likely to be due to automated site creation, not huge numbers of people blogging about a single topic.

    I don’t know if that’s the case, but it would explain the repeated disappearance. Then again, so would a conspiracy. Either way, the best part of 30m pages in the space of two weeks is a bloody impressive “grassroots” movement!

  103. BradH says:

    I cannot get Google to give me an auto-suggest for climategate as of a few seconds ago.

  104. patrick says:

    Is anybody else getting suspicious about Omar?

  105. Blind Pugh says:

    Just tried “climategate” in Google.co.uk, no useful suggestions at all (“climate guatemala”, I ask you). Yet it returns over 31 million hits. Now, call me paranoid but…

  106. patrick says:

    Try seeing what autosuggest results you get with “g” on google web and explain how the fact that most of them relate to google itself is just “a glitch with no impact on anyone.”

    • ben says:

      haha what? seriously, how many people are really affected by having to type out all of “climategate”? and are you affected by the autosuggest when you have to type out “gra” to get “grafitti” – ie. you end up searching google for gmail instead?

      seriously if they wanted to censor – they would place relevant wacky climatedenialists on the end of the search result like they do when they decide they dislike your webpage.

  107. patrick says:

    The very fact that google uses the autosuggest feature is strong evidence that saving searchers from having to type the whole search term is viewed as having an effect.

    • ben says:

      Now you’re just grasping for straws. The point is that it is a terrible way to do actual censorship – there’s so many better explanations to this glitch than actual censorship.

      The only reason some people might believe it’s censorship is because they _want_ it to be censorship in order to win some hollow moral victory. And I can see it works here as people are patting themselves on the back for unrobing the giant evil corporation over, even if true, would be the most patethic censorship ever.

  108. Conrad says:

    Thanks Harold, I’ve noticed this as well. It would be great to share this story with others I know. Please add a “share” button to this page.

  109. patrick says:

    “Better explanations”? I guess that depends on how you define “better.”

    “A terrible way to do actual censorship”? A very effective way, it seems to me, and hard to prove, as well, which is “good” from the censor’s point of view.

  110. Omar says:

    I don’t want to write my own article, and I don’t have a blog of my own. You can boot me off your site if you want to censor my dissenting opinion.

    I admit I am taunting you all a bit, but I’m doing it because I want you to hold yourselves to a higher standard than the global warming people.

    Blogs like yours have been invaluable to me in forming my own opinion about global warming, and I am appreciative of your efforts to expose the truth about this issue.

    A major problem with “manmade global warming” is that so many people just accept it–including nearly all in the media–without doing their own research. They just “trust the experts.” And the “experts” have done a remarkable job of shutting down dissenting opinion rather than welcoming it, as true scientists ought to. Thanks to climategate, this story is finally unraveling, and I’m happy to see it.

    And that’s why reading this thread has been so disheartening. The idea that Google might be censoring auto-suggest was interesting and worth examining. But I see most people on this thread willing to believe in this conspiracy theory and *unwilling* to examine it logically or try to understand the technology involved. It’s ironic, because this is the same process that has won manmade global warming so many die-hard advocates.

    And, by the way, I’m no fan of Google. They do a lot of evil things, the most troubling of which is storing user data *forever*. I do trust the current management’s stewardship of our private data (really, a digital record of our innermost thoughts, for those of us who do hundreds of searches a week, use gmail, etc.). But what if Google falls on hard times in the future and is acquired, and the new owners’ philosophy is different? Or, what about when the US government enters its next McCarthy phase (which *will* happen again) and begins subpoenaing private data it has no business seeing?

    But is Google deliberately censoring auto-suggest? No one on this thread has made a compelling case for it, at least not yet.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      You’re a smart guy, Omar. E-mail Eric Schmidt and see what you can find out. Beyond that, you’re speculating. I made a layered, sustained, polite effort to engage the company about Climategate. I have been extremely transparent about my methods and thinking. I don’t need you to think the way I do. You appear to be uncomfortable, on the other hand, with people thinking in ways other than yours. — H.A.

      p.s. If you do reach out to him, please ask Mr. Schmidt why it is that Google Suggest, as of Saturday December 5, no longer offers anything for Climategate, no matter how many letters one types.

  111. helvio says:

    Omar is the kind of those who believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘F*** YOU’ letter happened by pure chance. Unless you have evidence pointing otherwise (other than what you already have right in front of your eyes).

    • ben says:

      He points out there is no compelling evidence and he gets the “get-a-life”-treatment. He is way more clued in than most here, and his early evaluation included what any skilled software engineer would notice.

      As for the Schwarzenegger incident, if you want to be slightly critical just consider the probability of that happening by chance. That probability is much better proof than anything provided here. He’s doing his duty by being skeptical, and failing to provide examples or even work in the counterexamples (that people in this very thread report conflicting observations) indicates he’s correct.

  112. Stavros says:

    Interesting to note that if you incorrectly spell “Climategate” as “Climategeat” Google will suggest a “Did You Mean” for he correct spelling of climategate, yet it still will not auto suggest.

    Me thinks maybe Ian “Harry” Harris (harry_read_me.txt) wrote the auto suggest algorithm for Google, perhaps Omar could ask Eric Schmidt about this next time he bumps into him at the watercooler.

    Cheers

  113. Sam says:

    What are they trying to achieve by removing “climategate” auto-suggest?

  114. patrick says:

    It appears that the only type of “compelling evidence” that some like Omar and Ben would accept is a signed, dated, and notarized confession from a Google employee, accompanied by a signed, dated, and notarized certification from another Google employee as to the identity of the confessor, accompanied by etc.

  115. Fred says:

    Presuming the suggestions to be based on search volume, I tried using Google Trends and Google Insights to check the search volume for some of the other terms thrown up. Like climategroundzero.org, for example. It reported that there wasn’t enough search volume to even draw a graph.

    Like others, I can’t see what’s in it for Google to do this deliberately. It makes no sense, even bearing in mind their politics. It won’t stop anyone finding the story. And certainly now that it’s been noticed, it’s only hurting them. But at the same time I can’t conceive of any sensible set of rules that will return climategroundzero.org but won’t return climategate. It’s not current search volume, it’s not total search volume, it’s not number of results returned. It’s not obscenity or hate. It’s not that it’s very new, since it has appeared in the early days. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt at “google bombing” or other manipulation in the coverage I’ve seen.

    There probably is such an explanation, but until Google come out and tell us what it is, this is going to rumble on. It’s curious that they haven’t already. Perhaps they don’t know?

  116. Zarff says:

    Something smells… even googlegate has auto suggestions Thanks Harold

  117. ben says:

    also, for the prize:
    ok – 199,000,000 hits, first hit is “ok magazine” which is “misleading”
    inter net – 309,000,000 hits – suggests “internet” which is not correct – +”inter net” only yields 579,000 hits
    climate title – 62,000,000 hits
    kevin & joe – 78,000,000 hits (todays popular twitter search)
    climate hate – 32,000,000 hits

    other:
    climatehate -> Did you mean: climategate
    on google news, typing “c” returns “climate gate scandal” on 3rd place, “cl” on 1st

    also, searching for “googlegate” with a range until 1st november 2009 yields 29,000 hits. not entirely precise but it is easy to see that the word has a history. ”

    AND: A story discussing this mentioning a lot of what I’ve said so far:

    http://searchengineland.com/climategate-just-how-popular-is-it-according-to-google-31211

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Google Suggest offers suggestions for the name of the author of the story you have linked, despite the fact that the name yields only a million hits. By any chance do you work for Google?

      • ben says:

        No, but I’ve used google since 1998. I searched for “googlegate” excluding recent entries and found that post via twitter that was dated 2007 (but google) which indicates that the dating mechanism is far from precise as well.

        I hope you read it because it does discuss how figures easily get inflated and you should really use such knowledge to inform yourself. Remember to google it isn’t the number of hits that counts; but the quality of the hits. Eg. 10 million blog hits, yet merely 4930 news hits; compare “Jamie Grubbs” which has 9280 news hits and 421.000 blog hits.

        Now I think the last nail in the conspiracy’s coffin is that “climate gate scandal” is so easily findable through google news suggest it is practically put in the hands of those searching for “climateconference”.

      • Harold Ambler says:

        “Final nail”? I haven’t seen the first.

        I mentioned in my phone interview with Jake Hubert that the Suggest function was working in the News search. (You’re not telling me anything here that I didn’t already know). He had no explanation for the divergence. I would say that this precisely confirms that a manipulation has taken place on the standard Google search page, which, again, used to auto-suggest when the story had a third the number of hits that it has today.

        As for who’s in the realm of speculation here, once more, I reached out to Google repeatedly and was never provided with a cogent explanation.

  118. jd says:

    People here need to get a grip. Relevance ranking and auto-suggest are only approximate algorithms at the best of times, and it’s incredibly hard to make it even as reliable as Google has with the incredible diversity of the text corpus that is the WWW. Add to that all the people trying to game the system and it’s a wonder it works at all.

    The fact that the term goes in and out of the list suggests to me (n.p.i.) that this is an artifact of the algorithms, because if there were some sort of ‘exclude list’ you’d think it would be a bit more reliable!

    Also, these numbers of ’30M’ and ’50M’ getting thrown around seem to me to be an artifact of another algorithms’ approximations. Clearly Google is only estimating this number; there cannot possibly be that many real uses of the term, and in fact if you page through it you will find that both Google and Bing suddenly decide the real number is only 900 when you get down that far. They are both clearly using some sort of interpolation that is quite inaccurate in this case.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Your protestations aside, Google Suggest is handling climategate less and less well with time. That fact alone would appear to falsify your argument (and those of Google’s other apologists).

      • jd says:

        Oh come on, is the best you can do is resort to ad hominem attacks? Is speculation about anything but your line of argument apologism?

        You seem to be assuming that their algorithm works in some particular way and achieves some sort of perfection in doing it. I don’t think you appreciate just how hard a problem this is, and what kind of unpredictability can emerge.

        In fact, I work for a competitor to Google, so if I am an apologist, it’s for the fact that we can’t yet do more than approximate what you seem to think is possible.

      • jd says:

        Also, I think there’s possibly some misconception as to how auto-suggest might operate. Most of the discussion here seems to assume that it’s driven from the documents themselves. I think it’s more likely that it’s driven by observing what searches people are making. Note that typing e.g. “climate change” suggests “climate change hoax”; a perfectly reasonable formulation that is quite a bit more obvious than “climategate”.

        Also worth noting is that Google News and Google trends do suggest “climategate”, and these services are explicitly designed to favor more current data than the general search service.

      • Harold Ambler says:

        Nothing you have said explains why the algorithm is failing, increasingly.

  119. helvio says:

    Wow! Are you also getting 265 million hits in Google for “climategate”? It was around 30 million yesterday! And 2.28 million for “+climategate”. Word is spreading fast!

  120. RichieP says:

    Wwell, it’s 18.28 GMT on December 6th here in Britain; the search bar still does not show climategate until you’ve typed the last letter. Climate guatemala? Sure, and I bet that’s had more hits than climategate.

  121. RichieP says:

    Sorry, should have mentioned the figure now sits at

    31,000,000 for climategate. (0.26 seconds)

  122. patrick says:

    On google news, the search “climate gate scandal” currently gives me 120 results while “climategate” gives me over 6,000. No wonder that someone wanting to minimize the effect might manipulate autosuggest to give “climate gate scandal” rather than “climategate.”

  123. Omar says:

    Harold, no problem. You believe the evidence is compelling enough to demand a response from Google, and I believe it isn’t. I don’t mind respectfully disagreeing on that.

    Getting off topic here, but JD, since you work for a competitor of Google, I’ve often wondered why no one attacks Google’s Achilles heel: privacy. No competitor is ever going to match Google in search, but I believe it’s possible to copy Google well enough (in fact, Bing is almost there in my opinion) that most users won’t care about the differences. Then it’s just finding a way to win users over. I’d announce a commitment to destroy user data after three months and a partnership with an outside privacy organization to monitor this. Also, have a “Forgot my search” check box so that any search will be immediately purged from the records. Combine this with a great ad campaign, and I do think Google can be hurt.

    • jd says:

      I can’t really speak to the privacy issue, because my company’s business is not primarily web search. Google has been making moves into e-commerce, enterprise and other more specialized kinds of searching in recent years, and there they come up against a number of existing competitors like us.

  124. Keli says:

    Google ideology is clear. Skew the results and the publics interest in the unsearchable data will fade.

    I think Google has changed the word Climategate to just appear as a News search suggestion (unlike Global Warming or Health care reform or any other term I could come up with).
    By making Climategate just searchable as a News suggestion, it eliminates it as a casual Web search (unlike Global Warming or Health care reform or any other term).

  125. durox says:

    the same thing is now going on w/ YouTube.
    and i have two other examples beside pure “climategate”: “hide and decline” w/ 390k views or “jon stewart talks climategate” w/ 183k views.
    i get autosuggests for videos w/ way fewer hits … im guessing that anything containing ‘climategate’ or is related to it, is left out of the autosuggest list.

    ps maybe we should just shutdown our computers now, until the ‘climategate’ is over. that way, we don’t force all the major search engines to get dirty… ;]]]
    pps or we could report this to the news, maybe they can get to the bottom of it.

  126. peterd says:

    Harold,
    how do you know that there are more than 30,000,000 hits on Google for “climategate”?
    I just tried google.co.nz and although it yielded “about 30,600,000 [results] for climategate”, I could not view anything beyond the first 600 hits. So, how do you know there are >30,000,000?
    As for “no one here seems to find [Omar's] thoughts all that compelling”, I think you’re being presumptuous. I do find them compelling.

  127. durox says:

    Al Gore:
    He is currently the founder and chair of Alliance for Climate Protection, the co-founder and chair of Generation Investment Management, the co-founder and chair of Current TV, a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Inc., and a senior advisor to Google.
    ;]]

  128. durox says:

    download ‘googlegate-climategate’ wallpaper here: http://durox.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/googlegate/

    the barcode reads googlegate, plus other satirical stuff ;]

    ps Amber you can use the ‘cartoon’ if you wish. and i put some pingback links to your blog on mine

  129. john says:

    All permutations of climategate term again missing from autosuggest this morning.

    One point I would like to make is that terms absolutely are regularly excluded from autosuggest as standard procedure. Any term deemed to be hate speech or pornographic is excluded, for example. So yes, Google does use excludes, and no, it’s not difficult to do.

    I’m not a breathless conspiricist. I happened across this thread after I decided to do some reading on climategate, and found autosuggest behaving oddly – not based on any experiment, just versus experience using it every day since it came online.

    Omar and Ben are right insofar as trying to be as scientific as possible, but I think Mr. Ambler has tried to be. As many of the “inner workings” of Google’s algorithms are trade secrets, they can only be deduced from outside observation.

  130. bubba says:

    I didn’t read all the responses but if you start typing cli in google tool bar it does suggest climategate…etc… just not on google

    thx

  131. Anon blogger says:

    I use Blackle. No autocomplete because I turned it off.

    climategate 50,000,000
    climate gate 3,260,000
    climate-gate 14,300,000

  132. Harold, thanks for going out of your way to actually contact Google on this one. I’ve come across this story a few times over the last week and thought it was stupid. But then it began to rub me the wrong way and I began a few little experiments of my own. If you don’t mind the shameless plug for my blogpost… http://www.politicalview.ca/2009/12/first-climategate-now-googlegate/

    Cheers,
    d

  133. one more thing, regarding the +climategate search vs. the simple climategate search… i have yet to find a page that results from climategate without the + sign that does NOT refer to the climategate issue.

    also, just now, searching for climategate on google.ca results in 15,000,000 hits, while climategate on google.de results in 28,000,000 hits.

    Maybe google is just really lousy at counting……

  134. Phil says:

    I observed the autosuggest working – giving “Climategate” and variants in the first few days in Australia. It then switched to climate guatamala city, BUT TODAY, the autosuggest appears to be working. ANOTHER GOOGLE FILTER – still seems to be default years set on news searches – Display the timeline, note the filter 1840 to 1999 seems pre-set. I have never seen this pre-set date before. Also it was more instructive to watch the number of google hits returned in the first week of this scandal. Each day the hits would climb, and then at night, drop back down again. Rough figures were ~ AM – 2 million hits, PM 10 million, next AM, 1 million. Another area where Google seems weird – The news stories – per hour, day and week did not add up. Bascially, there were roughly the same number of stories, for an hour, as for a day, and for a week. The number was always around 5,000 or so. Today it seems the google censor has been removed, and the news stories add up. ie the day total is about 24 times the hourly total, and the weekly total about 7 times the daily total. I followed this for over a week, and am certain something very very untoward was going on. I think they now realise we noticed, and have dropped the google filter stuff, in favour of a MSM media brainwashing storm of downplay the climategate – science is settled. They must really think we are dumb, but problem is, they are right about 95% of the time. So many WANT to be fooled into thinking there is a crisis and they need to help save the world… Problem is, they are all focused on a FALSE CRISIS , ie warming, when we should be screaming about the corruption of science.

  135. Phil says:

    Does anyone else find 0 returns on Climategate – using Google news and the Timeline option. It seems to only work for 1840 to 1999. Seems very weird….

  136. Mike says:

    Finally it’s working – at least in North America. Typing ‘clima’, ‘climate-gate’ it shows up just under climax. If you type ‘climateg’ you get ‘climategate copenhagen’. It’s 2050hrs on 7 Dec.

    • Mike says:

      Ok, as of 1030 am, EST. the auto-suggest is off again. No variation of climategate results in any suggestions.

  137. jonstewart says:

    Omar, here are some additional details on how it all unfolded: http://searchengineland.com/climategate-just-how-popular-is-it-according-to-google-31211

    And, many people including myself can verify that climategate was removed from the list of search suggestions on Dec. 5th and prior, even though it was an incredibly popular search item. For example, just go to the uk google site (http://www.google.co.uk/) right now (Dec. 8th, at 11:23am) and you’ll see climagegate will NOT appear as a suggestion at all.

    Does this mean people in the uk have not been searching for it at all? I doubt it since Google says there are 32 million references to it!! If you type “climategate” you’ll get “climate guatemala” as a suggestion, which by the way only has 4 million references. This exactly how the google site in the US was operating on Dec. 4th and Dec. 5th, even though climate gate as a term had been out for about 2 weeks and did appear as an option prior to that date and has been one of the most popular searches.

    All I have to say is that if you manipulate search suggestions and search results, you are filtering information access, and ultimately impacting public opinion.

  138. Ricky says:

    Hey – maybe there is a market for a non-biased fair and balanced search engine. We could call it http://www.foxsearch.com !

  139. Mike H says:

    It’s a long, long leap from idiosynchracies in an algorithm (whose details you don’t know) to a conspiracy theory like the one put forward in this blog…

    Perhaps you’d like to explain why “British Airways” appears before “Britney Spears” – or, for that matter, why “Britney Spears 3 Lyrics” appears before “Britney Spears 3″ – when I type b-r-i-t ??

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Or, for that matter, why “climate Guatemala” came up, for several days, whenever Google users typed c-l-i-m-a-t-e-g-a-t?

  140. TIRM says:

    Last night Google suggested “Climategate Copenhagen” but today that is gone as well. I suspect the COP15 conference started to generate enough hits to suggest that, but as soon as google found out they tamped that down as well.

    Regardless of what Google is saying it is clear they are trying to limit “Climategate”.

  141. hkyson says:

    “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

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