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How Google helps stupid misquotes replace original quotes

February 27, 2012

I suppose it isn’t all Google’s fault. After all, we do excitedly link to idiotic things that Gingrich, Santorum, et al, say.  And Google quite rightly avoids steering the public dialog – it simply* tells us who’s linking to what.

But when the idiotic thing in question is a misquote of some kind, it utterly buries the original quote in search results. As an example, Rick Santorum’s mis- characterization of Barack Obama’s statements about the cost of higher education:

What Obama actually said was – several different things actually – to the effect that every child deserves a great school, and it should be possible for everyone to afford some kind of post- high school education and that it was important to our economy to make it easier for them to do so. Santorum collapsed all those into “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”

See? Right there’s another reproduction of Santorum’s little sound-bite for Google to pick up, while the President’s nuanced collection of original quotes just gets buried in page 6 or 7 of search results. As Google is our information-of-reference system now, the misquote becomes the reality. All except for the people (snobs?) who go digging for the original statement.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Be wary of quotes on the Internet!”


  • There’s nothing simple about Google’s algorithms; witness the evolution of ranking for SpreadingSantorum.  Google says; “We make more than 500 changes to our algorithms in a typical year, and with each of those changes sites will shuffle to different positions in our search results. We have not manually taken action to change the ranking of the site.”
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. WeeDram
    February 27, 2012 at 21:18 | #1

    I just Googled +”quotes on the internet” +”Ambraham Lincoln” and couldn’t find that. Is Google broken?

  2. decrepadmin
    February 27, 2012 at 22:22 | #2


    Google actually dropped the + sign as a search operator because their social network is named Google+.

    That pain in your hand is caused by a facepalm followed by headdesk.

  3. March 14, 2012 at 00:19 | #3

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