Santorum's Google Problem: Nasty Definition Sinks in Search
Google's algorithm may now be on Rick Santorum's side, but the vile re-definition of "Santorum" that topped the search engine's results for over six years, is here to stay.
Spreading Santorum, the website created by gay rights activist Dan Savage to propagate a nasty anal-sex related definition of "Santorum," appears further down on the first search results page for some users, and even further down on page 2 for other users.
But Savage says the vulgar definition isn't going away any time soon.
"The damage is done," he said. "Toxic e-mission accomplished."
Savage said that between the widespread coverage of Santorum's "Google problem" in the media, and the disgusting definition's salvos on comedy shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, his definition has become a part of pop culture.
"Nobody has to rush to Google," he said. "Everybody gets it. Our Google ranking isn't that important anymore."
And Savage's definition is still front and center.
Coming in among the page 1 results during a search today, are Santorum's Wikipedia page, the Wikipedia link about Savage's re-definition, and Santorum's official campaign website. There is also a link to Urban Dictionary, which spells out Savage's description in all its "frothy" and "fecal" glory.
"Careful what you wish for though," Savage said, adding that the Urban Dictionary link is "a much more disgusting return than ours."
Google insists they did not specifically make the switch, although they did tweak their algorithms in ways that could have affected the result.
"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," a Google spokesman said. "We have not manually taken action to change the ranking of the site."
Google points out that it made 40 algorithm changes in February, some of which went into effect on Monday and Tuesday, right before Spreading Santorum fell down in the search results.
One tweak that may have done the trick is adjusting their top-secret Google formula so "official" pages are pushed to the top of search results. In announcing the changes on the Google Search blog, the company said the change will lead to "more accurate identifications" and push "many pages that were previously misidentified as official" out of the top results.
Santorum has been demanding that Google remove Spreading Santorum from the top search result for months. In September Santorum publicly denounced the search giant for not stepping in.
"If you're a responsible business, you don't let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country," he told Politico. "To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their website or through their system is something that they say they can't handle but I suspect that's not true."
The "joke," as Savage calls it, began in response to comments Santorum made in a 2003 interview where he equated gay sex with bestiality and polygamy.
"There's this one interview where this anti-gay bigot said really disgusting things almost a decade ago and now because of the site he's still being asked to answer for it," Savage said.
Describing the interview, Savage said Santorum "equated consensual adults same-sex love to raping dogs."
"It's all about making sure he could never run away from this," Savage said. "LGBT people, we just don't get punched in the face anymore without us punching back. You can say vile things about us and were going to say vile things about you."