First the background on “Don’t be evil” as reported by Wikipedia:
In their 2004 founders’ letter prior to their initial public offering, Lawrence E. Page and Sergey Brin explained that their “Don’t be evil” culture prohibited conflicts of interest, and required objectivity and an absence of bias:
Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.
And now this surprising screen cap I’ve been sitting on for awhile. While WUWT was the top result, the user is given the option to block WUWT results forever in Google Chrome:
That screencap is from April 22nd, 2011.
ADDED: Some folks suggest it was solely the use of the “f word” in search that triggered it. If so, why is there no block option for Lucia’s the Blackboard?
I ask readers to try getting that message to pop up searching for specific titles on Real Climate or Climate Progress and other pro AGW sites. I tried and could not back then, though it is possible the algorithm has changed in the month since I tried. I’ve also noted that once you ignore the “block all results” option, it does not appear again (for that website).
Your experience may vary, I’m only reporting mine and it appears that once you have a look at the content you get the offer to block, the option goes away. So I can’t repeat it without doing a reinstall and registry cleanse.
[ADDED: Reader Jeremy was able to get the same result with RealClimate, see here so it is good to see that it is not specific to WUWT, though that still leaves the graph below]
What prompted me to publish this screencap today? I needed confirmation that something was afoot.
The Yale Forum on Climate Change reports that,
… Google leads people to accurate information about climate change. Fifty-two percent of the 980 sites [returned by a Google search on climate change-related terms] contained clear statements in line with the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science evidence. For example, if you had searched for “climate change myths” in early May, you would have found this Environmental Defense Fund site, which says, “The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it.”
And Google may be willing to fix this problem for the alarmists. The Yale Forum goes on to state:
Meanwhile, can search engines do a better job of pointing the public toward credible sites?
A Google spokeswoman, who insisted on anonymity because she is not a Google executive, said the company is always looking for ways to improve results. “Last year, we made 500 changes to the algorithm to improve search quality,” she said.
So, it appears if you can’t beat them, censor them. I hope I’m wrong about that, but this graph below suggests that my traffic has been impacted by changes in search engine algorithms, Google of course being the lions share.
Here’s my Alexa search driven hits to WUWT, note the step change in mid 2010, perhaps one of those “500 changes to the algorithm to improve search quality” was implemented then:
ADDED: Some commenters suggest “lack of interest” in climate issues as the reason for the sharp drop, compare the number of search related visits at RealClimate.org then:
The blocking option might be a one shot deal, but the step change and continued lower results (for WUWT search hits) concern me. I had a large traffic spike in December 2010, related to the COP16 climate conference worldwide interest, but no corresponding large uptick in search hits.
UPDATE: Harold Ambler points out in comments his story about what happened when ClimateGate broke, and Google’s search lagged well behind Bing at the time: