Monday, July 14, 2008

Flip this!

Google Trends Subverted Again. This Is Getting (ʎllɐǝɹ) Embarrasing
Michael Arrington

Last week a Swastika appeared on Google trends as a top queried term (leading to an endless debate as to whether the symbol was offensive or not). Google removed the symbol and returned our email query saying that a link on a a popular Internet bulletin board was to blame:

The Hot Trends list is automatically generated by machines and algorithms that detect hot or breaking queries. In this case, it appears that the html code for this query was posted on a popular internet bulletin board, which led to quite a few people searching to find out more about this symbol. The Hot Trends list reflected that surge due to people searching with this query.

A site called 4Chan may have been the bulletin board Google referred to as the original cause of the Swastika issue, it turns out.

Today it happened again, but instead of a Swastika the statement “ǝlƃooƃ noʎ ʞɔnɟ” appeared as the top queried term on Google Trends before again being taken down by Google. A comment in Google Blogoscoped forums noted that a tool called Flip can be used to invert text quite easily.

That explains how the text was flipped, but not how it managed to get by Google’s spam filters. My guess is they’ve put an engineer or three on fixing the problem to avoid further embarrassments, but they appear to have a dedicated opponent. No word yet on whether 4Chan was involved in this most recent spamming attempt or not.

Thanks for the tip Dave.