This is a good example of why I’m so troubled by Google’s near-monopoly over access to information on the Internet. If Google decides to distort its results, for some political or business purpose, how will people know? This is no abstract worry, either, as Google has already done so, and not only in China. (For example, Google News includes highly dubious “news” sources of the leftist persuasion, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an example from the right.)
In this case, Google is following bad procedures — in the very least — if obviously non-spam blogs are being suspended (and worse, not being reinstated in a timely fashion). But it’s more troublesome than that, because Google is deliberately opaque about what its procedures are. Consequently, if they bias their procedures — or just violate them — for some political or business purpose, we have no way of knowing.
Probably Google is simply utilizing a bad algorithm here that has been exploited by pro-Obama vandals, but given Google’s opaqueness, we can judge the incident only by its outcome. And the outcomes of Google incidents, when they have political implications, usually seem to be in line with the company’s public-record political preferences. (I only say “usually” as a hedge; I know of no counterexamples.)
Obviously, a big part of Google’s procedures is their page rank algorithm, which is an important trade secret. But if they can’t be transparent in that area, they need to make a special effort in other areas. It also wouldn’t hurt for them to try to build bridges with people outside the political left.
UPDATE: The NYT picks up the story.