Santorum begs Google to clean up search results for his name

Rick Santorum is the 8th dillweed from the right
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Former U.S. Sen. and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has a well-known Google problem.

For the uninitiated, if you Google Santorum’s name, the first result you’ll probably get is not his personal website but a fake definition of “santorum,” a sexual byproduct that’s a bit too graphic to talk about in detail here.

We’ll get into how that all happened in a second, but here’s what’s new: On Tuesday, the socially conservative politician lashed out at Google, saying the company could get rid of the sexual references to his name on the search results if it wanted to — and perhaps would do so if he were a Democrat…

Santorum contacted Google and asked the company about the issue, Politico said.

In an e-mail to CNN, a Google spokeswoman said, “Google’s search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Web. Users who want content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly. Once the webmaster takes the page down from the Web, it will be removed from Google’s search results through our usual crawling process.”

She added: “We do not remove content from our search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content and violations of our webmaster guidelines…”

The lewd “santorum” definition popped up after the former senator compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press…

That angered gay rights supporters, including gay podcast host and sex columnist Dan Savage, who launched a campaign for his listeners to redefine Santorum’s name. Savage created a website to promote the winning definition and enough bloggers linked to it that the spoof site eventually eclipsed Santorum’s campaign website in search rankings.

Danny Sullivan, who writes at the blog SearchEngineLand, notes that Google has a history of being hands-off when it comes to these controversies, regardless of the politics or sensitivities involved:

“Google is loathe to touch its results in any way, shape or form. That’s because if it does intervene in any way, there’s some interest group that will immediately claim a bias…

Just an example that reactionaries are as likely as anyone else to put in a claim for political correctness.

Yes, there are qualities of bigotry that I personally think should be shunted into the garbage can of discourse – but, I’m not in charge of anything in the public eye except this blog. Santorum is getting exactly what bigots like him deserve. A joking finger up his self-image.