Earlier today, Threadwatch posted reference to a note from “The People’s Cube“, noting that the anti-marxist parody site has been delisted from the Google Index.

The open letter starts with the salutation, “Dear comrades at Google”, a signal it was written by a card-carrying member of the tin-foil hat brigade, and goes on to suggest Google purposefully purged the site due to its criticism of Google’s cooperation with Chinese Government censors.

“We suspect it is also a deliberate removal – much in the spirit of 1984-style historical revisionism – removal of a “people’s enemy” from life and history. Sergei Brin’s Russian parents might tell him stories of people in Stalinist Russia disappearing, along with all their pictures and records. “Out of sight, out of mind” – translated into Russian and then back into English, the idiom turns into “invisible lunatics.” That also describes The People’s Cube’s search results in Google.

We can only think of three reasons for this:

  1. Google is retaliating against sites that ridiculed its Google China project.
  2. Google has begun to implement its Google China policies in the rest of the free world.
  3. A left-leaning Google employee who’s got access to the database was suffering a nervous breakdown over the mockery of Marxism on our site, and so he or she dastardly removed/blocked The People’s Cube, hoping to “improve” the public discourse by silencing the competition.

You tell me which one it is.” (the real answer: none of the above)

As it turns out, the site was banned for a careless CSS text-hiding technique. Matt Cutts, Google’s chief spam-fighter and algorithm de-mystifier explains it all on his blog. When the site is viewed through a browser that has CSS (cascading style sheets) enabled, the site looks “normal” but, when the site is viewed on a browser that has CSS turned off, hundreds of lines of hidden text and text-links are revealed.

The first moral of this story: Don’t go screaming shenanigans against Google if you are playing shenanigans on them. It is bound to backfire badly.

The second moral of the story: Google is a machine. It might be an extraordinarily powerful machine but it is a machine nevertheless. Googlebot is growing quite capable of detecting and flagging spam-ridden sites, though it does take a human hand to push the actual delist button but only after the site has been flagged and reviewed for spam. That stark reality might deflate the egos of certain webmasters who claim to be personally persecuted by Google when their sites get banned from the index. The cold, harsh truth is, Google really doesn’t think most webmasters are very important as individuals, especially those who are easily offended by machines.