Reverse Visibility Engineering 9


There is a lot of money to be made from getting websites visible. Search engine optimisation, I believe it is called. It is a science in itself to get yourself up the top of page 1 of a google search, whether to help a website sell something or attract clicks for an advertising banner. Rumour has it that employing the dark arts of this trade for companies are how the great Tim Ireland keeps bread on the table.

Presumably you can work it backwards. I was working out links between corporate and NGO recipients of government and EU grants in Lancashire and New Labour – which would make a book in itself. There is a statutory duty on political parties to publish lists of party donors, but weirdly a google search will not help you find it.

Google search “New Labour Donors” and you will be overwhelmed by a mountain of journalistic sleaze revelations, but you will have to scroll through pages for months before finding a statutory published list. I am rather proud to say this blog comes top of page 2.

In fact the results give you an amusing and accurate caricature of the parties. From New Labour nothing, zilch, all anal and clammed up. Google search “Conservative Party Donors” and again nowhere will you find the list of Conservative Party donors, but the Tories understand search engine optimisation and right up at items 3 and 4 are Tory website links urging you to make a donation, credit cards accepted. Google “Liberal Democrat” donors and again you won’t find a list, but you will find on the first page two major Lib Dem blogs attacking their own party for corruption!

I presume I will find the lists on the electoral commission website. But it really ought to be easier. In a past age, certain notices had by law to be posted in the church porch or council noticeboard, because that was the easiest place for the public to find them in the technology of the day. You could not post them on the outhouse. But the lists of party donors are on the virtual equivalent of the back of the one-holer.


9 thoughts on “Reverse Visibility Engineering

  • mike cobley

    This is interesting – found the relevant statute of legislation here –
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/41/conte

    Part 4 is devoted to donations and their definitions, responsibilities for recording such etc, but the interesting bit is back in section 46 (under part 3), 'Public inspection of parties' statements of accounts' and it seems to suggest that it is the Electoral Commission that has the public duty to provide these accounts, not the parties.

  • CheebaCow

    Honestly I can't really think of many practical ways to do reverse SEO work, the most you can do is make little effort to increase your ranking. In order to do reverse SEO work, people would have to contact websites that link to the electoral commission website and ask them to remove the links, very unlikely. It could also be done by using search engine unfriendly formats, but the use of said formats are much more likely do to incompetence/ease. It also depends greatly on the search terms you use. I just tested 'UK party finance' and the top 4 results all pointed to the electoral commission website. I also tested 'UK party donors' and the third result pointed to the electoral commission website.

  • AX11

    SEO is about as much of a science as astrology is. Reverse astrology, by the way, works about as well as "reverse SEO".

  • JimmyGiro

    "I knew you were going to say that because the moon is in Orion. "

    Let's hope they have a prenuptial agreement.

    Regarding Google searches, it is plausible for the Google company to set filters at their end, so that if you had enough pull, such as a government, then you could ask Google to remove sites from their database. The sites would still exist, complete with their URL, but Google search would not include them.

  • Deep green puddock.

    An interesting thought. My intuition tells me that reverse optimisation is almost certainly possible although i note the comments from some people, who are probably more informed than me. My intuition suggests that the reverse algorithm might be much more difficult but possible. I guess Craig's attitude is formed by experience with "intelligence activities."
    Something that does not get much attention in the comments about the financial crisis is that the crisis was (and still is) largely driven by the innovative mathematical analysis and speed of action possible with the computer technology which allows them to jig markets to be more favourable. Sometimes they are simply looking at 0.005% incremental advantages, over a competitor or their client's which, due to the large volumes of transaction may translate into serious cash. It is the same mentality of the casino-where they often operate to small margins. As long as there is volume they are making money. A company like Goldman Sachs sees this kind of operation as a perfectly legitimate technical innovation (and investment) and an example of competition at work, and I suspect this attitude partly explains the gulf between the insider's view and the outsiders indignation of someone playing very clever tricks that fall outside what were once the rules of game. Legislators are always lagging behind such technical innovation but cannot be seen to be stifling innovation. I think this is at least part of the dilemma facing us.
    Haven't Google started to take money to fix the lists in the highest bidder's favour?
    As for the use of forecasting/reverse astrology – I noted that the winter forecasting system festival of the groundhog , is "reverse accurate" in a statistically significant way. (about 2/3 incorrect prediction- which is a favourable prediction if you think about it).
    Reminds me of the girl i was at school with who suffered the humiliation of getting 0% in a multiple choice maths exam, when random choices would have delivered 25% (or close). Just proves that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (It is about the cleverness of the questions – creating distractors).
    I am with Craig in general- there are countless technical tricks used to massage public actions and thoughts , unknown to most of us out here in the 'ordinary' world. If you think about the technology involved in drones- there is clearly a huge ocean of technological realities that most of don't come close to even contemplating.

  • Dunc

    "But the lists of party donors are on the virtual equivalent of the back of the one-holer."

    Surely the appropriate analogy is to "the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."?

  • Ed Davies

    AIUI, all you need to do is put <meta name="robots" content="noindex"/> in the page header or specify the equivalent in the robots.txt file in your site's root directory.

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