Via Slashdot, June 8th 2010: http://search.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/06/08/1421205
In an attempt to limit the damage to their reputation and ostensibly to provide relevant and authoritative information on the continuing environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, BP has purchased search terms such as "oil spill" on large search engines like Google and Yahoo. This means that while other sites addressing this issue turn up in the search results, BP advertisements appear at the top of the page, directing searchers to their corporate website for information.
BP is claiming that this strategy is not morally compromising as they are using one of the most effective methods of disseminating information to help provide those affected by the spill with "accurate information, right forms and key people for contact."
The real question is how comfortable we should be with allowing large corporations harbouring their own PR agendas to be able to purchase preferential search result positions on Internet search engines. While commercial search engines are suppored by revenue generated by paid advertisements, more and more people use the Internet and mainstream search engines as their main or only source of information. The order search results are listed in has a large impact on their perceived authority and relevance and while we should all strive to be critical and conscientious media consumers, this latest attempt to control of the flow of bad press seems disingenuous.
If only BP would spend as much time working on stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf, perhaps these media control tactics would be unnecessary.