Check out this screen shot of a Google search (keywords calvin tucker the guardian) taken on 6 August 2009:
Now compare to today's -10 August 2009- search results (same terms):
See the difference? It turns that Google is filtering results -as it does in China- moving down in searches or altogether disappearing, presumably for a fee, negative coverage or keywords associated with certain names. Is meant to be called online reputation management.
Now, I am perfectly aware of how easy it is to move results up and down Google rank, having done it for years, simply by creating Google-friendly pages with keywords and content specifically related to terms/issues about which one wants one's pages to appear on top. I also understand that governments or companies may see the merits of spending money in online reputation management services. What I don't get is how come Google is allowing itself to be used for the very questionable purpose of safeguarding the online reputation of regimes that are in bed with narco-terrorists. For this is not the first instance in which I have noticed how Google has completely disappeared results from sites that appeared in the first page results that depict Chavez, or his henchmen, in a critical light.
Bear that in mind next time you're using Google, and as a measure of balance, always run searches with Google's competitors, such as Yahoo or Bing. The differences may be surprising.