Is Google starting to show signs of strain against spammers and Web scammers?

Chatters at the geek news site Slashdot observed this week that using the search engine to track down certain oddball series of words, such as "speaker bracelet" or "candle truck," turned up strangely low results. Instead of finding only the expected handful of sites, Google reported that none could be found.

Cambridge, Mass., computer programmer Seth Finkelstein, an expert on Internet filters, thinks he's figured out the reason.

"The Google search results are crashing, presumably as a result of a bug in the spam-filtering measures," Finkelstein said Friday. Web scammers spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make their sites appear at the top of Google search results, using fake sites and links to boost their apparent popularity -- Google's central measure of a site's importance. The tech folks at Google, in turn, try to make sure their site spits out only valid results.

Finkelstein's theory on the problem, posted on his Web site (, includes a link to the Web site of one apparent scammer. Strangely enough, the site consists of nothing but a long list of seemingly random terms ("rugs," "home mortgage loan," "1966 chevrolet corvette") linked to more sites with more words.

Somewhere in that tangled web is a "real" site or sites that someone is trying to promote by linking to it from hundreds of such dummy sites. Because of a bug in Google's software, Finkelstein said, Google's search engine essentially crashes when it hits certain combinations of words.

Google spokesman Nathan Tyler acknowledged this week that the company has found a bug that it is working on, but he declined to elaborate.

So, who the heck was searching for "speaker bracelets" or "candle trucks" anyway? The problem was evidently discovered by "GoogleWhackers" -- fans who use the site to look for word combinations that can be found only once in Google's index of the Web ( Recent GoogleWhack discoveries include "fetishized armadillo" and "panfish interrogation" -- phrases that now, thanks to this article, have probably lost that coveted uniqueness.

Source: Yahoo