An apparent glitch in Google's ranking system for web searches led the company to make a change over the weekend so that the Vatican's website was not placed below a site with information on pedophilia. According to an Italian technology website, the anomaly leaves many questions unanswered.
The first news reports in Italy began to come out last Friday about the fact that inserting the word "Vatican" in a Google search retrieved the website www.pedofilo.com as the first option, one place ahead of the Holy See's official www.vatican.va website. The website that replaced the Vatican's was one that provided information on the pheonomenon of pedophilia and reproduced documents from the Holy See on the matter.
After momentum increased behind the story on international newswires over the weekend, Google technicians fixed the problem, and now the Vatican's website tops the results of the simple search. But that leaves the question of how it came about in the first place.
The Italian technology website www.bitcity.it explained that preference in the order of Google search results is dictated by the number of links available to the site from other webpages. The algorithm, in this case, could have been manipulated to give greater consideration to the pedofilo.com site over all others, a technique called "Google bombing."
Bitcity reported that Google had "assured that this mechanism could not be used for one's own ends, but what happened with the Vatican and the pedofilo.com site brings up some perplexities" on how the algorithm could have been changed.
Google Italy's communications director, Simona Panseri, told ANSA "I cannot confirm that it was an attack until I have more precise indications from the American engineers to understand the nature of the problem."
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Google apologized to the Vatican, and a formal protest was not necessary.