Rick Santorum Wants Google to Remove Sexual Links to His Name

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Rick Santorum's "Google Problem"
It been eight years since columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage "redefined" his name to be a neologism for anal sex, but Santorum's "Google problem" continues to plague his campaign... in part because both Santorum and supporters like Americans For Truth About Homosexuality keep calling voters' attention to it.

Rick Santorum wants Google to remove results that link his name to anal sex.

Back in 2003, Santorum -- then a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania -- compared gay sex to pedophilia and bestiality. Dan Savage, a popular author and sex columnist who is gay, responded by Google-bombing the senator's last name.

Savage solicited definitions from readers and made santorum a sexually explicit neologism (Google it, but not at work). Now, the first two results when people Google Santorum are Savage's page with the coined definition and a Wikipedia page about the prank. Santorum's actual Wikipedia entry is the third link down, and his campaign Web site is all the way at the bottom of the search page.

It was embarrassing, especially for a politician who has spent his career promoting family values, but Santorum tried to brush it off. He lost his campaign for re-election in 2006 and faded from the public spotlight, but Savage's handiwork stayed on top of Google searches. Then Santorum decided to run for president this year.

That's when the eight-year-old Google bomb became a problem.

Santorum contacted Google to ask the company to remove the results or at least push them farther down on the list. But Google said it doesn't remove results unless they are illegal.

Google's search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Web, a Google spokesman told CNN. Users who want content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly. Once the webmaster takes the page down from the Web, it will be removed from Google's search results through our usual crawling process.

But Santorum thinks the answer would have been different if he were a Democrat.

I suspect if something was up there like that about Joe Biden, they'd get rid of it, he told Politico. If you're a responsible business, you don't let things like that happen in your business that have an impact on the country. To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their Web site or through their system is something that they say they can't handle, but I suspect that's not true.

Of course, if Google were to remove mean-spirited results -- for a Republican or for a Democrat -- it would raise serious questions about censorship and the First Amendment. And where would the line be between what is removed and what isn't? Illegal is an objective criterion, but there's no real way to define how vulgar is too vulgar. Google has little choice but to say no to Santorum, because it would be a very slippery slope if it didn't.

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