The Great (Gasp) Google Conspiracy

If you come around here very often, you know I am a scientist. A scientist with an Inner Curmudgeon who is totally exasperated by conspiracy theories, especially those that can be dispelled by simple reason. Personally, I am sometimes amused by the more ridiculous claims. Consider what I will call The Great Google Conspiracy about COVID-19. For some weeks, this has been circulating on Facebook and Twitter. It goes like this. Open your device or computer and Google any three digit number, followed by the words new cases. Up will pop multiple news pages showing exactly that number of new cases, proof positive that Google is faking articles to match any number of cases for some nefarious purpose. A few days ago, someone posted this YouTube video of an unknown woman demonstrating this in order to blow your mind. The truth is she ought to use hers instead of trying to blow yours.

The explanation is simple and involves no nefarious plots. When you put a number followed by any set of words into the Google (or any) search engine, it searches the internet for posts that contain that number and those words, looking first for them in order, then in any order, followed by posts containing either the numbers or words. It returns what it finds in a list in your browser. Suppose I search for 714 new cases, as in the video. The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for about six months and every day, internet pages are breathlessly reporting the number of new cases in countries, counties, and cities, sometimes by age or ethnicity or profession. In these millions of posts, there is with absolute certainty at least one that includes 714 new cases and it shows up on your device. No conspiracy, just a search engine doing what it was designed to do.

If you don’t believe me, here are a few things to try. Try Googling 714 new cars. You will get a results like

Gasp! Could Google be conspiring to inflate the number of cars available for purchase? Or try 714 new cats and get

714 Best black cats images in 2020

on Pinterest. Horrors! Is Pinterest is conspiring with Google to inflate the number of black cats, bringing bad luck to our country?

This stuff would be amusing if so many people didn’t take it seriously. How can we respond intelligently to the COVID-19 pandemic if a significant part of our populace believes its a conspiracy? Here’s a fact. If it sounds like a conspiracy theory, it probably is. It’s easy to check. There are numerous hoax checking sites online. Just Google something like three digit Google conspiracy and you’ll get result like this from thatsnonsense.com. Then don’t repost it or send it to friends. What? You think all the fact checking sites are in on it too? Then I suggest you put on your tin foil helmet, hide in your lead-lined bedroom and wait for the aliens to rescue you.

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2 Comments on “The Great (Gasp) Google Conspiracy”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    There you go again OE, being logical!

  2. barrythewiz Says:

    BTW, Babe Ruth had 714 career home runs. Does that mean he had Covid-19?


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