Meet Republican Singles

by Henry Farrell on June 27, 2005

Something that I’ve been wondering about for a while. Google Ads don’t necessarily match their advertisements to websites in quite the manner that you’d expect, presumably because of the way that its underlying algorithm works. “Brad DeLong’s site”:, for example, seems to have become the new in-spot for Republican and Conservative singles to hook up with each other, while “Nathan Newman”: rather improbably provides a venue for union-busting specialists to connect with their core clientele in the business community. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if many of Nathan’s readers make a habit of clicking on the link to “Union-Free Labor Relations Training” on a regular basis. After all, each time that they do, a small sum of money presumably disappears from the advertising budget of a rather slimy organization, and reappears (after Google deducts its cut) in Nathan’s Paypal account. Now personally, I’ve no problems with that. But does this undermine the rationale behind using Google Ads for politically targetted advertising? Left-leaning blogs are likely to “sound” Republican to Google’s algorithm because of the frequency with which they mention Republican politicians (and Republican blogs will sound left-wing). Thus, they’re likely to attract a disproportionate number of ads which are aimed at exactly the wrong population. Many of the people who read these blogs are unlikely to want to click on the ads for any sincere motives. The same, of course, is true for right wing blogs harping on how horrible the Democrats are; again they’ll appear to be “good” bets to an automated algorithm for advertisements aimed at leftwingers, unless that algorithm is sophisticated indeed.

Unless Google changes its algorithm, I can’t imagine any easy technical way of distinguishing ‘fake’ clickthroughs from real ones, except in the most straightforward of cases (e.g. the same person at the same IP address repeatedly clicking on an ad again and again). Now this may in reality be a non-problem – I’ve seen no data on it- but in principle, Google Ads seems to me to be quite vulnerable to politically motivated attacks, which could prove quite expensive for the advertisers.

Can you prove that you were on a flight?

by Eszter Hargittai on June 27, 2005

The other day I found myself in the curious position of having to prove that I had been on a flight in order to be allowed to return home. The only explanation I could come up with for the airline having no record of my presence on the flight there is that the gate agent had failed to scan in my boarding pass. As far as I can tell I had done everything “by the book”. In this day and age of being tracked in so many situations and so many ways, I found it an interesting twist that I could think of no way of proving (no way that the ticketing agent seemed to find satisfactory) that I had, indeed, been on the plane and should be allowed to return home on my originally scheduled flight. Details follow.

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