Google Pulled Some Shady Shit In Montana, And Now They Have A Violent Asshole Congressman

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This is Rob Quist, the nice, singing cowboy from Montana. You've never heard of him.


Do you remember Rob Quist? He was the nice, bluegrass cowboy running for Montana's lone US House of Representatives seat back in May. Rob Quist was not the carpetbagger who bodyslammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on election night for asking a question about repealing the ACA, that was multi-millionaire Republican Greg Gianforte.

If you've never heard of Rob Quist before, you're not alone. A lot of people don't know who Rob Quist is, and as that late May election drew closer, many people Googling the candidates in Montana's special election didn't know about Rob Quist either. With just days to go before the election, a search for "Montana Special Election Candidate" would have turned up one name in Google's Instant Answers box -- Greg Gianforte.

Geeks hired by the Quist campaign thought this was a little weird, so they went into the wayback machine and found that this had been going on for the entire election. Quist started running in early January after Trump tapped grifty bastard Ryan Zinke to be his Interior Secretary, weeks before Gianforte finally finished licking wounds inflicted by Montana's Democratic governor, Steve Bullock. But when officials from the Quist campaign tried to contact Google to correct this big fucking error, Google kind of shrugged and went back to frolicking in the ashes of its "Don't Be Evil" banner.

Quist's campaign was eventually able to get everything sorted out after a bunch of lucky phone calls to people inside the Googleplex. With about 24 hours before polls opened, someone at Google had a fire lit under their ass and added Quist, as well as Libertarian Mark Wicks, to the Instant Answers results. Problem solved, right?

Sure, if you ignore the general Republican electoral fuckery that has become disturbingly common, and Google's own stupidity.

When Gov. Bullock tried to pass a measure that would allow mail-in ballots for Montana's special elections, Republicans threw a tantrum. Bullock's reasoning was not only a cost-saving maneuver that could save counties up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, it would also encourage voting in a state that has historically low voter turnout.

Incensed that some damn dirty Democrats might actually get people to vote against the businessman who wants to drill more than Harvey Weinstein at prom, Republicans jumped into action. In an email sent to the Montana Republican party constituency, State Rep. Jeff Essmann, chairman of the Montana Republican Party, actually says...

"I know that my position will not be popular with many fiscally conservative Republican County commissioners or the sponsor of HB 305. They may be well intended, but this bill could be the death of our effort to make Montana a reliably Republican state."

Montana's special election was watched by political junkies and regular folks eager to see if their anti-Trump efforts would pay off. With truckloads of cash being flown in and burned through on mailers, door knockers and TV ads, polls still remained consistent for both the candidates, despite the historical inaccuracy of special election polls.

But the night before the election, Gianforte punched Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and that story becomes front page news across the country. Because of the way that Google's algorithm works (primarily things that get the most clicks appear at the top, though there's also 200 other smaller factors), this pushed results for "Gianforte" and "Montana special election" even closer together. Anyone searching for information about any candidate wound up getting stories on Gianforte punching Jacobs, and doodly squat about the nice cowboy singer, Rob Quist.

Since we apparently live in Star Trek's mirror universe, conservative blowhards defended Gianforte for punching Jacobs, calling him a "wuss" and liberal operative (and some haven't stopped threatening to "shoot" journalists). Gianforte initially denied everything, and said that Jacobs assaulted him, despite a local Fox affiliate confirming Jacobs story. The bullshit response from Gianforte, coupled with all the freaked out op-eds and analysis, was like pouring rocket fuel onto Google's raging dumpster fire. If you hadn't heard of Rob Quist before, you weren't going to now.

Google initially screwed up by not including Quist within its Instant Answers box. In allowing Quist to be marginalized by a 1980s techbro like Gianforte, we're left with a series of difficult questions, chief among them, "What the fuck are you doing, Google?"

Now, it should be known that it's pretty easy to screw with Google search results for a time. Internet trolls and pranksters do this on a regular basis. This is the reason why the Emperor from Star Wars shows up as the second image when looking for pictures of "The Senate." With enough diligence, any group of idiots can trick Google's system.

Lately many people are screaming about regulating big tech and social media companies. As we become aware of what Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing behind the curtain in the magical land of Oz Silicon Valley, it's become obvious that the they need to be held accountable for their negligence. Yes, there should be laws that regulate big tech; a big sign reminding techbros not to be assholes simply isn't enough. However, it's equally important to be very careful about that regulation as most policy makers know as much about technology as a plaid clad Brooklyn beardo does about being a lumberjack. Good policy can help us maintain control of our lives and serve as a counterweight to increasingly destructive forces in the real and digital world. Bad policy could neuter creativity and growth of new inventions, or create even worse problems, like giving Facebook more power, Trump a 1,000 character Twitter account, or making Bing a thing -- and nobody wants that.

[HuffPo]

Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.

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