The Ground Zero mosque

Mosque near ground zero

I’m curious, did you find this blog post from a Google search for “ground zero mosque”? If you did, then my little SEO test worked.

This post isn’t about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. It’s about how Google can be manipulated and a message be inaccurately spread, quickly.

The truth of the matter is that the so-called mosque at Ground Zero is really two blocks away. It actually is an Islamic Center that includes a pool, community rooms, and offices. And the proposed site isn’t Ground Zero. It is in Lower Manhattan, but it’s two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood.

Manipulating the news

Media ethics professor, Kelly McBride, wrote an interesting article entitled, “SEO Makes It Too Late for Truth for ‘Ground Zero Mosque’“.

But now that the story has peaked, now that we know the real facts, can anyone possibly correct the record? Not if Google has anything to say about it.

That’s because accurate or not, people are searching for the term “ground zero mosque.” So if you want to reach people who are looking for information, you have to use that term.

It’s easy enough to do in a story meant to debunk the phrase. All you have to write is, “It’s not a ground zero mosque.” But, what about ongoing coverage? Must you keep using the inaccurate term?

Sadly, the answer is yes, according to people familiar with SEO practices.

We’re partly to blame

We often jump on the bandwagon, retweeting, liking and sharing sensational stories we hear. We don’t fact check before we spread the “news”, we are all responsible for this.

Google’s mysterious algorithm shapes the news based partly on what we make popular, we need to do our own fact checking first. I’ve been guilty of this too, sorry Gordie. Blame should also be turned to the mainstream media who are suppose to be researching the stories before reporting them.

CBC Spark host, Nora Young, interviewed McBride recently. Have a listen for yourself, it’s an intriguing interview.