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2004.04.13 A Search Engine Never Forgets

posted Oct 25, 2009, 1:46 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 25, 2009, 1:56 PM ]
I think that I shall never see a Search Engine as lovely as a tree...

The phone rang, so of course I answered. "Hello."

"Troy, I'm planning to download the Internet tonight. I need you to protect my children," the voice said.

"Okay, I'll bring my shotgun," I responded, quite cleverly, I thought.

"Not that kind of protection," the voice rasped in a tone that indicated my response was not found to be clever.  I get that a lot.

I recognized the rasp as belonging to an old friend of mine, half of my favorite married couple, Bob and Barb. "Bob, perhaps you'd best start over from the beginning."

Bob took a deep breath. "Barb finally talked me into getting the Internet. We signed up and I was going to install the software tonight. But then Barb saw a special on Internet pornography on the evening news and we're both scared to let that kind of thing into our house. We have kids, you know."

Being a godparent to one of them, I did kind of have that impression.

"Bob, calm down. It's not that bad. There are a lot of bad things you don't want your children to see on the Internet, but there are also lots of bad things you don't want your children to see in the real world. You just have to work to keep your kids away from those places and teach them right so that if they do stumble across one, they'll know that it's not a place for them. Besides, you're right there with them when they use the computer anyway, aren't you?"

"But but but," Bob replied. "Won't the Internet just kind of shove the bad stuff into my computer all by itself?"

"Bob, it doesn't quite work that way. The local news team tried to condense 6 hours of information into a 30 second sound byte. For the most part, you have to go looking for pornography to find it. Most of what you find for free is comparatively tame, and I don't think your kids have credit cards to pay for access to the really sick stuff. You will get some pornography advertisements via email, but your kids are young enough that they don't need to be sending and receiving emails by themselves, either."

"So I should?" Bob wondered.

"So you should treat the Internet just like you do television. Don't let them surf over to the adult channels. Don't let them view something until you've checked it out yourself. And, most importantly, don't leave them unattended while playing on your computer."

"Pretty much what I did when I got the new DVD player?"

"Exactly!" I was pleased that he'd gotten it. "I'll even come over this weekend and install some software I've been working on. It will keep your kids from viewing any website that you haven't reviewed and approved. I think I can hack up something similar that will let the kids receive email from Granny or whoever while keeping out the sexual enhancement advertisements."

"Thanks, Troy. See you this weekend!"

All that reminded me that I hadn't checked my email that day. While I was online, I thought it might be wise to do a little research. Strictly to help out my friend, mind you. I wanted to make sure the information I had given him was correct. I fired up my favorite search engine and typed in UNDERAGE NUDES. Strictly to help my friend, mind you. In fact, as I'd been hearing a lot about her lately, I added BRITNEY SPEARS.

My research quickly showed that approximately 14% of the Internet was devoted to showing naked pictures of a young Britney Spears.

I tried a few sites -- strictly to help my friend, mind you -- but discovered that, like I'd told Bob, they wanted a credit card, either for payment or just to verify that I was old enough to have one. Based on the credit card application one company sent to Hank the wonderdoG, two years is old enough for a credit card.

Though I wanted to help out Bob, I didn't want to give Hank's credit card number out to people who made a living showing naked pictures to people. So I altered my search parameters to look for FREE UNDERAGE BRITNEY SPEARS NUDE.

Only 13% of the Internet was devoted to showing free naked pictures of Britney Spears.

Again, I tried a few sites. They were free, but that didn't mean they were easy. Most were just lists of other sites that hosted free naked pictures of Britney Spears. And when I clicked on over to those sites, I found that they were also lists of other sites. After a few clicks, I'd end up back where I started.

I also found sites that said "In order to keep this site free, please visit our advertisers, after which you will be allowed access to the picture area." I visited advertisers until I was blue in the face. No matter how many I visited, for some reason I still couldn't access the pictures. Also, many of the advertisers were advertising sites which had free underage nude pictures of Britney Spears, which turned out to be just lists of other sites, ad infinitum.

After four hours of looking -- strictly to help my friend, mind you -- I came to the conclusion that nobody in the entire Internet had any such pictures, at least not for free. Shortly after that came a thought: Hey! I could do that!

An hour later, I'd downloaded and slightly altered a dozen or so images of Britney Spears. It's easy to make a perfectly innocent picture look obscene; you just have to mark in black squares over the assumed naughty bits. I had half a dozen interconnected webpages which claimed to have the "uncensored" versions of the pictures of only you were willing to visit advertisers, vote my site "The Best Free Underage Britney Spears Nude site on the Internet," and click just one more link. Now just one more. Now one more. Last one. No, this is the last one. No, this one. Okay, you made it! Now just one more...

After much soul searching, I declined to ask for credit card numbers. I was too afraid that people would actually send them.

If you were very persistent and clicked all the links like you were supposed to, you'd eventually gain access to the forbidden file area, which was actually just another page on the site that explained that it was all a joke. If you found this joke funny, please pass the link along to your friends. Comments and questions to the following email address. Yada yada yada.

I added a few "advertisements" around my site pointing to the entrance to the joke maze, had a few friends do the same, and submitted it to a couple of search engines. The response was immediate. About half the people writing in were deeply offended that I was offering such pictures and told me I should be ashamed of myself. The other half were offended that they'd done all that clicking and still hadn't seen the pictures; could I please email them to the following address? Maybe one in a hundred thought it was a funny joke and couldn't wait to spring it on his friends.

Responses petered out, and I pretty much forgot about the joke. Until the company that hosted my website contacted me and informed me that they were canceling my account.

"Why?" I asked.

"Hosting pornography," was the answer.

"I don't have any pornography on my website."

"Yes you do. There are adverts for it all over. We got a complaint. Um. I mean, we got lots of complaints. Yeah, that's the ticket!"

"And you investigated these complaints."

"Um. Yeah, we did! Those pictures are offensive and we won't host them for you!"

I hit 7 on my phone's touchpad. "I am required by state law to tell you that I am now recording this conversation. You're telling me, for the record, that you followed the links on my site and actually found underage nude pictures of Britney Spears. Is that correct?"

"Um. Yeah, it is!" Pause. "You pervert!"

"Okay. Cancel away."

The next webhosting company I did business with, I checked with them before I uploaded the joke pages. They didn't have a problem with it. In fact, the guy I talked to thought the whole idea was hilarious.

But after a while, I kind of got tired of the hate mail and deleted the joke and all reference to it from my site. That was a couple of years ago. But when I pull up the error log for my site today, just to see if I have any dead links that are interfering with my visitors' surfing pleasure, I find that the Top 10 or 12 errors are the missing pages and pictures from that joke.

Why are these people trying to access these nonexistent files? Because search engines never forget. I'm in their systems as having free underage nude pictures of Britney Spears and, apparently, I always will be.

Nice thing to be known for, huh?