"Rick Perry Gay" Hidden On Hutchison Campaign Website

31. července 2009 v 18:58

This morning, I came across a Web site for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's gubernatorial campaign.

A provocative twist: The site may have been juiced with the intent of drawing visitors with the help of more than 2,200 hidden phrases-including "rick perry gay." (See the phrases here.)

On my inquiry, Hutchison's campaign spokesman, Jeff Sadosky, initially said he'd look into the matter. He later issued a statement that didn't indicate how the phrases landed on the site, but said they weren't condoned and would be removed.

Sadosky said: "We did not know these offensive word associations were being searched for by hundreds of thousands of Texans everyday nor do we condone the computer-generated existence on our Web site.They will be removed promptly."

UPDATE 2:33 p.m.: Sadosky and other campaign aides said this afternoon that only the two phrases using "rick perry gay" will be removed because they won't play into the campaign's future messages.

Broadly, the campaign said a vendor sold them on a tool that generates the phrases hourly or less in an attempt to divine the most frequent Web searches made by individuals who search online using one or all of the terms "Rick Perry," "Kay Bailey Hutchison" and "Texas."

Punch line: The generated phrases aren't intended to drive up traffic to the standbykay site; they are intended to help Hutchison's campaign decide most efficiently where to purchase banner ads or other Web-related advertisign that would drive people to the site, where visitors can volunteer, chase information or make donations.

I'll be curious to learn from the vendor why the list of search phrases is posted (albeit unseen) on the Hutchison site.

Earlier, I found that neither GOP Gov. Rick Perry's political site nor the site put up by Democratic aspirant Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth has such lists, which are hidden to view unless a visitor checks on a site's page source information.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said he hadn't seen the site.

Speaking before Sadosky said the hidden phrases would be removed, Miner said: "If they're behind this, it's outrageous. They should pull it down immediately. It shows the depths they will seek for their own political gain."

Other hidden text in the pro-Hutchison site's source list range from Texas counties to names of members of Congress and statewide officeholders to "texas grape growers" and "orthodox synagogue" and "gas prices governor" as well as at least one phone number, which when I called it didn't appear to be a campaign-related number.

Meanwhile, an Austin expert on search engine optimization told me it looks to her like the list of phrases was created as a misguided attempt to drive up the site's relevance in searches on Google and other search engines or by a hacker intending harm to Hutchison's campaign.

The expert, Kate Morris, said the site could be subject to getting banned by the Google search engine because of the hidden phrases, which are looked down upon because sometimes phrase combinations can cause engines to mistakenly rate a site as more relevant (or useful) than it is.

I noted Morris's initial reaction to the pile of hidden phrases: "Woah. Oh my lord. Wow."

Her reason for the reaction: "The sheer number of phrases and the archaic manner in which they were inserted caught me off guard."


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