Offering a “snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing the fastest-rising searches for different points of time,” Google Trends is a regular stop for those of us who spend the day searching for fresh meat to feed the beast we call the Posted news blog.
Today’s Hot Trends page, pictured to the right, serves up the usual trending fare: at #13 we have a typically ribald search for “skanks in nyc”; the usual grist for the rumor mill at #10 with “steve jobs dead”… but what’s the deal with this symbol at #4?
Well that strange appearance of the symbol on Google Trends today is the result of a prank perpetrated by a group of “hackers” on image-sharing forum 4chan.org’s infamous /b/ channel (NWS).
/b/ kicked things off by posting the HTML numeric character reference for the symbol had been posted on 4chan.org and urging readers to perform a Google search for the string to pump up its popularity. The drive to get this image trending #1 has been picked up by a smattering of other sites, among them humor site EBaum’s World. The symbol peaked at #2 before 2 p.m. ET today and is currently oscillating between #3 and #4.
This is not the first time the /b/ channel has made waves with a high-profile stunt. In July of last year, a swastika was spotted climbing the Hot Trends list, apparently through similar means. It happened again a week later, as this little bit of inverted juvenilia made the #1 spot thanks once more to 4chan members.
After the swastika incident, Google responded at the time by removing the symbol and issuing this statement explaining how the “Google raid” happened:
The Hot Trends list is automatically generated by machines and algorithms that detect hot or breaking queries. In this case, it appears that the html code for this query was posted on a popular internet bulletin board, which led to quite a few people searching to find out more about this symbol. The Hot Trends list reflected that surge due to people searching with this query.
Looks like more of the same today. A quick scan of 4chan shows all threads promoting the 9/11 symbol raid have since been deleted, but the unlike past transgressions, this one has yet to be wiped from Google’s Trends page.
Ohh, and incidentally, it was also a member of the /b/ channel who hacked Sarah Palin’s personal email account back in September. /b/ was also the primary subject of an excellent New York Times Magazine feature called “The Trolls Among Us” back in August.
UPDATE: A very busy day for the anon over at 4chan, as the MacRumours site’s immensely popular live-blog of Apple’s MacWorld event was taken down by a hack that momentarily took over their feed, bombarding it with various vulgarities and the proclamation that Apple head “STEVE JOBS HAS DIED.” CNET has a story on the incident here.
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