Tech

Exclusive: Stardock CEO Alleges Google Employee Tampered With Search Results

Google has been hard hit with negative publicity following the release of the leaked “Internal Echo Chamber” memo this past week. Amid conversations about the tech giant’s internal practices, a prominent software developer alleges that a Google employee tampered with his search results.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Caller, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell says that he first found out about an article with the title “Brad Wardell Is A Douchebag, And I’m Never Buying Anything From StarDock Again” when he was trying to help find investments for an indie game studio start-up.

Wardell, who developed the compressed zip folder, WindowBlinds, and numerous strategy video games, says that he believes he was targeted by a Google “spec hacker,” Tab Atkins Jr. following an argument with Zoe Quinn, the video game personality notorious for sparking the GamerGate debacle in 2014 when a letter penned by her ex-boyfriend chronicled their failed relationship.

The top search result for “Brad Wardell” on Google leads to Atkins’ blogpost rant about the software developer, describing him as a “douchebag.”

“My associate told me about his article showing up on my Google search results,” said Wardell. “He apparently targeted me in response to Zoe Quinn’s attack on me because I had told an artist who wanted a job in the game industry that he could always apply at Stardock. This artist was pro-GamerGate.”

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Wardell says that the artist’s views didn’t impact his decision, because Zoe Quinn herself had once wanted to be hired by Stardock, and he made her the same offer in 2013.

“In particular, this artist had apparently made lewd satire cartoons of Zoe Quinn (something I didn’t know about) and she portrayed the incident as if I had told him to apply at Stardock in response to his cartoons,” he said. “I called her out on her dishonesty (not to mention the various events were separated by many months but she was representing them as if they had happened all at once) and Tab Atkins at Google wrote up an SEO optimized attack on me on his blog.”

Wardell doesn’t believe that Atkins’ blog post about him had anything to do with GamerGate, but was rather based on an “unquestioning defense of anything Zoe Quinn said or did.”

The developer tells The Daily Caller that the search team at Google, as well as a team Stardock works closely with, were unable to amend his search results.

“[They] were shocked but said there is nothing they can do about it as Google employees are free to express their opinions,” he said. “They could offer no account as to how his search result is literally the top non-Wikiepedia entry for me on Google but nowhere near the top on Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.”

“I think Google should investigate why Google employee sites seem to get preferential treatment on Google search results. It appears that their sites get an artificially high authoritative rating,” said Wardell, adding that the blog itself is obscure and outranks his own home page, Stardock’s page, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even his Google Plus page. News articles featuring Wardell on the New York Times, Time Magazine, and Kotaku are similarly outranked.

Weighing in on Google’s leaked internal memo, Wardell says that the company has a culture problem.

“I’ve had enough interaction with Google’s bay area teams to know that their culture is messed up,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I sold my Google stock even before the Tab Atkins libel. Once politics infests your organization, your ability to innovate and execute gets stifled. I honestly believe that Google’s culture sees itself as a means to enact social change. Reward people who have the correct political views and punish those who have the incorrect views. I have no doubt that Google puts its finger on the search results scales based on the ideology of their company culture.”

“I don’t think people realize just how far it already is in everything they see and do,” said Wardell. “The information they try to access, the content they try to reach it all now filtered through a very radical ideology. Whether it’s searching, shopping, finding images, finding music, etc. how can we trust services that we know are perfectly willing to tilt the scales based on their ideology rather than merit?”

Update: A Google spokesperson has responded to inquiries from The Daily Caller regarding the matter:

“A site’s ranking on Google Search is determined using hundreds of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query, including things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank. We have never re-ranked search results to manipulate sentiment on a topic, and personal sites and perspectives of Google employees do not impact our search results. We always strive to provide our users with the most useful, relevant answers to their queries.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.