Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Googled! Mayoral race turns to cyber warfare

Surprise: How a Google search for Cr Catherine Ng leads to her rival.

Surprise: How a Google search for Cr Catherine Ng leads to her rival.

LORD mayoral candidate Catherine Ng got a rude surprise late on Saturday when she typed her name into Google.

Instead of a link to her website, the first item to show up on her name search read like this: "Vote 1 Peter McMullin. The safe choice for Lord Mayor."

This was no isolated cyber incident. Google searches for other lord mayoral candidates — including Gary Singer, Adam Bandt, Gary Morgan and Robert Doyle — were all leading to the same place: the rival McMullin campaign and its website.

But at what cost? Cr Ng estimates Cr McMullin has been paying Google hundreds of dollars a day for his "sponsored link" to appear when other candidates are searched.

A legitimate use of technology? Or a questionable act of cyber warfare?

Cr Ng's initial reaction was to find it "really annoying". She resolved to fight back, buying a "sponsored link" of her own to appear on Google — but only when her name is typed in.

The cyber spat shows how far council electioneering has gone beyond the old ways of doorknocking, letter drops and posters. Big billboards, YouTube films and volunteers who leave messages on answer machines are among the new arsenal.

Former state Liberal leader Robert Doyle has a billboard on Racecourse Road, a website, a YouTube message and has done letterbox drops. But despite describing his campaign as "back to basics", he hasn't knocked on a single door.

Cr McMullin has been doorknocking with John So, the retiring Lord Mayor. Residents have also been receiving phone calls from members of the McMullin camp — all volunteers, according to campaign director Kimberley Kitching. She said the Google ads were aimed at busy voters. "We know that people are looking for campaign information more and more from the internet and Google ads is one way of doing that," she said.

The Greens' Mr Bandt has doorknocked, spoken at forums, attended council meetings and used websites such as Facebook.

Cr Singer has an ad on Google. But like Cr Ng's, his ad only appears when his name is typed.

Serious lord mayoral campaigns are said to cost at least $120,000, with just one mailout to the electorate costing about $70,000. Mr McMullin is said to be spending $650,000. Ms Kitching denied it was that high.

In Hobsons Bay, council candidate Kate Kennedy has a cheaper plan. Inspired by Barack Obama, she has adopted a web-based approach which she says will cost several hundred dollars. "We're still considering whether we can afford posters," she said.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

2 comments:

Vex said...

This is a false and very misleading article. If you do a google search on Lord Mayor you will find that catherine Ng or her running mate Gary Singer come up on google searches. There is nothing underhanded in the google add, as implied by Catherine Ng free publicity beet-up. This is just another case of Catherine Ng dirty tricks campaign cooked up by her campaign manager Ian Hanke (The Liberal spin doctor that dreamt up the sensational false "Children Overboard" allegation.)

Catherine Ng, McMullin and Singer have all paid for google to advertising based on a nominated range of key words such as Lord Mayor for Melbourne.

Catherine is just running a scare campaign against Peter McMullin.

Contrary to statements made Catherine Ng is not "independent". She has strong ties and associations back to the Liberal party and actively helped campaign for the Liberal Party against Labor in the 2004 and 2007 Federal elections. At a recent public meeting in Carlton Catherine stated that she would use town Hall to mount a campaign of opposition against the State Government, raising ongoing concern over the politicisation, misuse and abuse of Town Hall resources

blog said...

Because Peter McMullin wouldn't stoop so low as to run any scare campaigns now would he?