Mike Pence parody site tops Google search results for his name
It may be a joke site, but it highlights real challenges for Google.
Richard NievaFormer senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
If you type Mike Pence's name into Google, you may get the impression that the US vice president is running for president. (If you actually click on one of the first links that pops up though, a website called Mike Pence Is President, you'll realize it's just a big joke.)
The site is clearly fake. It has a section called Mike Facts, with the bullet points: "Mike Pence went to college," "Mike Pence won 3rd prize in the 1972 Indiana Junior Corn Contest," and "Mike Pence has won seven (7) penmanship awards."
But as of this writing on Thursday, the parody site either ranks at the top of Google search, or it is the second search result, right beneath a carousel of news stories and Pence's Wikipedia entry.
The site was reportedly created as an April Fools' joke by the website Funny or Die and resurfaced after Scott Dworkin, a Democratic strategist, tweeted it out last week, according to New York Magazine. People on Twitter soon began wondering if the vice president's website was hacked. (It wasn't.)
Yet the fact that the site climbed all the way to the top of Google is notable, especially as the company tries to combat the spread of fake news on its services. For example, after the Parkland shooting in February, searches on Google-owned YouTube pointed to videos claiming survivor David Hogg was a crisis actor.
Representatives from Google and the White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The parody Pence site has resurfaced as giant tech platforms have publicly struggled with their response to Alex Jones, a high-profile commentator known for pushing conspiracy theories. Facebook, YouTube and Apple have banned Jones from some of their platforms. On Wednesday, Twitter said it was giving Jones a seven-day suspension, taking away his ability to tweet.