May 16, 2006

Look Who's Googling Osama

I'm working on a long piece about the Palestinian West Bank that will include lots of photos and interviews with Palestinian civilians and politicians. In the meantime I don't want to let this space get stale. So I'll leave you with this to chew on for now.

Yesterday the Egyptian Sandmonkey introduced me to Google Trends. (Yeah, I know, I'm behind on this one.) Turns out, for those of you who don't know, you can use Google Trends to track search phrases over time. It even includes nifty graphs that show you which citites and countries the searches originate from.

Here's an example that Sandmonkey thought was funny. These are the top ten countries where Google searches for "man boy sex" come from.

Top Region One.bmp

It would be so easy to misinterpret data like this. Nevertheless, when I showed Sandmonkey (who is Egyptian and lives in Cairo) who Googles "Osama," he said "Oh man. Man oh man."

Top Regions Two.bmp

Can anyone think of a benign explanation for this? Egypt is overwhelmingly the most Islamist place I've ever been, and I can't think of a benign explanation that takes that into account. No other Muslim country even appears on the chart, not even Saudi Arabia.

Whatever the explanation, Google Trends is addictive. Once you start, it's impossible to stop. Some of the results are insanely counterintuitive. Like this one.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2006 11:47 AM

Maybe there is a singer named Osama in Egypt?

Posted by: Fabian at May 16, 2006 11:52 AM

Check this, maybe this explains it. Another Osama.

Posted by: Fabian at May 16, 2006 11:54 AM

Osama is a popular name in Egypt...!

Also if you click the cities, major US cities are hijacked by al-qaeda!!

Posted by: AR at May 16, 2006 12:23 PM

With Al Qaeda we see the threat is actually south america.

Posted by: blargy at May 16, 2006 12:43 PM

Maybe including the last name -- "Bin Laden" -- would provide more accuracy.

Remember, too, that an alternate spelling is "Usama". Note the big difference when you Google Trend "Usama Bin Laden":

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at May 16, 2006 12:43 PM

pakistan also leads the world for "goat sex" and Saudi is number two for "gay sex". I was suprised to see Australia at the top of the list for "eating people", I was sure it would be 'ze germans.

Posted by: Mike at May 16, 2006 01:02 PM

Maybe including the last name -- "Bin Laden" -- would provide more accuracy.

Arabs don't emphasize last names as much as Westerners do. In any case, the comparison between Egypt and the US isn't as interesting as the comparison between Egypt and all other Arab countries - considering no other Arab countries even appear on the chart.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2006 01:10 PM

Well , There's no singer here called osama .. besides, nearly none knows mr CIA abducted "ABO OMAR" .. I think An explanation can be anything but benign .. In addition , Newslines beside the charts indicates the reason and motive of the search by these millions : It's him for sure .. Mr Bin ladin and no one else ..

I deiscovered that trend service earlier this week .. But what really amazed me is Google having a Tracker service ( google analytics ) wich enbales U to track each and every hits Ur website witnessed ..

And as a friend told me : It's beyond accurate or fun , It's divine

But as good things never last there's a trip: It requires u to get a private invitation and guess what .. THey are only sent by google moderators .. No friend to friend invitations like that of gmail ..and it takes may be a month for u to get one

Another feature I discovered today : google notebook : so as to collect and save information during ur surfing .. And organize them .. Using a cute shortcut down at the state bar .. It's magnificent

Not to mention google calender or google videos or google mail or gropus etc, etc , etc

google rocks .. and provides the best service for a personal user of the internet

I love google :-)))

Posted by: haisam at May 16, 2006 01:21 PM

Things become even more peculiar if you look at languages: the top language is Danish, slightly ahead of Arabic even though Denmark is number seven on the region list. Maybe the benign explanation is that google trends just isn't particularly accurate.

Posted by: Christian Plesner Hansen at May 16, 2006 01:51 PM

between Egypt and all other Arab countries - considering no other Arab countries even appear on the chart.

Egypt is by far the largest Arab country by population. Roughly 80 million - about 1/5 of the entire Arab Middle East/North Africa.

That could have something to do with it. But I have no idea.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at May 16, 2006 02:00 PM

What is the deal with pedophilia and weird sex in Pakistan?

Searches for "young girl sex" and "girl man sex" both showed Pakistan on top and several other Islamic countries right behind. Maybe there is something to be said about a correlation between... ah forget it.

Posted by: Rommel at May 16, 2006 02:01 PM

another interesting thing...

searches for "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"
showed Israel at top with the only other contenders western nations...
morbid curiosity?

Posted by: Rommel at May 16, 2006 02:09 PM

Iran is number 2 when you tend-track Zionism. Neoconservatism is mostly left to the Anglosphere.

Posted by: Final Historian at May 16, 2006 03:56 PM

I hate to post 3 times on one topic but I had an interesting result. Searching for "US army" brought up Iraq as the number one searcher by a long shot. Any theories?

- counts US military using Google from Iraq?
- terrorists researching their enemy?

Posted by: Rommel at May 16, 2006 05:38 PM

When I check Google Trends (when I "trended"?) for man boy sex the top countries were Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Viet Nam, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Egypt, India, Maylaysia. If you "trend" gay or homosexual, you end up with a lot of Central American and South American countries. If these results are correct, I would have to guess that the more repressed a society is on a particular subject, right or wrong, the more likely individuals turn to the Internet for basic satisfaction of their needs. Just a guess.

For off-topic weirdness, check out "American Idol": Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia then the USA. But when you check the Cities list, Honolulu shows over twice the Googling of the #2 city, Atlanta, and there is a fairly consistent return for the rest of the list. Why is Honolulu so much more interested in American Idol than anyone else? Maybe their satellite dishes cannot pickup the live broadcasts and they otherwise would have to wait 6 hours too long?

Posted by: John at May 16, 2006 07:30 PM

PS: I think I may have figured out the Honolulu statistic (just as I clicked on POST). I'm not sure how these figures are compiled, but I have to guess that it is based on the server information passed to Google with each individual user's search. The servers typically identify the city where you are connected. Due to its unique geographic location, Honolulu might just have one single Internet service provider (or very little choice among providers), whereas people in Sioux Falls might be dialed-up to a server in Minneapolis or broadbanded across a satellite dish to Denver ... just a guess?

I trended f*ck and Iran was well above the #2 country, India. The US was #10. So much for our supposed overuse of that word.

Posted by: John at May 16, 2006 07:37 PM

What's up with our (U.S.) enemies being perverts? Everyone gives the germans shit about their weird sexual behavior and nobody understands the japanese. Now we have new friends who fuck goats and rape children?(according to google trends)

Try the most disgusting shit you can think of and Pakistan is always on top (boys, goats etc...).

Rommel, I suspect the reason the Paki's are always at the top of the list has something to do with jews.

Posted by: mike at May 16, 2006 09:12 PM

This is addictive. Try doing "Marx" and "Lenin". South American countries (most notably Venezuela) show up on both lists for the ideological father and populist father of communism. Then try "Stalin" and "Mao Zedong" - the guys who brought communism to its height by slaugtering their people. No South American countries on the list. It appears that S. America is focused on the utopian visions of communism rather than on its dangerous reality.

Posted by: Tim Mathews at May 16, 2006 09:31 PM


Chile comes in number one for "Nazi." Ahead of Germany, Israel, France, etc. Why? Who knows?

Four Latin American countries beat Spain when Googling "Franco." It's hard to say what this kind of thing means. Interesting, though.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2006 09:59 PM

Okay... you guys are waaaay braver than I am. I just cannot find it within myself to enter the terms "man", "boy", and "sex" in the same Google field at the same time (I'm gritting my teeth just to do it here!).

Don't'cha all fear the overcurious dork at your ISP telling all his friends "Hey man! That perv at just Googled gay child sex again!" Last thing I need is to be judged by a professional computer geek without a life. I am such a professional computer geek, so I know you gotta be pretty low to be judged ill by guys like me.


Anyhoo, John, American Idol is ridiculously popular over in the Philippines, plus there's a Filipino version of it that's also crazy popular, so I'm not surprised that country is coming up high in that Google trend. My cousins in the Philippines are sort of shocked that I find the show rather lowbrow. Singapore and Malasia also have their own "Idol" variants, which probably explains those Google trends (Googletrends?) too.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at May 16, 2006 10:04 PM

Just google-trend any computer related term, India is at the top!

Posted by: AR at May 16, 2006 11:48 PM

This is actually not that surprising or alarming.

1) As someone else pointed out, Egypt is a comparatively massive muslim country. Also, internet access is fairly proliferated there. Syria or Iran or Oman just don't have the numbers of people on the net to compete with New Zealand or India or even Chile. To me, the real shocker on the list is Colombia.

2) Google trends works by taking a random sampling or requests and using their best guess at location (based on which IP block the request originated from). Therefore, not all requests logged as "Egypt" need to have originated from Egypt. This as a trivial point, but worth mentioning.

3) As someone else pointed out, the search would make more sense if you added "Bin Laden." Osama is hardly a John or a Michael, but it's not an uncommon arab name.
Arabs don't emphasize last names as much as Westerners do.
This statement is at best a misleading generalization (different arab cultures have different trends and conventions w/ regards to names) and at worst hogwash.

There, I cracked the case.

Posted by: Encyclopedia Brown at May 17, 2006 01:46 AM

Michael: I have the explanation for Chile and Nazi.

Many nazis from Germany ended up living in Chile (mostly on the south where the mountains resemble their fatherland), I get a great laugh everytime I see the soup nazi tell that he had to move to Argentina (from where I came) but the truth is that many also moved to Chile.

But the reason Google shows the trend now is because several months ago (even one or two years ago) a sect, refuge of nazis was discovered in the south of Chile. Creepy stuff! Exactly like Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo". Ocultism, nazi ceremonies, slave labor, former collaboration in tortures with the Pinochet dictatorship, a huge cache of arms and child sex. They were discovered and the place is closed. Heavy stuff, it was all over the news in Argentina also.

See you!

Posted by: Fabian at May 17, 2006 04:49 AM

I was really surprised to see how many trends are popular in both Lebanon and Israel. Some make more sense than others (like Haifa), but even "Haifa Wehbe" is popular in Israel.

Oddly enough, Russians are interested in Lebanon, according to a few trends (Hariri). I thought "Lebanon sex" "Lebanese women" and "Lebanese prostitutes" would have Saudi as number one by far, but there were far, far more Kuwaitis, Australians, French, Russians, and Canadians interested in the subject.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 17, 2006 06:15 AM

Remember kids, these rankings are normalized, as in, they look at the number of searches for a term relative to the total number of searches coming out of the country. That means that Egypt being a huge country doesn't affect the rankings.

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at May 17, 2006 06:40 AM

I don't speak Romanian, but I get the impression from a brief scan of .ro domain websites that "Islam" and "Islamism" are the same word in Romanian.

Romania also has...issues... with Islam. Dracula - Vlad the Impaler - is celebrated as a hero of Romania despite his murderous rule, because he fought the Turks. Romania was the front line of the late medieval battle between Christendom and Islam for centuries.

Posted by: rvman at May 17, 2006 06:44 AM

okie I liked the google trends so I was searching using it to estimate the sex habbits in each country :P just to know which kinky country I should move to :P.
so anyway I thought I would search for a special kind of sex to check where women liked it the most ...the results are concurent with the first result :P...sadly they werent women :P.

and about osama .... search for osama bin laden instead ..

have fun :P

Posted by: Wissam at May 17, 2006 07:10 AM

That's not really counterintuitive at all. The problem with Google Trends is that it doesn't make allowances for different spellings. The "Islamism" thing was pretty weird, I admit, but once you spell it the French way with an extra "e" it makes a whole lot more sense, generating five out of 9 francophone nations.

1. Morocco

2. France

3. Norway

4. Belgium

5. Denmark

6. Spain

7. Switzerland

8. Canada

9. Netherlands

Posted by: David at May 17, 2006 09:30 AM
Remember kids, these rankings are normalized, as in, they look at the number of searches for a term relative to the total number of searches coming out of the country. That means that Egypt being a huge country doesn't affect the rankings.
My understanding was the regions are normalized only after they've selected the top regions for the search, or so it is stated in their About page:
When the Cities tab is selected, Google Trends first looks at a sample of all Google searches to determine the cities from which we received the most searches for your first term. Then, for those top cities, Google Trends calculates the ratio... The Regions and Languages tabs work just like the Cities tab.

Therefore, the size of the country would affect the results, no?

Posted by: Encyclopedia Brown at May 17, 2006 10:31 AM

On my blog, I did quite a few of these:


Posted by: Ron at May 17, 2006 12:03 PM

We may have came in 10th on that "f" word. But on "asshole" we are number 1.

Posted by: Cathy at May 17, 2006 01:05 PM

I;m sure someone has made this point, but Osama is a common name in some places.

How about "Osama bin Laden"?

Posted by: TallDave at May 17, 2006 02:29 PM

What I found bizarre, is SWEDEN! Thanks for the lesson in "trends"! And you thought you were "behind"!

Posted by: DagneyT at May 18, 2006 06:20 AM

Why Egypt? Because (a) biggest Arab population in the ME, (b) most Web capacity. Metro Cairo is 18m people and a lot of technology. I'm sure the Iranians would love to search on the name, but they lack the links.

Posted by: David A. Smith at May 18, 2006 09:42 AM

Try the most disgusting shit you can think of and Pakistan is always on top (boys, goats etc...).

That's true for boys, goats, horses, cows, and (surprisingly) pigs, but for some reason, for chickens, the #1 searcher is Australia.

Some things, I don't want to know.

Posted by: rosignol at May 19, 2006 05:24 AM

The word "cities" is misspelled as "citites" in the original text.

Posted by: Brother Bark at May 20, 2006 06:11 AM

Michael, What thinks ye of this?

Al Jazeera Network Extra Sharp Extra Clever

Josh Rushing is the new Washington anchor for the new Al Jazeera broadcast studio to come on stream soon.

Josh is an ex-marine corps captain. He was a spokesman for US government information services and decided to decline his commission.

His contacts with Al Jazeera caused him to form the impression they were trying to be an unbiased news reporting agency.

Josh says Al Jazeera ticks off both the East and the West and so can been seen as impartial.

He says that the network is actually four mini networks.

I found that to be interesting. Four mini networks, soon to be five. Decentralizing is a sure fire way to insure survival. No knocking out of head office.

Al Jazeera has been a powerful weapon to leverage the cartoon protest riots and to further other Jihadist moves.

If the powers behind Al Jazeera are pro-fundamentalist, and I have reason to believe they are, then this expansion into the west with Josh as Washington rep, is an ominous manouver.

Ominous because Josh is an extremely intelligent and assuring type. The type who can calmly explain why Hamas websites that encourage children to become martyrs by wearing a bomb vest to a shopping mall is really not so bad, and having liberals accept the logic.

I wonder if the oil rich backers have given Josh an offer he just can*t refuse?

A world recognized news reporting network is in fact a very effective weapon. This is how hundreds of millions of Muslims will be swayed and motivated on all continents eventually. TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at May 28, 2006 12:52 PM

This is a reallll weirddd siteee.. If you ask me.. Oink?

These statistics are laimm because euhmmmm.. Like in Pakistan God .. who has there like internet and stuff? It's impossible that they can reache such a high score ??!!

Not along ago I had statistics at school proving .. that Israel and Germany and the U.S.A. high score on paedophil scams ..

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