Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/15/souter_bahrain_activist_theory/

Did Bahraini activists closet anti-gay bus baron?

Controversial knight pays the price of freedom

By Anna Leach

Posted in Bootnotes, 15th September 2011 09:38 GMT

A theory has emerged as to just how the personal website of controversial bus millionaire Brian Souter came to be stuffed deep into Google's closet of invisibility. It appears that the (probably inadvertent) culprits may have been a group of Bahraini freedom fighters.

It's possible that the activists torpedoed the Stagecoach co-founder's website accidentally - as a by-product of their attempts to sidestep their government's web snooping and blocking. SEO expert Yousaf Sekander theorises as much in a blog post. Reg readers on Twitter had similar suspicions.

Sir Brian - who drew criticism in 2000 for backing the Section 28 ban on schools promoting homosexuality to kids - was left fuming after his personal site was inexplicably dumped from Google results for "Brian Souter". His PR team accused the Chocolate Factory of censorship and are threatening to bring the case to the UK Parliament for investigation.

But the closeting of Sir Brian may well be the inadvertent work of a Bahraini activist, rather than any equal rights champion within the Googleplex.

Our investigation was triggered after the bus knight's PR spotted an unofficial copy of briansouter.com cropping up at www.briansouter.com.14feb-youth.com. Sekhander told us it's likely that this dodgy duplicate has enraged Google's web spiders, which punish websites that carry identical content on different URLs.

One man's freedom fighter is another man's search engine headache

14feb-youth.com supports the Bahraini youth movement and serves as a censorship-dodging proxy: you can visit other sites by simply popping the web address in front of .14feb-youth.com like this: www.bbc.co.uk.14feb-youth.com.

Presumably this lets repressed netizens in Bahrain bypass their government's internet ban on particular URLs. As far as Google is concerned, anyone linking to a .14feb-youth.com URL creates a duplicate site and someone must have done this to Sir Stagecoach's website, Sekhander suggests.

Bahrain, along with Russia and Turkey, is listed as a country where web users are under surveillance - according to a report by Reporters Without Borders.

Why Bahrainis - or persons elsewhere - were looking up the personal website of an anti-gay bus baron via 14feb-youth.com is still clouded in mystery. ®

Bootnote

Meanwhile, we note that briansouter.com has now moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Google results for Brian Souter.