Friday, September 22, 2006

Paris in Washington

If you follow web statistics at all -- posted in places like Technorati or Google -- you may already be aware of this fun fact: for the past three years, "" continues to be one of the most common search terms in various top-ten lists that represent the words and phrases that are typed into computer interfaces by Internet users day after day and year after year.

If you follow Virtualpolitik, you may also be aware that I have an occasional feature about where particular, possibly embarrassing, terms appear on .gov sites. For example, in the past I have recorded the results from official government web pages for "masturbation" and "videogames." So I thought that it was time to try my luck with "Paris Hilton," and I have to admit I was surprised by the number of government agencies that had materials on the drunk-driving heiress, mediocre synth-pop songstress, and reality show TV star.

For example, there was a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about the "Paris Hilton tax break" by Barack Obama, Diana DeGette, Louise Slaughter, and Harry Reid about the Internet's favorite leggy blonde. It was smart on their part to ensure that there was either labeling or metadata so "Paris Hilton" would be picked up by search engines, given the number of accidental visitors that the term could bring to their sites.

Of course, fans of Intellectual Property Law can read about Paris Hilton's trademark application, to be associated with "fragrances, namely, perfumes, eau de parfum, cologne, eau de toilet, body lotion, bath gel, hand soap, perfumed soap and cosmetics."

A NASA website on women's issues even cites a now defunct Hilton web page, ""! The National Center for Education Statistics, one of my favorite organizations since it addresses issues about writing proficiency, has a Hilton hit as well, which leads to an essay by a youngster.

Surprisingly many fields are represented in the search. The IRS commissioner expresses some implied envy over Hilton's web presence, while also taking pride in the web traffic for e-filing. A newsletter from the National Institutes of Health takes a swipe at Hilton's fad pet, a "kinkajou, whose natural habitat isn’t the nightclub." A science and engineering website uses a Yahoo article on Hilton as an example of security problems with "mobile gizmos."

There's also a lot of not-so-veiled sexism. For example, the Arizona Agriculture Department bestializes the celebrity: "If Paris Hilton were a horse, she would probably be an Arabian. If she passed the I.Q. test. Arabians are trim, delicate, beautiful and pampered as if they were celebrity jet-setters. But they're also said to be the smartest horses."

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