Orwell Would Be Proud of BP

Company makes it almost impossible to miss its oil spill spin

This page was published 13 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

The company formerly known as "Beyond Petroleum" is at it again.

In its latest effort to lasso the messaging on the disaster in the Gulf, BP recently purchased several phrases like "oil spill" on Google and Yahoo search engines so that the first item people see when searching these terms is BP’s official Web site.

"Learn more about how BP is helping," reads the text alongside the link to the BP site, positioned at the very top of a Google search page. After clicking on the link, users are drawn into BP’s sanitized version of the spill, complete with inspiring images of cleanup workers and men and women looking appropriately concerned about the issue at hand.

According to a spokesperson for the oil giant, BP’s motive for purchasing the search terms was completely innocent.

Toby Odone, a BP spokesman, explained to ABC News that "We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer."

How very thoughtful of BP! Of course, another way to look at this Orwellian attempt at message control is that BP is desperately trying to rebuild the company’s oil-stained image by making it more difficult for people to find oil spill news that’s actually news rather than just public relations spin.

If this nefarious marketing tactic leaves a bad taste in your mouth, consider calling BP, which on its Web site encourages people to contact the company if they have any ideas on how to help the company during its time of need. Perhaps you could suggest that instead of spending millions of dollars on TV advertising and message control, that money might be better spent elsewhere, like on capping and cleaning up the spill, financially supporting the families whose lives have been destroyed by this disaster and backing stronger regulations so that the same mistakes that caused this spill to happen aren’t repeated.

Now that would be helping.

Jessica is a former award-winning journalist. She enjoys wild places and dispensing justice, so she considers her job here to be a pretty amazing fit.