Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is already sunk — at least on Google.
Users are reporting that the former vice president’s official 2020 campaign page is nowhere to be found on the first page of results for the search term “Joe Biden.”
Even worse for the Democratic front-runner: A realistic-looking parody site featuring images of Biden touching women and children appears to be doing quite well on Google and other major search engines, particularly for the search “Joe Biden website.”
“Joe Biden has a good feel for the American people and knows exactly what they really want deep down,” reads JoeBiden.info, the parody site. “He’s happy to open up and reveal himself to voters and will give a pounding to anybody who gets in his way!”
Biden has been under scrutiny after a number of women made allegations that he touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. After those allegations surfaced, Biden pledged to be more respectful.
Biden’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The internet snafu suggests the Biden campaign is having early difficulty with its digital operation. That could pose trouble for the 76-year-old as he competes in a field that has already proven to be savvy with new tools for online outreach and fundraising.
The problem has also emerged despite the Biden campaign’s prolific spending on Google.
An online tracker maintained by the progressive digital advertising firm ACRONYM shows the Biden campaign has spent more than $360,000 on Google platforms, racking up more spending on the site than all the other candidates in the crowded field except Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
While his official campaign page is absent, Google does prominently display an official Biden advertisement for Biden-related searches.
The person who created the site is not named, and a disclaimer claims it is not funded “by any candidate, committee, organization, or PAC.”
In response to an inquiry from CNBC submitted through the parody website’s contact form, the person behind it wrote that they identify as “closest to a libertarian.” The person said they are an American citizen and that they have not been contacted by any candidate or organization about the website.
A screenshot taken of JoeBiden.info, a parody site mocking former Vice President Joe Biden, May 3, 2019.
“I would assume Biden’s campaign knows about it though by now,” the person wrote. “I get thousands of Biden supporters coming to the site every day who fail to realize that it is a parody — asking for volunteer information, donation information, suggestions on how to handle the [Anita Hill] situation, or criticizing his use of ‘All men are created equal’ — no joke. “
The person posted screenshots to a popular pro-Donald Trump Reddit thread last month purporting to be from Biden supporters.
“I created the site before he launched his campaign and the site garnered a fair amount of traffic from Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit — especially on April Fool’s day,” the person said. “I think these factors combined with good [search engine optimization] practices resulted in it ranking very well on Google and Bing.”
The person wrote that they haven’t paid to advertise the site, and that the only money contributed to the effort was a small amount spent purchasing the domain. The person also has parody domains related to Sens. Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, the person said. But, they noted, the Biden parody has been the “most viral.”
It’s unclear when the parody page began outranking the official site in search results, though users on Twitter reported the issue late last month.
“The surprise here is not that someone is trolling Biden, but that his official site is nowhere to be seen on the first page of results for prominent ‘Biden 2020’ search phrases, and that a derogatory parody page shows up at the top,” journalist Jonathan Walczak wrote in an April 25 tweet.
Walczak wrote that the parody page was the top result for the searches “Biden 2020 website” on Google and for “Biden 2020” on Bing. “Biden 2020” and “Biden 2020 website” did not surface the real page on Google at the time, he wrote.
— CNBC’s Jason Mandragona contributed to this report.
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