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Apr 19 2016
by Noemi Griffin

UC Davis Allegedly Paid $175,000 To Scrub Pepper Spray Incident From Google Search Results

By Noemi Griffin - Apr 19 2016

In November 2011 a police officer pepper-sprayed a group of students protesting on the University of California, Davis' campus. The incident originally sparked calls for the resignation of the university’s chancellor and the start of an investigation into the incident.

The protest was apart of the Occupy Wall Street Movement that moved rapidly across the country. 

Now, five years after the incident, California lawmakers are once again calling for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to resign. 

The New York Times reports that the incident is surfacing on the internet once again because of recent findings that the university paid at least $175,000 to two public relations firms to suppress the negative search results generated by its name, and the name of Chancellor Katehi.

One assembly man Mike Gatto took to Twitter to denounce Katehi; 

One of the firms with which Katehi negotiated, Nevins & Associates, based in Maryland, said it would “launch an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor through strategic modifications to existing and future content and generating original content as needed,” according to its contract, which was obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a freedom of information request. 

 The university agreed to pay $15,000 per month for six months.

The Times says that the goal of search scrubbing efforts is to create enough new content to push down the negative results to at least the second page of links in Google search results. Research shows that most people don't look past the first page of Google search results. 

The second firm, Idmloco, of Sacramento, aimed to “achieve a reasonable balance of positive natural search results," rather than scrub all negative search results in it's June 2014 contract with the university. 

That firm was awarded $82,500 for a six-month contract.

Dana Topousis, a university spokeswoman, said that the “increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.”

In total, seven state lawmakers have called on Katehi to step down. The first were assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville; Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; and Evan Low, D-Campbell. Gatto, Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay were the others. 

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Noemi Griffin - Mercer University

Noemi Griffin is a Journalism and Spanish major at Mercer University. Her true passion is dogs and it is truly a great day whenever there is a dog in sight. Instagram: noemioriana Twitter: noemi_oriana

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