A recent report in the New York Times has stated that Google intends to roll out a brand new algorithm update to penalise content containing slanderous and unverified claims about people. The change is said to be a direct result of a previous article run by the New York Times, which highlighted unscrupulous websites who were making money off preying on victims of slander.
The NYT explains how the system works:
“For many years, the vicious cycle has spun: Websites solicit lurid, unverified complaints about supposed cheaters, sexual predators, deadbeats and scammers. People slander their enemies. The anonymous posts appear high in Google results for the names of victims. Then the websites charge the victims thousands of dollars to take the posts down.”
The algorithm change, which is planned to be implemented in the next few months, will stop the predatory websites appearing in the search results when the person’s name is searched. Google have taken it a step further and developed a concept called “known victims” which will prevent victims from being consistently targeted.
Google explain how It works:
“When people report to the company that they have been attacked on sites that charge to remove posts, Google will automatically suppress similar content when their names are searched for. “Known victims” also includes people whose nude photos have been published online without their consent, allowing them to request suppression of explicit results for their names.”
Google State it had No Knowledge of Ongoing Issues
Google claim that, until it was brought to their attention this year, they were unaware of the extent of the problem being brought about by “slander-peddling” websites. Past practice for individuals being slandered was to request a removal of the content from the search results, which in turn would usually mean a demotion for the site publishing the content. The problem of continued harassment after the content was removed is something Google claim to have been unaware of.
Pandu Nayak, Vice President of Google Search, stated in a blog post, what he would like to see the algorithm achieve:
“To help people who are dealing with extraordinary cases of repeated harassment, we’re implementing an improvement to our approach to further protect known victims. Now, once someone has requested a removal from one site with predatory practices, we will automatically apply ranking protections to help prevent content from other similar low quality sites appearing in search results for people’s names. We’re also looking to expand these protections further, as part of our ongoing work in this space.”
Search Will Always Present Challenges
Although the new algorithm will go a long way in helping victims of harassment, Google admit that it will not be a “perfect” solution. Head of Google’s trust and safety policy team, David Graff, told the New York Times:
“I doubt it will be a perfect solution, certainly not right off the bat. But I think it really should have a significant and positive impact. We can’t police the web, but we can be responsible citizens.”
Google are currently testing the changes, comparing old results with new. The New York Times has been conducting their own tests with a list they previously prepared of 47,000 victims written about on slander sites. After searching for people who had previously appeared it was already evident that the changes were having a positive effect as in some cases the malicious content had completely disappeared from the first page.