According to The New York Times, Google is altering its search algorithms to prevent sites from populating search results with unverified defamatory accusations about individuals.
The revisions come after a series of exposes by the New York Times that revealed a massive web of sites that publish unconfirmed and potentially life-threatening allegations about individuals, as well as an industry of other businesses that promise to remove the offending content from search results for a price.
To battle the sites, Google is making a number of modifications to its rankings, which David Graff, Google’s vice president of global policy and standards, trust, and safety, said should have a “substantial and positive impact” for individuals affected in the long run.
According to the New York Times, when people use Google’s pre-existing mechanism to report they’ve been a victim of these sites, Google will now mark them as “known victims” and “hide” comparable results for their name.
It’s a significant move, given how these sites work, with material routinely copied from one site and reproduced on over a dozen others. The New York Times even tried creating one of these pieces about one of its own reporters, only to have an initial harvest of five postings sprout 21 more throughout a network of 15 sites.
Google’s modifications may be able to alleviate the clutter of search results caused by these numerous posts. According to the New York Times, completely removing the posts would have cost roughly $20,000. According to reports, individual sites and businesses charged upwards of $700 for each post to be removed.
Some of the modifications are said to have already taken effect, with more to follow in the months ahead, although the Times claims that its own testing has revealed some early issues with the strategy.
Although it claims that posts had “largely” vanished for some users, it also points out that Google’s adjustments did not appear to have captured a new slander site, which may not have gotten enough complaints to catch Google’s attention yet. Others, on the other hand, seem to benefit from the new procedure, with content disappearing from the first page of text and image results.
”Over the years, our approach to solving quality concerns in search ranking has remained consistent: we don’t “fix” individual inquiries, but we look at these cases and seek for methods to make broad algorithmic improvements,” said Pandu Nayak, the leader of Google’s search quality team.
“With better technology, tools, and quality signals, our capacity to resolve issues has improved, and we can now take a more nuanced approach to certain classes of inquiries. However, the fundamental ideas remain the same.”
The move is the latest departure from Google’s original self-proclaimed status as a neutral result provider. The business claimed in 2004 that its results were “totally objectively created and are independent of the ideas and inclinations of people who work at Google.
” However, in light of regulations such as the EU’s “right to be forgotten,” this viewpoint has softened over time. It means the corporation is taking on a bigger role on the internet than the 90 percent of global queries it presently handles.