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Google is fighting back against exploitative, slanderous websites

Google is updating its search algorithms to prevent sites from filling search results with unsubstantiated defamatory claims about individuals. New York Times reports. The changes follow a recent series of reports from Times, which found a large site with sites that host unconfirmed and potentially life-threatening claims about individuals, along with an industry of other services that promise to remove the infringing content from search results for significant fees.

The search giant is making a number of changes to the rankings to combat the sites, as Google’s Vice President of Global Policy and Standards and Trust and Security David Graff said would ultimately have a “significant and positive impact”

; on those affected. Now, when users report that they have been exposed to these sites using the existing process, Google will register the person as a “known victim” and will automatically “suppress” similar results for their name, Times sier.

This is an important shift in terms of how these sites work, where posts are routinely retrieved from one site and republished over a dozen more. The Times even conducted an experiment in which it created such a post about its own reporter, only to see an initial crop of five posts spawn 21 more over a network of 15 sites. Google’s changes can help prevent these many posts from clogging up search results. The NEW reported that completely taking down the posts would have cost it around $ 20,000. Some sites and services have reportedly charged upwards of $ 700 to remove each post.

Some of the changes have reportedly already taken effect, with more coming in the coming months, however Times reports that own tests have highlighted initial problems with the approach. Although it says that posts “for the most part” had disappeared for some users, it notes that Google’s changes did not seem to have caught a new slander page, which may not have received the amount of complaints to put it on Google’s radar yet. For others, however, the new process seemed to work better, with posts disappearing from the first page of text and image results.

“Over the years, our approach to improving quality issues in search rankings has been consistent: we do not take the approach of ‘fixing’ individual questions, but we take these examples and look for ways to make broad algorithmic improvements,” said Pandu Nayak, head of Google’s search quality team. , said in a statement. “Our ability to solve problems has improved with better technology, tools and quality signals, and today we are able to take a more nuanced approach to addressing specific classes of issues. But the underlying principles remain the same. ”

The move represents the latest shift away from Google’s original self-proclaimed role as an impartial provider of results. Back in 2004, the company said the results “were generated completely objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google.” But over the years, this position has softened, especially in light of legislation such as the EU’s “right to be forgotten.” This means that the company is playing an increasingly important role online, even beyond the 90 percent of global searches it currently handles.

Updated June 10, 11:38 AM ET: Updated with a statement from Google.

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