Imagine searching your own name on Google, only to find yourself falsely accused of malicious claims on websites with domains like ‘BadGirlReport.date,’ and ‘PredatorsAlert.us.’ You ask the site to remove your name, but its owners demand that you pay a fee to restore your reputation.
This is a common scamming technique found all over the web. Fortunately, Google is finally cracking down on it.
The New York Times reported that Google is changing its algorithms to ensure that these sites are less likely to perform well on SERPs. These sites, which accuse strangers of cheating, stealing, and even sex crimes, typically use SEO tactics to rank high – but these efforts will be nullified if Google’s changes are effective.
Specifically, Google will allow users to report that they are victims of these sites. Google will then remove similar content with their name from SERPs – this feature is called ‘known victims,’ and will also help people whose nude photos have been published to the internet without their consent.
“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,” said Google’s David Graff, the company’s vice president for global policy and standards and trust and safety. “We can’t police the web, but we can be responsible citizens.”
The New York Times calls this “a momentous shift for victims of online slander,” saying that Google “has historically resisted having human judgement play a role in its search engine.”
In fact, the search engine initially rejected requests to block nude photos that were posted without consent in 2011.
A story from the European Union made waves around the world in 2014 when the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ was inducted into the General Data Protection Regulation. This would allow users to request the removal of certain aspects of their personal data from the internet.
North America does not have similar laws – but with Google’s latest changes, we may anticipate a shift in how individual reputations are managed on the web.