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Google Search Suggestions and Derogatory Words
tedster




msg:4057938
 9:50 pm on Jan 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

A recent court ruling in France [webmasterworld.com] required Google to remove the French word for "scam" or "swindle" from the Google Suggestions for a certain company.

Google has always maintained that the Suggestions are set algorithmically and they shouldn't be required to make such changes. I'm happy with the French ruling, because Google's position has always seemed naive to me, at best.

It is common for people to make searches that include words like "scam", and "lawsuit" in order to perform due diligence and check out a company. The Google Suggestions algorithm just seems to pick up the search activity and, voila, you've got a nasty bit of potential defamation included in the Suggestions box -- even if there is little or nothing online about the topic.

I've seen this happen with "Searches related to" suggestions as well, when clicking on the link sometimes provides only one or even no results! I'd say this is an algorithm in dire need of attention. Google should not be so academic as to ignore the effect that their Suggestion can have on a company's reputation.

Even if it is automated, Google is still publishing the suggestion. That means they should be subject to all laws related to defamation, slander and libel - in my opinion (IANAL). Google is working very hard and very cleverly to amass great amounts of power. They need to match that power with even greater amounts of responsibility.

 

TheMadScientist




msg:4058771
 1:49 am on Jan 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I do this type of query all the time. If there is something bad about a product or service, then I want to find that information fast. Google saves me some typing.

Yeah, it's tough to type all those extra characters...
I'm surprised the French didn't change the laws to accommodate them, aren't you?
(Think about how miserable all the people in France must be now that they have to type the whole search in...)

My apology for the sarcasm. It just seems like a really poor argument to (IMO) imply convenience should have any bearing on the law governing a business, which is basically what saying (in paraphrase, IMO), 'but it's ok because it's easier for me', seems to say. Maybe I'm misinterpreting the statement or something, but 'easy of use' seems like a poor argument for 'it's ok for Google to make derogatory suggestions' when other business cannot do the same, again, IMO.

BTW: Do they provide endorsements to offset the negatives they provide in the suggestions?

Do you have evidence they don't? I can find evidence they do.

I asked a question I didn't know the answer to because as I think I fairly clearly stated I haven't seen it or don't remember seeing it, like with the searches someone posted about different religions earlier in this thread...

I sure didn't see too much positive suggested and definitely saw some negatives, which leads me to be able to draw two possible conclusions: Three of the most popular / widespread religions on the face of the planet don't have enough positive links or people who search for positives about them to get anything positive included in the suggestions OR maybe if it looks like an endorsement from Google for certain searches or search types or possibly all search types they could have some legal liability or other 'negative factor' so they already write their algo to exclude certain types of suggestions?

Reno




msg:4058782
 2:16 am on Jan 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I did not realize this problem existed until Tedster's posting. I can see a scenario where a team of black hats hit Google with a series of queries over a given time period, from different IPs around the country, the only intention being to associate negative words with a particular company. Eventually, that's what could pop up in the suggested search phrases. An ugly way to do business, but almost certainly fair game to the scorch & burn crowd.

........................

copemedia




msg:4058834
 4:22 am on Jan 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

^^^ Already happening.

oodlum




msg:4062608
 1:47 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is most infuriating. Google currently auto-suggests "MYBRAND scam" and the top result is a complaints site that says "MYBRAND scam - there are no results for MYBRAND". Perversly, thanks to google's suggestion it is only a matter of time before that page fills up with false complaints.

I could crate and SEO pages with a positive spin on the search term but ultimately that will just add more fuel to the auto-suggest fire.

BillyS




msg:4062614
 2:49 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

seems like a poor argument for 'it's ok for Google to make derogatory suggestions' when other business cannot do the same, again, IMO.

This statement is laughable. Are you suggesting that Google is a person?

I'm surprised the French didn't change the laws to accommodate them, aren't you?

I hope you're not suggesting that just because a law exists in a country, it makes sense.

whitenight




msg:4062617
 2:59 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

This statement is laughable. Are you suggesting that Google is a person?

Under every known law in the Western world, a COMPANY OR CORPORATION is considered a "person".
So yes, the law considers them a PERSON, with all the various sub-personalities, differing motivations, rights and SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES as any other person would have.

I hope you're not suggesting that just because a law exists in a country, it makes sense.

You're not suggesting that Goog get to do whatever they want because YOU, PERSONALLY, think it "makes sense" or "doesn't make sense", are you?

So yea, in this argument, the LAW wins.
Kinda always works that way whether those laws are just or not.

JS_Harris




msg:4062719
 9:46 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

I disagree

I think that if Google is tying the word SCAM to a company name it's because websites exist that claim the company is a SCAM. The lawsuit should have been filed against those sites, not Google. If those sites are shut down Google can't display them, if those sites aren't well trafficked they can't be shown as popular, etc.

Don't shoot the messenger.

oodlum




msg:4062745
 11:08 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think that if Google is tying the word SCAM to a company name it's because websites exist that claim the company is a SCAM

This is not the case. Google isn't perfect, and in it's error (negligence) it is actively damaging my brand.

Currently not a single site in the index actually claims (MYBRAND) is a scam, but there are plenty of sites that say it ISN'T a scam like some others, and Google has put the two words together and is now creating a self-fulfilling situation where people are being invited to call my brand a scam.

To compound the situation they have then ranked an empty complaints board page #1 which says "MYBRAND scam - there are NO reports for MYBRAND". How long before this fills up with complaints because Google first suggested my brand was a scam, then sent them to the complaints page to report it?

Their negligence is damaging my trademark. Period. The integrity of my brand is one of my crucial points of difference, in an industry full of scammers.

PM me and I'll be happy to share the details for you to verify my claim.

In fact the more I think about it the more I realise I need to get a lawyer involved before the damage is irrevocable.

BillyS




msg:4063048
 7:33 pm on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Under every known law in the Western world, a COMPANY OR CORPORATION is considered a "person".

Huh? You've completely missed the point I made, but this is quickly turning into a Google rant thread and when that happens logic no longer prevails.

And yes, I don't believe in all the laws of the world and I'm unwilling to follow them into the sea like a lemming.

tedster




msg:4063089
 8:22 pm on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

oodlum, you've described exactly the type of situation that I'm concerned about and have wrestled with in the past year.

There's no reason I can see to include a search suggestion (or a related search for that matter) if that search results in no content, or even very low content. This is the area where I'd say Google needs to tune up the Search Suggestion algorithm. Search volume alone is too noisy a signal, and offering a suggestion that has no real results is both a lousy search experience and carries negative implications for those who DON'T click on the suggestion.

You know, it's something like the old "when did you stop beating your wife" question, except there's no malicious intent on Google's part. It's an unforeseen consequence of their current implementation, and they should fix it.

dstiles




msg:4063207
 10:37 pm on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

This topic is now relating back to the About Us type of site discussed elsewhere on webmasterworld.

There are an increasing number of sites that try to make advertising revenue through abuse of whois by claiming to show all sorts of information about a site/company but which in fact has either scraped the company's site or, if their bots have been banned, has no content at all or a snide comment suggesting that it's unsporting of us not to fill in our details.

Yet those sites, as with the "not a scam" sites mentioned above, rate highly, often above the site they've scraped. Such sites are often large and exist soley for pushing adverts. They are, in fact, scam sites in themselves "Come and see what info we have about this site... Sorry, none... But while you're here, how about upping our (google) advert revenue."

I'm not certain how such sites get into google in the first place. Do they really have massive databases containing every keyword for my site? If not, how can google rate them top of the list? Do the sites have a scam report on every site, even if the report is "no scam", or do they create these on the fly? If, as I suspect, its along the lines of Amazon "Buy dstiles at Amazon!" then it's really down to google to turn away "empty" or "no real content" sites from the top slots. Better, push them right to the end of the SERPS where they belong.

It is way past time for google to act responsibly.

Although, to be fair, they do seem to return reasonable results for the phrase google scam. :)

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