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Fake News Sites and "Authority"

     
11:06 am on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hundreds of fake local news sites have been launched in the U.S. in recent months. The sites purportedly represent cities located in important swing states for future U.S. elections. They are designed to look like legitimate news sites, but their real purpose is to spread lies and mis-information about the candidates of a particular political party.

Undoubtedly a lot of professional SEO is being used to try to boost the rankings of these new bogus sites in the search engines.

I hope that google's algorithm is well-prepared to defend the search rankings against this attack. The effectiveness of the "authority" parts of the algorithm will clearly be very important.
3:45 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Mods Note Please remember this is the Google SEO section and to be careful keeping your comments within the SEO perspective. If you want to talk about Google's business, please head to the Google Business section. Off topic comments will be deleted.
8:21 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The question Aristotle is posing does not look off topic to me and implies whether SEO should be based on some kind of ethical code or not, besides more trivial issues such as black hat techniques, spamming, and the like. Fake news SEO is a real problem and a quantum leap in the Internet ethical standards discussion.
10:26 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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riccarbi -- Maybe I should have said "professional black-hat specialists" instead. At any rate this operation is probably very well funded and can afford to pay whatever it takes to get the needed expertise.

But I'm mainly looking at it from the point of view of what can google do, or has already done, to combat this type of operation.
11:42 pm on Oct 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Only G knows what G can do, or what G wants to do.

However, what has been true from immediately after the first commercial adaptation of the web is that the illegal, the immoral, and the fattening have been the impetuous of change.

I've always learned more of the sharp edges from observing such contrarians behaviours and designs; by the time such things are discussed in fora or at conferences they tend to be at or past best before date.

The problem with sharps is that many/most can't or don't think before using and then complain when they get cut. Increasing we live in a cut 'n' paste frameworks script kiddies web. Of course this also increasingly means that opportunities abound...

Google's greatest strength is their algos, Google's greatest weakness is their algos. Never forget that G can only infer from implicit signals and that is a Bermuda Triangle sized hole of opportunity. For some indeterminate finite period. For short term (or short sighted) business models. Or for those leveraging propaganda. None of the web platforms handle this with any level of competence, often requiring manual after occurrence intervention.
8:58 am on Oct 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Google's greatest strength is their algos, Google's greatest weakness is their algos.


Right. The problem is how much Google infers a website's "authority" from backlinks.
I am getting requests for paid articles "with a do-follow link to our client's website" almost daily, usually from some guy with an eastern-European surname and an office in London, and I've always turned them down.
At the same time, Google's move to include paid links directly in the SERP, above organic results, has made to manipulate users' behaviors pretty easy, as long as you can pay for it.
It's way too easy today, for those who have deep pockets, to buy a gazillion of backlinks and/or to pay Google in order to overcome any really authoritative website in Google's SERP.
Is this an SEO problem? Of course, it is.
I have never considered using Adwords an SEO technique, it's just advertising IMHO. Yet, using Adwords and/or paying (directly or indirectly) for backlinks with a view to manipulating the SERP are "tricks" many "SEO professionals" are using and misusing these days. And they seem to work, unfortunately.
3:42 pm on Oct 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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What "fake news" algorithms will inevitably do (and are already doing, if what I see is anything to go by) is push corporate media to the top of rankings, and drown out independent websites (despite, say, things like ABC's own recent fake video clip controversy). What an algorithm deems "authoritative" may not necessarily be any more true than anything else.

I just see a future where smaller websites in general get less and less exposure. Careful what you wish for.
4:25 pm on Oct 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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BoredMeteor -- So you're suggesting that google's attempt to block deceptive websites by using signals of authority and trust, has the unfortunate side effect of also blocking many small legitimate sites.

Of course you're not the first member of WebmasterWorld to make this point. Most likely google is also aware of this problem and would like to solve it too.

But sometimes in this world innocent people have to pay a price for what bad people do.
4:41 am on Oct 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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G's algos can find these things fairly easily .... the change/commitment this time around is g knows law-makers and legislators are paying attention this time around and any "failure" on g's part might invite an inquiry they simply cannot survive.

Along the way it is likely false positives will take out perfectly sound sites, mostly those that do not fall into the short list of "major media" publishers with business ties to g (and FB, etc) ... the "authoritative" sites.

I can't think of any "seo" that can overcome those relationships and have no real suggestions for how to deal with what is going to happen in 2020.
 

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