Google will update its search algorithm to discourage slander extortion schemes

Google will downplay sites that exist mainly to attack people.

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Jon Fingas
June 10th, 2021
Concept du licenciement arbitraire et de la discrimination avec une femme montrée du doigt, qui est accusée avant d’être renvoyée de son travail.
Pict Rider via Getty Images

Extortionists thrive on posting online slander that costs a fortune to take down, and Google wants to put a stop to it. The company told the New York Times that it's changing its search algorithm to prevent slander sites from surfacing when you look for a person's name. The company also recently implemented a "known victims" system that will suppress these sites if you report attacks.

While some measures are already in place, others are slated to take effect in the months ahead. Google VP David Graff was quick to warn this wouldn't be a "perfect solution," but hoped that it would have a "significant and positive" effect.

The move comes partly in response to a Times piece from April highlighting slander site practices. As Graff added, though, these sites are also guilty of "gaming [the] system" — this is as much about ensuring fair page rankings as it is protecting people against extortion schemes. In theory, the changes Google is making could help everyone.

With that said, the anti-slander effort also highlights the sheer clout Google has through its search engine. If it's possible to destroy someone's reputation simply because a trashy post ranks high on Google's search results, that suggests the company has an outsized influence on the internet as a whole.

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