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Investigation Finds Links Between Seamy Slander Sites and Reputation-Management Services

Published by Slashdot on Mon, 03 May 2021


This week the New York Times published their online investigation into the seamy world of the professional slander industry. (Alternate URL.) At first glance, the websites appear amateurish. They have names like BadGirlReports.date, BustedCheaters.com and WorstHomeWrecker.com. Photos are badly cropped. Grammar and spelling are afterthoughts. They are clunky and text-heavy, as if they're intended to be read by machines, not humans. But do not underestimate their power... One woman in Ohio was the subject of so many negative posts that Bing declared in bold at the top of her search results that she "is a liar and a cheater"the same way it states that Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States. For roughly 500 of the 6,000 people we searched for, Google suggested adding the phrase "cheater" to a search of their names. The unverified claims are on obscure, ridiculous-looking sites, but search engines give them a veneer of credibility. Posts from Cheaterboard.com appear in Google results alongside Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles.... That would be bad enough for people whose reputations have been savaged. But the problem is all the worse because it's so hard to fix. And that is largely because of the secret, symbiotic relationship between those facilitating slander and those getting paid to remove it. Who, exactly' The Times spoke to: Cyrus Sullivan, the Portland-based owner of one site who also runs a reputation-management service "to help people get 'undesirable information' about themselves removed from their search engine results. The 'gold package' cost $699.99. For those customers, Mr. Sullivan would alter the computer code underlying the offending posts, instructing search engines to ignore them...." 247Removal's owner Heidi Glosser, who "charges $750 or more per post removal, which adds up to thousands of dollars for most of her clients. To get posts removed, she said, she often pays an 'administrative fee' to the gripe site's webmaster. We asked her whether this was extortion. 'I can't really give you a direct answer,' she said." She appeared to have links to...Web developer Vikram Parmar, who seemed to be running several sites that produced slander while also simultaneously running sites that made money by removing that slander.But finally, the Times reminded their readers that "in certain circumstances, Google will remove harmful content from individuals' search results, including links to 'sites with exploitative removal practices.' If a site charges to remove posts, you can ask Google not to list it. "Google didn't advertise this policy widely, and few victims of online slander seem aware that it's an option. That's in part because when you Google ways to clean up your search results, Google's solution is buried under ads for reputation-management services..."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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Infotech Headlines Today
[Sun-16-May-2021]

5 costly and time-consuming mistakes to avoid when starting a side hustle or small business - Business Insider

7 Amazon cloud partners explain how they built thriving businesses while working with a juggernaut that's never been afraid to compete with its own allies (AMZN) - Business Insider

A brief history of NFTs and cryptoart, including interviews with artists who kickstarted the NFT boom, as celebrities and major brands fuel the frenzy (Clive Thompson/New York Times) - Techmeme

A look at apps promising 10-minute grocery delivery in Europe, where VC-backed grocery delivery firms have raised $1.56B in 2021 so far, according to PitchBook (Ryan Browne/CNBC) - Techmeme

A look at Spotify-exclusive "music and talk" podcasts, which let hosts avoid music licensing fees and fair-use legal fights via free access to Spotify catalog (Reggie Ugwu/New York Times) - Techmeme

A Tesla driver, who was killed in a California crash, posted videos of himself riding in Autopilot mode in freeway traffic, say reports - Business Insider

After WhatsApp's privacy policy changes, in the first four months of 2021, Telegram's installs rose 98% YoY and Signal's first-time downloads were up 1,192% YoY (Stephanie Chan/Sensor Tower Blog) - Techmeme

Aides to Joe Biden describe the president as having a 'short fuse' but he never erupts in fits of rage like Donald Trump, report says - Business Insider

Amazon debuts another free video streaming service, this time in India - Engadget

Click to view all Infotech headlines today

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