Last week we discussed SEO Countermeasures
and Content Countermeasures
that are hurting the structure and information flow of the internet; today, we will take the conversation a step further. The lack of honesty in the reputation and information sharing services is one problem, but what happens when we ask the same questions in regard to political and legal questions.
Political and Anti-Science SEO Content Countermeasures
Anyone who has a family member on the Newsmax Spam List knows all too well the problems with misinformation and dishonest content promotions. For years, false information, fed to the masses has been the hallmark of political propaganda. Both right and left are equally guilty of this dishonest practice, and it seems both will turn blue in the face complaining about how dishonest the other is. Pushed articles are common place for the purpose of having multiple sites replicate the same false story, over and over, and then link to each other to offer a seemingly relevant citation. Again, this requires an audience that is predisposed to believe that a specific viewpoint is possible or likely.
Sites like Politifact, Snopes, Hoax-Slayer, FactChecker, and many others have become the bane of the political fringes who WANT their preconceived ideals to be realized in the most obvious of dishonest rallies.
The proliferation of the political scams is two fold; the first goal being to direct public opinion by preaching to a choir, the second being to drive traffic to sites filled with products aligned with the content itself. Many of the Natural News (and its affiliates site's) articles are solely produced to push traffic to their product affiliate sites for purchasing books or 'natural remedies". The traffic for survivalists will take them to sites promoting solar water heaters and wood-burning stoves (sold at ridiculously expensive prices at that). The scam site method is fairly simple, it only requires having a bunch of sheep ready to repost network stories for ad and clickbaited traffic. Often, most of the reproduction sites will be owned by the same group as the originating site.
The SEO methods used by reposting false information include medical info as well. In spite of medical science, the proliferation of false claims on medical needs is growing by the day. People, convinced in spite of science, that medical needs like vaccinations and treatments are some form of evil scam to make people sick (irony being that they avoiding the vaccines increases sickness) are increasingly promoting false narratives at the behest of their blogger overlords. Often, this information will be completely void of even the most basic scientific study. Again, Natural News is a notorious for the use of down-line blogging to perpetuate its SEO Content Countermeasures to recognized science. You may ask, "why would they do this to sell a few books?", and in doing so you will be asking a legitimate question. The answer is simple, they make millions off of affiliate book sales, vitamin sales, and training/event sales associated with the topics they push. In the end, the irony is that they claim the motivation for medical science to promote medical cures is money, while in the end, it is their own primary purpose. Obviously, Natural News and its many clone sites is an easy target, but it certainly isn't the only one. Often the hoax stories used on its network are dusted off months or years later to replicate the same affiliate gains. Even after pointed out to be the obvious lies they are, the dedicated who desire it to be true will promote the false stories without question.
Ultimately, public safety is put into jeopardy by these groups because of the purposeful direction of the public to act in a manner that is contrary to their health or basic common sense. Yes, the people who fall for and repromote this misinformation are guilty of being naive, gullible and ignorant, but those leading them by the snout are doing so in a way that is blatantly irresponsible and places large populations in danger... all to make a buck and push agendas.
Using SEO and Content Countermeasures to Hide Criminal and Legal Data
Someone will always be trying to invent a better mousetrap, but what happens when the mousetrap itself is under attack? People entrust their futures, businesses and family welfare to background and identity checks; what happens when the information gained from them is bogus? The answer is simple, the system fails those who deserve to know enough to protect themselves, their businesses and their families.
People of ill repute and those with a past worth hiding use SEO Countermeasures and Content Manipulation to promote a fictitious form of themselves so that their past, present and future victims are blind to the actual threats the individual can hold. We ran into a typical scammer recently who had an intricate manner of hiding reports of his previous scams. He produced so many member and blog accounts in his own name that even articles about his scams from Ripoff Report and NY Times were pushed to page 10.
Many are getting in on this option; from legal offenders to financial swindlers, the option allows them at least one more hustle and a crowd of people unable to find the sourced information about the scammer's history. The scammer mentioned above even went so far as to seek legal orders to force google to hide search results mentioning his name (since he apparently trademarked himself). As a result, attempts to find accurate information on this person who has scammed and stolen from so many are often in vain.
The "push down" effect of Content Countermeasures and SEO Tactics used for these dishonest means are likely to persist. Google has given no indication that is has a real solution to counter the SEO Countermeasures being deployed. Google attempted to kill the duplicate content and spun material game, but only so much can be done when some of these scammers are running hundreds of accounts and sites to keep a clean image. They're wolves and their fake wool consists of the SEO Content and descriptors of themselves used to promote the false narrative.
We can hope that they will finally be curtailed, but they appear to be a constant from generation to generation. These are the same sad sacks that would be selling snake oil and 'miracle cures" in the 1800's. The unfortunate reality is that Content Countermeasures are only the latest tool of those who wish to defraud their fellows. That they have learned how to manipulate SEO techniques for these scams is only the latest step in a long walk. We can only assume that their growth online will continue, marking less honesty and more skepticism.