Amazon has been plagued by counterfeiters, fraudsters and crooks who use tactics like fake reviews to goose sales of their products; the company keeps cracking down on these activities, but despite using measures so broad that they destroy the livelihoods of legitimate sellers, Amazon is losing the war on crooked sellers.
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If you want to get a piece of information removed from the internet, there are few tools more powerful that a court judgment saying that it is defamatory. A judgment like that will get Google to de-index the result and frighten most web-hosts into getting rid of it. So it follows that the sleaziest end of the "reputation management" industry has occupied itself with securing these court orders at high volumes and low costs. Read the rest
Google is downranking websites that use pejorative, racist terms like n*gger, so the awful people of 4chan and /pol/ are replacing that word with "google." Read the rest
In 2014, an Indian company called Aglaya brought a 20-page brochure to ISS World (AKA the Wiretappers' Ball -- the annual trade fair where governments shop for surveillance technology): the brochure laid out the company's offerings, which ranged from mobile malware for Ios and Android to a unique "Weaponized Information" selection that combined denial-of-service with disinformation to "discredit a target" online. Read the rest
If you've ever locked yourself out of your home and googled for a locksmith, you've seen that it's virtually impossible to reach a real local locksmith. Read the rest
Kashmir Hill invented a totally imaginary business -- "Freakin’ Awesome Karaoke Express" or FAKE -- and paid people on Fiverr to follow it on Twitter with thousands of fake accounts, and to flood Yelp and Facebook with positive reviews. Before long, people were calling her and asking her to take their money in exchange for a nonexistent karaoke truck. Read the rest
Old, highly-retweeted tweets in which I was @'ed keep getting RT'ed by fake twitterbots whose profile photos, bios and names are randomly composited from other Twitter users; they follow each other and spawn at an alarming rate. Read the rest
The City of Seattle paid $17,500 to Brand.com to enhance the "online reputation" of City Light, its public utility, and Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, asking them to "lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories" in search results for the utility or the CEO, who was the highest-paid public employee in the city, with a salary of $245,000.
It's not clear what sort of bad news about Carrasco or City Light Brand.com was trying to push off the front page of Google results, but their promised methodology included placing favorable paid articles with the Huffington Post and Examiner.com, as well as "doctorate level content" written by "influential bloggers."
The Huffington Post says that it was unaware if Damon Banks, the writer who published a favorable piece about Carrasco and his utility, was being paid by Brand.com, but if he was, they'd no longer accept work from him. Banks did not reply to a request for comment from the Seattle Times.
Here's the action plan [PDF] that the city and Brand.com drew up for City Light and Carrasco's online reputation polishing. Read the rest
Tim got an email from someone trying to get rid of comment spams -- ever since Google started punishing sites that left comment spam on blogs, this has been going on a lot. When Tim told the guy to buzz off, he threatened Tim with sabotage by means of Google's "Disavow" tool, growing progressively more abusive as Tim stood his ground. Read the rest
Remember Baybrook Remodelers, Ken Carney's Connecticut-based construction company who bully and sue disgruntled customers who leave negative reviews on Yelp and other sites? Well, now they've hired an SEO creep called Todd Ramos, who is hassling Techdirt to try and get their post about Baybrook taken down.
Ramos's campaign tactics include smearing Baybrook's victim (referring to her over and and over again as a "crazy woman"), and inventing imaginary conversations with Boing Boing in which we are said to be considering removing our own coverage. For the record, we are not. He also claims that we were hired by Baybrook's victim to post uncomplimentary things about Baybrook (we were not). And he claims to have "600 bloggers and 20000 blog as ranging in pr 4 to 7" through which he will smear Techdirt if they don't remove the post.
The most cack-handed part of this whole thing is that its founder, Mike Masnick actually coined the term "The Streisand Effect" to describe the knock-on publicity that arises from censorship attempts, because the attempt at censorship is often more newsworthy than the information that is under dispute. Read the rest
The RIAA says Google doesn't list the sites it likes highly enough on search result pages. Masnick on TechDirt nails 'em to the wall: "For everyone else in the world, if they're not satisfied with how the sites they favor rank in Google, they learn a little something about search engine optimization. But, noooooooo, not the RIAA. They think that it is a requirement that Google be tailored to them directly." Read the rest
There are three things very wrong in this article at Livestrong.com, which my friend Meredith Yayanos pointed me to just now via Twitter. One, "nutrition" and "Velveeta" used in the same sentence at a website associated with cancer prevention and treatment. Two, the message in the yellow band—probably something they want to downplay right now, but no-one has gotten around to updating on the site. And the third is the real kicker, but you'll have to read the copy closely to find it.
The Livestrong dot-com site is basically a content farm populated with Turked-out SEO-bait by Demand Media; the dot-org is where the cancer advocacy organization does its thing. Read the rest
An SEO company called Guardlex sent a bizarre legal demand to the Big Pink Cookie blog saying that they represented a client that BPC had linked to, and that this link had damaged its googlejuice, and that this was illegal and that BPC had to cease and desist or face the consequences. The letter was from Jacob Getman, who works in the "Anti Piracy Department" -- implying that linking to a website constitutes "piracy" in the topsy-turvy world of SEO scumbags.
It has come to our attention that your website (or website hosted by your company) contains links to the [name removed] company website (URL removed) which results in material financial loses to the company we represent.
This material financial loss is due to search engine penalties resulting from the links originating under your control...
It is our understanding; the links in question have not been authorized for use by our client, its agents, or the law.
Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed above.
I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by [removed] company, its agents, or the law.
I further declare under penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of the trademark holder and that the information in this letter is accurate.
I'm sad to say that this appears to be the kind of legalcomic dipshittery that will come to define the coming century. Read the rest
I get a ton of spam sent to my personal WordPress site, which is evidently sent using some kind of toolkit for would-be SEO scumbags. The spams use the SEO-target's URL as the sender's web-page, and consist of a bland, usually mildly positive, usually ungrammatical comment.
This morning, I woke up to find that someone who was new to the tool (or unclear on the concept) had left a spam with all of the default comment messages in it, dumping the full database of anodyne comments intended to fool both the spam-filter and the human operator into thinking that the sender had read the post and was replying to it. The comments are necessarily generic, as they are meant to apply to literally any WordPress post on any site, ever. I wonder if the poor grammar and odd phrasing is deliberate, intended to make human moderators less suspicious and to lead them to think that some earnest foreigner is trying desperately to compliment them across the language barrier.
The comments also tend to invite replies, with mild complaints about RSS errors and layout problems. They mention spouses, cousins and friends. All in all, they're a curious collection of spammers' hypotheses about what will appeal to the vanity and goodwill of people who run legitimate WP sites.
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I do like the way you have framed this issue and it does supply us a lot
of fodder for consideration. On the other hand, because of everything
that I have seen, I simply just trust when other opinions stack on that
folks continue to be on issue and don't get started upon a tirade
regarding some other news du jour.