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Google to update its search algorithm to deter libel extortion schemes

Extortionists thrive on posting smear online that costs a fortune to remove, and Google wants to put an end to it. The company told New York Times that it changes its search algorithm to prevent slander sites from surfacing when you search for a person’s name. The company also recently implemented a “known victims” system that will remove these sites if you report attacks.

While some measures are already in place, others are expected to come into force in the coming months. Google vice-president David Graff was quick to warn that it would not be a “perfect solution”, but he hoped it would have a “significant and positive” effect.

This decision comes in part in response to a Time April article highlighting the practices of defamation sites. However, as Graff added, these sites are also guilty of “gambling. [the] system “- this is as much about ensuring fair ranking of pages as it is about protecting people from extortion schemes. In theory, the changes Google made could help everyone.

That said, the anti-defamation effort also highlights Google’s considerable influence through its search engine. If it is possible to destroy someone’s reputation just because a spam message ranks high in Google’s search results, it suggests that the company has disproportionate influence on the Internet as a whole.

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