Today is the day of reckoning. In January of this year, we reported that Google was changing its algorithm to punish “content farming” websites. We predicted that this change would punish some alternative news aggregators. Lo and behold, today Google released their PageRank update and one of the most prominent alternative news aggregators has been punished.
- Infowars.com, with over 3.5 million backlinks to a huge amount of original content, was reduced from a PR 7 to a PR6.
At the beginning of this year, Google explained the algorithm change on their official blog as follows:
As ‘pure webspam’ has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to ‘content farms,’ which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.
WebWorkshop explains the importance of Google PageRank:
PageRank is Google’s way of deciding a page’s importance. It matters because it is one of the factors that determines a page’s ranking in the search results. It isn’t the only factor that Google uses to rank pages, but it is an important one.
Google’s punishment of those who re-post material as an essential tool for sharing information appears to now reduce news aggregators to the status of plagiarists within the algorithm. There are many alternative news sites and blogs which have original material that they freely share, in part or in full, purely to support one another in disseminating the truth. We all know what plagiarism looks like and a link back to the original source should not, for instance, be grounds for labeling a site as shallow.
Perhaps this move also reflects the Department of Homeland Security’s new precedent of seizing websites for merely linking to copyrighted material and Google’s confirmed role in working with government intelligence agencies. But that would be too conspiratorial, right?
Well, we know that Google-owned YouTube has openly censored sensitive material at the behest of government requests, and that current proposed legislation seeks to criminally penalize embedding YouTube videos. Clearly all of these acts, whether they be technical in nature like the algorithm change, or corporate-supported legislation, are indicating that the free flow of information on the Internet is under attack.