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Black-Hat SEO: The Bad Guys

In a study by Melius Weideman, called Fake News: The Role of Search Engines and Website Content, published in proceedings from an International Scientific Conference about “Alternative Facts, Fake News, Getting to the Truth with Information Literacy” in Ireland, June 2018.

She points to the fact that the idea of “fake news” is quite old. The phrase was used in an 1894 comic strip showing Joseph Pulitzer waiting for “fresh” news from his reporters. Fake referred to false or sensational news that sold newspapers. Today, with the disappearance of any gatekeepers (i.e. editors and the like) in today’s web environment, the chance for “published” fake news has multiplied in many different ways.

Although, professionally written and edited materials are still published (newspapers, magazines, journals) and stored for access (library databases and other paywall sites), the free, personal tools like Facebook and Twitter have stormed the gates. And most information seekers have opted for convenience, rather than reliability or authority. Hence the proliferation.

Weideman calls for creation of more sophisticated tools to oversee content creation in the web world. And she wishes for tools to catch and block the “black-hat” search optimization activities that create top level hits for fake news. Black-hat (the image is taken from the bad-guys in Western movies) SEO refers to using methods to increase a site’s page ranking through means that are an explicit violation in terms of service.

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