Google has announced that it is making a big change to its search ranking systems to help protect “known victims” of repeated online harassment.
When someone places a request to remove content from a website with predatory practices, Google Search will now apply ranking protections to ensure content from similar low-quality sites doesn’t appear in search results for people’s names. Google uses a similar approach to help victims of non-consensual explicit content. The search giant is working on further expanding these protections with future updates.
Google has been allowing users to request removal of pages with information about them from search results since 2018. Beyond removing such pages from search results, Google also demotes search rankings of websites with these exploitative practices.
Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President, wrote in a blog post:
Over the years of building Search, our approach has remained consistent: We take examples of queries where we’re not doing the best job in providing high quality results, and look for ways to make improvements to our algorithms. In this way, we don’t “fix” individual queries, since they’re often a symptom of a class of problems that affect many different queries. Our ability to address issues continues to lead the industry, and we’ve deployed advanced technology, tools and quality signals over the last two decades, making Search work better every day.
The announcement comes as a response to a recent report published by The New York Times, which highlighted how Google’s Search algorithm could inadvertently help people destroy their enemies’ online reputation.