Updated 2/6: Hello BuzzFeed News readers! The latest thing driving me crazy in Google News is Gizmo Writeup. I’m pretty sure it’s just using some kind of rewrite software, else how would you get a terrific headline like: Google Pressure can now be used as a Innovative Internet App? Also check out the Daily Research Record if you want more tasty word salad from Google News.
Updated 11/25: Argh, I think I found another bunch of ’em. https://dentondaily.com/ was registered in late August, looks like, and has that same basic WP template. And yup, it’s getting indexed by Google News. And as I poke around, oh look, in addition to Stock Daily Dish there’s also Daily Stock Dish ( https://dailystockdish.com/ ) and something more stock-oriented called the Cora Courier ( coracourier.com ) which looks like it was scraping stories earlier on but more recent stories appear to be stock market word salad. Similar is the DFS Caller ( dfscaller.com ) which references Scott Gentry and the Gentry Business Leader in its about page. Strangely running site:gentrybusinessleader.com on Google finds only one page, and that one times out when I try to visit it. The Stock Muse ( thestockmuse.com ) is another one of those registered in May 2019, appears to be all stock news, AI generated? Then there’s Darby Digital News ( darbydigitalnews.com ), which despite claiming its founder established the site in 2016 had its domain name registered this past August. Alas, I am only one person and I can’t run all these down but you can play! Just do a Google News search for “Designed by WPZOOM” and see how many fake sites you can spot. Doing a Google News search for “momentum stocks” “MarketBeat.com’s free daily” -“cora courier” will also surface some interesting sources that might warrant more looking into.
For a long time I have relied on Google News as a useful source for Web/news monitoring. As I understood it, Google News had some pretty substantive standards for being included in its search engine; ResearchBuzz, for example, has never been included in Google News to my knowledge. (Bing News does not include my news roundups, but does index the articles I write.)
Because of that I have always given Google News sources the benefit of the doubt. If a source is in Google News, I reasoned, it had to have been vetted to a certain extent. Yes, there might be terribly biased news sources on there, and they might be ones I find personally revolting and disagree with, but they were some kind of a news source.
Bear in mind I never relied on just the fact of inclusion in Google News as proof of a news source’s or story’s validity — a platform that big is going to make some indexing mistakes. But it was a big weight in favor of establishing something as legitimate.
I am now throwing all that out the window because in the last couple of weeks I have had a lot of useless stuff in my Google Alerts. I don’t know how these sites got indexed in Google News because they don’t appear to meet the quality standards for the platform. But there they are, and my filtering and vetting system is going to have to get more complicated.
I’m going to walk you through two here: Stock Daily Dish and Valliant News.
Stock Daily Dish — stockdailydish.com
Here is Stock Daily Dish as it is indexed in Google News.
And here is the front page of Stock Daily Dish. It’s a basic WordPress setup. All the screen shots were taken from a Chrome browser in incognito mode so that any ad- or privacy-blocking tools were disabled. I don’t know why the images are broken on the front page.
The front page looks a little generic, but the stories look legitimate. And as far as I can tell they are legitimate. They’re just old and originally not from Stock Daily Dish. Let’s take one example, a story about Dallas Seavey not competing in the Iditarod. I highlighted the first line in the story, as you can see in the screenshot.
Then I plugged that first line of the story back into Google search, with quotes, and got this, an Associated Press article that’s almost exactly eleven months older than the story reproduced in Stock Daily Dish:
Every story I looked at and searched for quotes from had been scraped from another site that had published the story in January 2019. Every one. The scraping and publishing seems to be happening without rhyme or reason. I can’t imagine any other reason to publish a story that Donald Trump is going to reopen the government after a shutdown (all that took place last year.) Note the fun “Digital Access for only $0.99” in the middle of the story.
Valliant News — http://valliantnews.com/
Here’s Valliant News in Google News.
This is the site that originally got me suspicious about what I was finding in Google News. It was cluttering up my Google Alerts with all kinds of news stories about new databases and digital initiatives that I knew for certain were old. Unlike Stock Daily Dish, though, this Google News source looks like it’s really broken:
Again, this was taken in an incognito window with all browser extensions disabled. Valliant News looks like it has its own problems. I was able to find a cached version of a Valliant News story, though. The cache was made on November 20, so I guess Valliant News’ problems are more recent.
…aaaand I took a line from this story posted on November 19th, and sure enough found this Sun-Sentinel story from October 2017.
If you’re just casually searching Google News or getting information from Google Alerts, these sources might fool you. And unfortunately, other sites are giving them cover (probably inadvertently.) When I was searching and poking around trying to figure this out, I found a story on Pace University’s web site: “STOCK DAILY DISH” FEATURED PRESIDENT MARVIN KRISLOV IN “NEW PACE PRESIDENT MARVIN KRISLOV COMMITTED TO THE ‘PACE PATH'” .
That knocked me sideways. I must have really gotten something wrong! How could Stock Daily Dish be a junk news source if they were interviewing the president of Pace University! After doing some searching, though, I realized it was Pace who got snookered, and they were bragging about an article that was originally published in lohud in 2017.
StockDailyDish.com was registered in April 2019 according to Whois.sc. ValliantNews.com was registered almost exactly a month later. BuzzFeed News recently had a big article about fake news sites designed to drive traffic and make money on advertising. The sites mentioned there, however, put more of some kind of pretense into looking like news sites. ValliantNews and StockDailyDish look like basic “scrape-and-spit” operations. The big question is how did they end up in Google News?
To make it clear, I don’t know if Valliant News or Stock Daily Dish are doing anything illegal. It’s not my place to make that assessment. My concern is the reliability of Google News. Google News specifically says in its Google News publisher guidelines that “Sites accepted into Google News should be a significant source of fresh, original content.” and “Visitors to your site want to trust and understand who publishes it and information about those who have written articles. That’s why news sources on Google should provide clear dates, bylines, information about authors, the publication, the publisher, company or network behind it, and contact information.”
Stock Daily Dish and Valliant News do not appear to be following those guidelines. I’m not sure how they got indexed by Google News. I’m going to have to dial down my trust of Google News sources (as institutions; I’m always reserving my trust about individual news stories) and, as always, keep an eye out for other places to get my news.
Categories: Learning Search, Rants
good findings here – thanks for doing the digging and publishing about it!
What kind of impact do you think this has on news reporting in general? Do other automated sources pick up these stories, spread them, and then they get picked up by more legitimate sources of news? Not to mention that they get indexed in Google. It’s really insidious!
These sites may just be standard scrape-and-sell-advertising type sites that were mentioned in the BuzzFeed News article. They could also attempt to be building mailing lists for people interested in stock information. But now that I’ve seen so many that are so similar I can imagine an opportunity for all kinds of mischief. A couple off the top of my head:
1) The sites coordinate to host drive-by malware (does Google News warn about pages the way the main Google index does?)
2) The sites coordinate to post false news stories at the same time. Several stories showing up in the Google News search engine all at once will confuse people who might be ordinarily inclined to believe the news is fake, and could drown out legitimate real news on the same topic.
The Wellston Journal is another one. It made an appearance at the same time as the Denton Daily. And have you come across the Jackson Observer? I have a Google News search set up for ‘brexit’ and these sites regularly show up with pro-Brexit news that’s a year old. According to Stock Daily Dish, Theresa May is still battling back benchers.
There are TONS of them. After I spent an hour or so finding them, I finally realized this was a thread I could be pulling indefinitely, and I had other things I needed to do.
Yesterday I had a Google Alert for a news site that even had its summary riddled with Cialis keyword spam. I immediately thought another one had popped on, only more brazen. It was almost a relief to find out that it was a legit news site that had been hacked…
I independently advocate for incarcerated innocents, and therefore have to advocate for safe prisons and against the death penalty. The old articles that recently popped up in my Google Alerts via Stock Daily Dish concerned victims of public corruption in Florida. All the articles were either later discredited, or biased to begin with. I called Google out on Twitter over this; sucker punching conviction corruption victims during the holidays is intolerable.