Webmasters Beware: Google Implements New Shadowban Filter For GNews
Google

Just because you’re approved to be on Google News no longer means you’ll appear on Google News. Google has been tightening up the process in which websites can appear on Gnews as a means of promoting websites that are “Accountable”, “Trustworthy”, and “Transparent”. This is part of Google’s overhaul of the “Authority” algorithm that rolled out throughout August, for which various websites were affected, according to the SeRoundtable findings. The algorithm didn’t settle into place until mid-August.

Recently we noticed that after August 19th, 2018 articles from One Angry Gamer, along with several other websites, no longer appeared publicly in Google News. This is despite the fact that the website is still listed as being verified for inclusion in Gnews.

Specific sections of the site are fed to the GNews crawlers, including the Politics, Industry News, and Entertainment sections of the site. According to the Google Webmaster tools the GNews crawlers are still actively combing and indexing the content from the three sections approved to appear in GNews.

This is further verified with the fact that if you go to the Google News tab on any web browser and type in: site:oneangrygamer.net you’ll get the following listing of sitewide content from One Angry Gamer.

The significance of this is that none of those articles appear in Google News from One Angry Gamer if you search them up individually. Instead, you’ll simply get a listing of other websites.

What’s more is that exclusive articles to One Angry Gamer no longer appear in Google News as well, including the piece from Sophia N., titled “Culture Clash: How Arkane Got Stuck Between Two Competing Ideologies”.

If you go to the general Google search you’ll see that the article is at the top of the search engine on the first page if you search up the article title:

If you click on the “News” tab you’ll note that the article doesn’t appear at all.

[Update 9/1/2018: According to some webmasters, they notified us that if you click on the settings and filter the results by “Date” instead of “Relevance”, the site’s content may appear]

The article does appear if you go to the Google News section and explicitly search for the term: site:oneangrygamer.net

Essentially, it’s as if all of One Angry Gamer’s GNews content is filtered out from the general public, even though the site is still listed as verified and included in the Google News program.

When reached for answers about this discrepancy, a Google top contributor named Steve Web stated that the filtering was part of Google’s focus on “tightening” up the algorithms, saying…

“Accountability, Trustworthiness, Transparency. Those are the 3 key phrases for Google News these days. […]

 

“The Google News algorithms are tightening up. It is possible (and probable) the Accountability, Trustworthiness, Transparency issues are kicking the site in the shins and will continue to do so.”

 

“[…] The contact page lacks anything from the physical world, specifically a published landline telephone number and verified/registered physical business address. While your site isn’t YMYL (your money, your life), the physical contact points are becoming increasingly important for general search issues and more so for Google News. In fact sites will seldom be approved for Google News these days without physical contact points. Which also means the physical documentation is becoming increasingly important for sites which are currently approved.”

According to Web, a lack of physical locations listed on the site, a lack of image attributions, and a lack of real life author profile pictures are the reason Google may have filtered the site.

When testing Web’s postulation that physical locations would result in all of the site’s content being filtered, it turns out that this isn’t true. You’ll find that some sites are still in GNews without listing a physical location in their contact section, such as Niche Gamer or TechRaptor. This isn’t a knock against the sites, it’s just a pointed fact that a lack of physical location(s) didn’t excise  sites such as Niche Gamer or Tech Raptor from GNews. If you search them up in the GNews tab they still appear.

Ironically enough, if you type in “One Angry Gamer” in the GNews search field you won’t get any news from the site, but the news feed from the Twitter account will show up.

Additionally, there are plenty of websites still on Google News that are publishing news with generic image attributions from authors without real life profile pictures. For instance, if you search up The Golf Club 2019 you’ll find that two of the top entries in Gnews are from Gamespot. Those entries were posted by a contributor going by the name of Gajan Kulasingham. You’ll note that he doesn’t have an author’s bio nor a real life photo for his avatar.

I further pressed Web on why the exclusive news content from One Angry Gamer wasn’t publicly available in Google News anymore, since the contact information and author bios haven’t changed for years. According to Web, he stated that even though he couldn’t find any “red flags” on the site or any problems that would indicate the site violated the publisher rules for Google News, Google may be examining the site as a whole and not simply the sections approved for Google News…

“[…] just remember the entire site is subject to examination in terms of Accountability, transparency and Trust. I didn’t spot any screaming red flags in the main navigation bar, but Googlebot does dig deeper/faster than I can.”

According to Googlebot there are no flags on the site, no security issues, and the site is still approved as a verified publisher in Google News.


I pressed even further, asking Web about the filters, and how the site could be penalized if it’s still approved and why there was no warning about this? And furthermore, if the rules about the contact information and author biographies not containing real life photographs of the authors themselves is a problem, why is the site still approved for GNews? Why is the crawler still listing content from the site? And why are headlines and links to the site directly extricated from Google News?

Web stated…

“[It’s] possible that some articles will be extracted In addition the pendulum of Accountability, Transparency etc could swing the other way and your site will suddenly rank extremely well for every article published.”

Except it isn’t just One Angry Gamer affected by this.

It appears certain sites have been removed from the GNews feeds, even if the content is still being crawled and indexed into the main search engine, and even when the site meets all of Google’s ever-changing requirements to be featured in the news section.

For instance, News With Views is approved to appear on Google News, and has their content updated on a daily basis.

However, if you check GNews for any of their content, nothing shows up.

Much like One Angry Gamer, if you type in: site:newswithviews.com you will get a listing of the site’s content from when Google last crawled the site for news.

However, if you type any of the website’s headlines or content into the GNews search field, none of them will bring up News With Views in the search listings. In fact, if you type in “News With Views” this is what pops up in GNews.

What’s more, if you check the general search engine results on Google, the first result will be the actual website, NewsWithViews.com.

Additionally, News With Views actually has staff bios, real photos, and a physical contact address, as listed on their contact page. Yet they’re filtered out of the Google News feed for any publicly facing content. So even websites adhering to these stricter rules that Steve Web cited, they still aren’t appearing in the news feed.

What’s more is that other GNews-approved sites like RedState.com have been filtered out of Google News since 2013, even though the site still regularly updates its content on a daily basis.

Trying to narrow down which websites are affected is difficult given that it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

However, there have been growing reports about biased filtering and algorithmic manipulation to push certain sites down the search rankings or out of the view of the general public, as reported by PJ Media. Google representative Maggie Shiels told the outlet that this was untrue, saying…

“Google does not manipulate results,”

Obviously, many of the larger mainstream websites have been left untouched. And the process for the filtering remains unclear.

Although, in a related bit of news, earlier this year Google rolled out a similar filter that affected hundreds of websites in a short amount of time, removing them all from GNews’ feed even though they were all verified and approved. When called out on it, Google stated that the filter was applied “incorrectly”, with Valerie Streit, the manager of creative insights at YouTube and Google, stating…

“[…] we apologize for the issue that resulted in a number of sites being delisted from Google News. This was an unintentional technical issue and not something we did manually. We are working hard to identify the sites that were incorrectly affected and will get them back in as soon as we possibly can.”

Now for those of you wondering why we didn’t report on this sooner, the reality is that it’s because Google News is not our main source of traffic, and we haven’t had much traffic from Google News since June of 2017. After we did the article about Anita Sarkeesian harassing Sargon of Akkad at Vidcon — which was featured in the GNews carousel that shows the top stories of a topic — the article was reported and the site was DDOS’d.

Google proceeded to remove One Angry Gamer from being featured in the top news carousel after that. So traffic specifically from Google News has been sporadic or rare, even though all of One Angry Gamer’s content still showed up in the GNews tab.

The only reason I noticed that news articles weren’t showing up any longer is because I searched up the article about Arkane Studios and noticed it didn’t appear in any capacity on GNews, and that the site wasn’t receiving any traffic at all from Google News since August 19th, 2018. This has not affected the Alexa rankings or overall traffic of the site, however.

Even still, this confirms that the site is filtered, or what people call “shadowbanned”, where the content is still approved to appear on Google News, and the site is still listed in Google News, but no one in the general public will ever see content from One Angry Gamer in Google News.

Steps for checking if your site is Shadowbanned

Now if you’re curious if your site is filtered, you can perform a very easy test by going to the Google News tab, and typing in the following: site:(insert the website name here).com

  1. If your site is not approved then you will receive an error saying that your site doesn’t match any results:

2. If your site is approved then you should see a listing like in the example below:

3. Once you’ve confirmed that your site is still active, and the crawlers are still combing through your news content, you can check if the content is available for public display by opening a new private browsing tab, and heading to the Google News tab.

4. Proceed to type in the title of the website, not the website address. So for example, instead of typing in “www.DualShockers.com”, you would simply type “DualShockers” without the suffix.

5. If your site’s content is still visible to the general public, then you should see similar results as depicted in the image below:

6. You’ll know if your website is shadowbanned if none of the articles from your website appear, and the website itself does not appear, as indicated in the image below:


Twitter and Reddit also use a similar method of shadowbanning content, so that even though a shadowbanned user can still make use of the services, other users are either unable to see the content posted by the shadowbanned user or only a limited number of people will be able to see the content.


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About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

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