FilthFinder.com has launched to help consumers and taxpayers alike find filth on businesses and government by providing them with a niche search engine focusing on issues impacting consumer affairs as well as government relations. Our site launched with over 50,000 business reviews posted on other websites by consumers for consumers which were originally aggregated by a different niche search engine in our network. Unfortunately, that search engine also aggregated complaints against private citizens which got us into hot water with Google.
Every site needs a steady flow of content that looks reliable even if that means consuming content from unreliable sources such as the mainstream news. That is because users and search engines alike consider the mainstream press to be a credible source of high-quality content. That might sound ridiculous to anybody that has worked with the media over the years because the mainstream press lies and/or makes mistakes all the time, but despite that most people still believe what they see on the news. We are not going to vouch for any mainstream media source, but we have developed a feature for aggregating news about bad things happening because regardless of how the press screws up, we can still accurately say that the article is bad news either for someone or just a bad article in general.
Bad News on Social Media
One of our biggest reasons for aggregating bad news is to give social media users a reason to follow us. We can’t share user generated reviews because we’ve learned in the past that sharing stuff created by random strangers from the internet often results in whatever account shared the information being shut down. Big tech censors don’t seem to see the distinction between a bot which auto-shares content written by others and content posted directly by the account holder. They simply say “you shared this” even if the source of the share is clearly identified as an automated sharing service.
We imported over 50,000 business reviews from one of our other websites to populate the Business Reviews section. Those reviews were found on leading business complaints websites and preserved for future reference by our users. We hope that by creating a centralized repository of business reviews that we can save consumers money by helping them learn the true online sentiment of companies before doing business with them. These days big tech censors are constantly making it harder for people to find negative reviews about businesses online. FilthFinder might not be the biggest online repository of business reviews yet but searching FilthFinder is already a much easier way to research negative business reviews written since the launch of our services.
Our next goal will be to create a similar service for aggregating reviews of government agencies and employees. This process may also include importing public data on government misconduct.
The Google Factor
Google unfairly penalized the first site we used to aggregate business reviews because it also contained a bunch of negative articles about private citizens. They were usually found on “cheaters” websites and so called “predator” registries where users are allowed to anonymously accuse anyone of cheating on a sexual partner, being a pedophile, or having a STI. In response to a series of articles by The New York Times, Google decided to slap several sites including some of ours with a manual shadow ban which prohibited them from ranking for anything but their brand names and a small percentage of terms that don’t include named entities. Google’s stated goal was to protect private citizens from unverified accusations. However, Google also drew a clear line between businesses and private citizens.
Google’s policy against sites with “exploitative removal practices” clearly states that in order for a search result to qualify for removal under the policy it cannot be from “a business review site.” For that reason, we decided to separate business reviews from the rest of the content and build a new site for them. We think the reason why Google exempts business reviews is because businesses are public figures. As voluntary public figures, businesses knowingly subject themselves to public scrutiny and assume the risks. Businesses are also far more likely to have the financial resources to suppress negative online reviews. Plus, allegations that business practices are bad are not nearly as personal as attacks on private individuals which often include accusations of an intimate nature. We think Google views businesses trying to remove negative reviews similarly to the government trying to remove negative reviews.
Separating problematic content and creating a new site with what remains is consistent with Google’s guidelines. They always say the best things you can do is provide users with quality content and remove problematic content. FilthFinder is intended to give content a fresh start without being hosted with content we know to be problematic.
Fighting Abusive Reviews Targeting Private Citizens
We are taking steps to reduce the likelihood of attacks on private citizens showing up in our search results unless that attack is in reference to a commercial transaction. We are doing this because we noticed some sites appear to be hosting “cheater” type content disguised as business reviews. Such content often includes derogatory slang terms not likely to be found in business reviews. We have blacklisted many of those terms and removed hundreds of results containing them. Most of those results appeared to be “cheater” type accusations against private citizens.
We are not going to disclose which words we have blacklisted because we don’t want to give anyone a blueprint for how to get around the filter.
FilthFinder is a great place to research businesses and will be a great place to research government officials. We are also taking significant steps to improve the user experience while weeding out “cheater” type reports disguised as business reviews.