How big a problem is spam on the internet?

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We have become all too familiar with spam content and fake news. 2020 was a year which was dominated by the pandemic and it seems there was an explosion in false information and nuisance content – exactly perhaps when it was least needed. People were turning to online content more for greater amounts of information, and many were left in a situation where they could not separate truth from fiction, or became confused with the overall spam content which was circulating.

Google have recently released their 2020 webspam report. It makes for some interesting reading and appears to validate the above findings which many people have experienced.

The first figure will literally blow your mind as it is hard to quantify. Everyday in 2020, Google detected 40 billion pages of spam content. This represented a rise of 60% on the previous year, clearly highlighting a big problem.

Google’s spam report does mention some positive news however, in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). It was reported that the use of AI significantly helped reduce the amount of spam content online during 2020 (if the figure is still 40 billion with factoring this in, we dread to think what the statistics would have been like without the help of AI!)

In respect of this, Google’s report mentions that AI had meant that 80% of sites with auto generated or ‘scrapped content’ were reduced. While what it refers to has “hacked spam” was still prevalent during the year, this was also reduced by over half, meaning search results were less impacted and could be trusted far more.

We mentioned Covid-19 above and it is not surprising that spam in relation to this is mentioned in the report.

Google made one of their biggest missions of 2020 to help people with coronavirus information and statistics, by ensuring that anything circulating on their platforms was truthful, honest and reflective. Google have reported that good progress was made on this and examples were given such as protecting people from scams and fraud related to Covid-19.

Why does this matter?

The reasons are many:

  • No one likes spam content, fake news, untruthful information or to be a victim of fraud – that is clearly stating the obvious!
  • Google is one of the most popular places to go for information, there is a duty therefore to ensure that it is accurate and free from spam as far as can be controlled.
  • Related to point two, Google have a reputation to keep also. If they are seen to be lax about these types of issues, their brand will suffer.
  • Google gets ever popular with more information, and greater search queries. This inevitably leads to the risk of greater spam and false information as there is simply more information circulating in the first place. A strategy to counteract this and stop the spam being dominant is what is required.

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