Google Real-Time Spam

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 16, 2009
Updated • Mar 7, 2017
Google, Search

One of the issues that we mentioned when we wrote about Google's entry into the real-time search engine market was the spam factor.

Real-time means that there cannot be a human review of the content before it goes live. The only thing that Google can do is to select only trustworthy sources for the inclusion in the real-time search results. But that actually has not happened yet as it is possible to use any Twitter account to place messages in the Google search engine.

And even if Google would limit results to only trusted accounts or sources, there is still a chance that the system is abused (think account selling, messages for sale).

Rae Hoffmann recently investigated the issue further and came to the conclusion that the real-time search results can not only be used to spam the search results with advertisement, but also for scarier things like becoming dangerous for children.

Spam can be added in the form of links which seem to go through sometimes and other times do not. Phone numbers, clickable Twitter hash tags and other information can be added to those messages.

Rae managed to place a real-time message in the Viagra search results which were placed by Google just below the news and before any regular search engine content.

Real-time libel was another aspect that Rae investigated. Think of a Twitter account that is at the same time a company name or person. Anyone who tweets about that name can place that tweet in the search engine results for that name.

The most dangerous aspect of it all is the danger to children as it becomes possible to place messages in the search results that call for action. She gave one example where someone could place a message in Sesame Street search results that would tell search engine visitors to call a specific number to chat about the show.

All of those scenarios and many more that are possible are scary and Google needs to find a way to deal with those problems.

Update: Google is no longer showing real-time results on Google Search. It is unclear why Google made the decision, but the most likely explanation is that the company's algorithms could not prevent misuse of the system.

Google Real-Time Spam
Article Name
Google Real-Time Spam
Google's entry in the real-time search vertical is plagued by misuse as the company's algorithms fail to block spam, and malicious intent.
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  1. Computer Video Tutorials said on December 17, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Real-time update helps search results improve a lot!

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