September 9, 2012

UK Conservative Party Co-Chairman Runs Afoul Of Google, Wikipedia

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

A conservative UK political figure has drawn media scrutiny and punishment from one of the largest Internet search engines following an investigation into some of his online activities.

On Friday, Guardian reporter Rupert Neate reported that Google had "blacklisted" a series of websites operated by the family of Grant Shapps, who was recently promoted to co-chairman of the Tory party.

The network of nineteen websites, which are operated by Shapps' wife, mother, and/or sister, will no longer be allowed to carry Google advertising and will be sanctioned in the search rankings due to copyright infringement.

"Google has placed the websites on a blacklist of sites found guilty of breaching its rules after the Guardian exposed one of the sites selling software to help others breach copyright regulations," Neate said, adding that the websites in question "breached the rules by replicating content from other sites in a process known as 'spinning and scraping' in order to jump higher up Google's search rankings and increase advertising revenue."

"We take copyright very seriously and invest significant time and money in keeping advertisers and publishers that violate our policies out of our network," the Mountain View, California-based company said in a statement, according to the Guardian. "Google bans ads and advertisers involved in activities that infringe on copyright from using our systems and prohibits publishers that violate copyright from participating in AdSense."

A company source also told Neate that the websites would face a demotion in Google's search algorithms. Neither Shapps nor any representatives from the Conservative party would comment on the issue, he added.

On Saturday, Daniel Boffey, also of the Guardian, reported that Shapps was under fire after it was discovered that he had edited his Wikipedia biography to remove references to his school performance, the identity of donors to his private office, and other information.

Among the most controversial edits, Boffey said, the conservative co-chairman "struck out a section on a record of donations for his private office“¦ anonymously," and also replaced a paragraph discussing "a number of unfortunate gaffes during his time on the Conservative frontbench" with "a glowing testimony to his own work on homelessness" that was written in the third person.

A Conservative party spokesperson told the Guardian that his actions were "absolutely not in breach of Wikipedia rules," and that "individuals are free to monitor the information that is available about them online -- particularly when this information is purposefully vandalized by others.