This marks the first time a website could potentially receive a manual penalty for violations of News and Discover policies. Previously, manual actions were limited to violations of Google Search.
That’s not to say Google hasn’t been enforcing its policies around News and Discover. It has – but up to this point enforcement has been automated.
A manual penalty, unlike an automated penalty, is issued by a human reviewer at Google. The penalty is applied after the reviewer determines the site is not in compliance with Google’s guidelines.
Traditionally, a manual penalty results in pages or sites being ranked lower in Google Search. It’s unclear what the repercussions will be when hit with a manual penalty for violating Google News and Google Discover policies.
Google’s help page doesn’t state whether the pages will be demoted/removed only from Discover and News, or if the penalty will extend to Google Search as well.
Regardless, it’s in every site owner’s best interests to avoid these penalties. Manual actions are the most serious of all Google penalties and take serious effort to recover from.
Google News & Google Discover Manual Actions
Some of Google’s new manual penalties are specific to News, some are specific to Discover, and some involve News and Discover.
Google News Penalties
The one manual penalty specific to Google News is for violation of the transparency policy.
A site may be found in violation of this policy if it appears in Google News and does not provide clear dates and bylines, as well as information about authors, the publication, the publisher, company or network behind it, and contact information.
Google Discover Penalties
There are two manual penalties specific to Google Discover. They include:
- Adult-themed content: Google has detected content that contains nudity, sex acts, sexually suggestive activities, or sexually explicit material.
- Misleading content: Google has detected content that appears to mislead users by promising a topic or story which is not reflected in the content.
Google News and Google Discover Penalties
There are nine manual penalties for violations of policies shared between Google News and Google Discover. They include:
- Dangerous content: Google has detected content that could cause serious and immediate harm to people or animals.
- Harassing content: Google has detected content that contains harassment, bullying, or threatening content.
- Hateful content: Google has detected content that incites hatred.
- Manipulated media: Google has detected audio, video or image content that has been manipulated to deceive, defraud, or mislead.
- Medical content: Google has detected content aimed at providing medical advice, diagnosis or treatment for commercial purposes.
- Sexually explicit content: Google has detected content that contains explicit sexual imagery or videos primarily intended to cause sexual arousal.
- Terrorist content: Google has detected content that promotes terrorist or extremist acts, including recruitment, inciting violence, or celebrating terrorist attacks.
- Violence and gore content: Google has detected content that incites or glorifies violence. Google does not allow extremely graphic or violent materials for the sake of disgusting others.
- Vulgar language and profanity: Google has detected content that contains gratuitous obscenities or profanities.
Recovering From a Manual Action Penalty
Recovering from a manual action is possible, but it takes work. When Google issues manual penalties it sends a message to the site owner via Search Console.
The Search Console message will contain detailed information on how to recover from the penalty. Recovery will usually consist of removing the offending content and submitting a reconsideration request.
For more information, consult these best practices for writing reconsideration requests that work.
Source: Search Console Help
Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say
Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.
“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”
The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”
Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.
The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.
Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.
The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”
The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.
Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.
Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”
States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.
The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.
Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.
“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.
Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.
“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”
The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.
Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.
“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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