Danny Sullivan, Google's search liaison, was on the defensive yesterday when there were a number of complaints that Google was showing adult content from government websites. The problem is that this is not a Google error, but that government websites have been hacked to display this content.

Oh, and that happens all the time. Hackers provide normal content to users. However, when GoogleBot accesses this content, it uses the power of the domain name to try to rate adult content or other types of content. This has been the case for ages, and it is very common that outdated WordPress sites have also been hacked.

Here's an example from Fred Wilson on Twitter for the MTA (Public Transport) and its website, which appears to be hacked and shows adult content on Google Search.

To be clear, the MTA side NOT chopped. This is the anchor text that Google used for the title, probably based on links that link to the page. This MTA page must not be crawled by Google and therefore uses other means (links to the page?) To find out what the page is about.

I can't replicate that now, so maybe Google got it in the end? Google often recognizes this and removes the page from its index until it is resolved. But it can take some time.

@MTA @MetroNorth Do you have any idea what's going on here? LOL pic.twitter.com/pFpEgecMQJ

– Fred Wilson (@ fwilson212), July 26, 2020

That looks really bad for the MTA.

Here's another from @thezedwards:

Click for full size

This is also very common and this is how Danny Sullivan reacted:

There is no malicious code or the like. If a page doesn’t appear on Google Search, we’ll build a title based on what we’ve got from other sources about the page. We would normally not include racy terms. investigate that ….

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), July 27, 2020

The page title is not hacking as I explained. Unfortunately, it is a long-standing spam practice in which we provide resources as I have covered here: https://t.co/cUFExXeoTk

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), July 27, 2020

In this case, it is a page title we created and was not caused by site hacking. It does not include redirection. You can see this in the video that was posted and that loads the correct page.

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), July 27, 2020

It is not what is happening here. However, we are aware that people hack websites, obscure content and provide redirects. This type of tactic has been used in search engines for over 20 years. Our guidelines cover this: https://t.co/IzS0AU9UCL

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), July 27, 2020

In my opinion, if you encounter security issues with certain websites, it is best to report those websites directly. If you think they are suitable for the search, read here: https://t.co/ZdVCSKBGaO

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), July 27, 2020

It's sad to see this, but Google sends notifications of hacks to the website owner whenever possible and when it notices. Google Search Console has a variety of tools, and Google also sends email.

Forum discussion on Twitter.


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