David Madore's WebLog: The surfer's dilemma

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The surfer's dilemma

I was doing some Google searches. Let's just say the kind of searches which would give significantly different results if I had turned on adult content filtering protection, or whatever it's called. (I love these euphemisms: it would be so undignified to just say I was searching for porn sites — oops!) And then I saw for real what I had only heard rumors of: Web engine spoofing. The site appeared promising and content-savvy from what Google showed, so I clicked on the link, but the actual content I got (in essence,you'll have to pay $$$€€€¥¥¥¤¤¤ if you wish to get any real content), after a redirection, was very different from what the Google excerpt seemed to hint. So I decided to investigate. And, sure enough, I found proof positive of a deliberate attempt to spoof Google: using the simple Unix command-line utility curl, I downloaded the same address twice, once with a User-Agent field set to Googlebot (masquerading as Google, that is), and once with a standard User-Agent (like Mozilla), and the two were indeed different, the first one showing a basic HTML page loaded with keywords and links to other pages of the exact same kind (which themselves were obscured by the same technique), whereas the second result was an HTTP redirection to some other site that wanted my credit card number and so on.

Hence my dilemma: I could either (a) laugh at the site employing such cheap (but effective) tricks (and at my own naïveté in clicking on the link), be happy with myself for having noticed the foolery, and do nothing beyond that; or (b) denounce the offending site to the Google quality team (since there FAQ states that setting up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search engines may result in permanent removal from our index), which is morally justified on the ground that I despise this kind of trickery which adversely affects the search quality by the engine I use; or, of course, (c) fall to the dark side of the force, blackmail the webmaster of the offending site by threatening to denounce it to Google and demand a free unlimited access to all their content. Well, I disapprove of blackmail, but I also disapprove of the site's techniques and philosophy, so I pondered about option (c) for some time (I'd like to think that it would have worked). But in the end I chose (b), not really in the manner of electing virtue over vice, but rather out of curiosity to see if Google would respond at all (previous experience tempts me to think that they will read my mail and act accordingly — we'll see): maybe this is even less virtuous when I think of it.

Of course, the net result of all this is that I spent a great amount of time carefully wording my email to Google and some more time writing this very entry, but I still have no porn, uh, anatomical site to show for (except a few Web-search-engine-hash-fodder pages which weren't meant for a human to see: they're interesting in their own way, they were probably generated by a dissociated press algorithm, but they lack the, ah, uh, pictures). Oh well. That's what I get for being a geek, I guess.

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