Here’s a story for those who feel letdown by American politicians and the moral standing of same: While it’s true that our elected officials have been known to cheat, lie and generally fail to live up to the standards that they themselves try and portray themselves of possessing in order to win our votes, we can at least take some small amount of solace in the fact that none have yet found themselves embarrassed by Google announcing that it has blacklisted their family following revelations of copyright infringement. Somewhere in the United Kingdom, Conservative politician – and newly named co-chairman of the entire Conservative Party – Grant Shapps only wishes that he could say the same.
Shapps has found himself facing the public embarrassment of Google placing a network of up to nineteen separate sites officially owned and operated by numerous members of his family (His wife, his sister and in a somewhat unlikely turn of events, his 75-year-old mother) on a blacklist after it has been discovered that the sites engage in a process known as “spinning and scraping” to steal content from other sites in order to increase their own Google Search rankings.
To make matters more embarrassing for the politician, a company that he himself founded has been revealed to sell software that allows others to do the same thing. The Guardian newspaper last week revealed that for just $497, TrafficPaymaster would create websites that would do well in Google rankings – by spinning and scraping their way to something resembling success.
Although company policy prevents Google from officially commenting directly on the Shapps situation, the company did release a statement in which it said that it “take[s] copyright very seriously and invest significant time and money in keeping advertisers and publishers that violate our policies out of our network,” adding that it “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.”
In addition from being blacklisted from future AdSense or related advertising programs, an anonymous source within Google has also said that the sites owned and operated by the Shapps will “be naturally demoted by our search algorithms.”
Responding to the news, a spokesman for Shapps sought to distance the politician from the charges. “Grant Shapps derives no income, dividends, or other income from this business, which is run by his wife, Belinda, with a registered office in Pinner in north-west London,” the spokesman explained. “He is quite simply not involved in this business. Mrs Shapps runs her own online business, uses freelancers, moderators and programmers to post on forums, generate products and maintain a help desk.” For her part, Shapps’ wife Belinda didn’t exactly help matters by refusing comment and redirecting all questions on the matter to Conservative Party headquarters.