Tweet calling Google a scraper goes viral

NEW DELHI: Recently when Matt Cutts, the head of the web spam team at Google, tweeted against scraper websites, he was in for a big surprise.

While the tweet was made against scraper websites, which use the content generated by other people to make money, Cutts had no idea that a Twitter user would call Google a scraper, complete with a simple example showing how the search engine benefits from the content produced by others.

On February 28, Cutts said, "If you see a scraper URL outranking the original source of content in Google, please tell us about it." Google doesn't want scraper websites to rank high in its search engine and Cutts, as the man who fights spam on Google search engine, is interested in knowing offenders.

But the reply Cutts got must have left him speechless. Dan Barker replied, ".@mattcutts I think I have spotted one, Matt. Note the similarities in the content text. The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot that showed Google ranking the direct answer to "what is a scraper site" on top of the search results. The text of the answer, which was part of Google's search engine, was copied, or in other words scrapped, from the Wikipedia page on a scraper website. The link to Wikipedia page was listed below Google's answer.

Barker's tweet became viral within hours. It was retweeted over 34,600 times till 7pm on March 10 and favourited by over 3,700 users. Cutts did not reply to Barker's tweet.

While for a long time Google just served a summary and links to web pages in response to search queries, in the last few years the company has started to provide "answers." The answers are part of a feature that Google calls Knowledge Graph.

For example, earlier if you searched for movie '12 Years A Slave', you would have got some links, including the IMDb link on top of the search page. But nowadays, you will not only get the links but also a brief summary of the film, people who acted in it and other relevant details on the search page itself. This means to know more about '12 Years A Slave', you may not have to go to the IMDb page anymore.

Most of these Google 'answers' use the content produced by websites like Wikipedia and IMDb. It is not clear how much, if at all, Google pays these websites for using their content.

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