Google: Spam less than 1% of Maps content

Google posted about how it continues to build out Maps with community content on Thursday. It cited the myriad contributions made by its more than 120 million Local Guides. It also discussed spam, which it said represents less than 1% of the 20 million daily contributions it receives on Maps.

Machine learning to detect spam. To combat listings spam, policy-violating images and fake reviews, the company says it uses “a combination of people and technology.” In addition to community reported spam (e.g., reviews), Google says its machine learning models “watch out for specific words and phrases” and various content patterns to detect suspicious content.

Despite Google’s claims of diligence, there’s a perception in the local SEO community that Google pursues spam and fake content inconsistently, in fits and starts. Indeed, there are local SEOs who say Google tolerates “dangerous” levels of spam in many sensitive categories, such as healthcare.

Spam by the numbers. Of course, Google disputes such claims and cites internal data to argue that it’s diligently fighting local spam. In 2019, Google says it:

  • Removed more than 75 million policy-violating reviews and 4 million fake business profiles.
  • Took down more than 580,000 reviews and 258,000 business profiles that were reported directly.
  • Reviewed and removed more than 10 million photos and 3 million videos that violated content policies.
  • Disabled more than 475,000 user accounts.

If the company receives a mind-boggling 7 billion user edits and reviews annually, by its own count, spam or fraudulent content would still represent 70 million annual contributions — because of the massive scale involved.

Why we care. Fake reviews and listings obviously have a real-world impact on local businesses and consumers. The company should put out regular spam-transparency report in which it shares these types of numbers and examples of policy violating content.

It does something similar with government takedown requests and Right to Be Forgotten removals in Europe. Such a report would help educate the community as well as combat any perceptions of complacency surrounding Google’s spam-fighting resolve.


 

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