Google moves against notorious spam news website

BNN Breaking no longer appears high up in search results

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Screenshot of Google News search results

Results of a search on Google News for articles from the Vhembe area in Limpopo. The top result is for a plagiarised story from BNN Breaking. The search was conducted last week. This week BNN Breaking stories no longer appear in Google News, as far as we can tell.

Google seems to have stopped showing search results for a notorious spam news website called BNN Breaking.

Last week GroundUp published an article describing how BNN was republishing articles written by other publications, including GroundUp, Limpopo Mirror and Eyewitness News, after rewriting them using chatbots like ChatGPT, and failing to credit the actual authors or publishers. This is a breach of copyright.

According to Wikipedia, BNN is based in Hong Kong and is owned by American businessman Gurbaksh Chahal. It has nothing to do with BNN Bloomberg, a legitimate Canadian news site.

BNN’s stories frequently contain errors typical of those made by chatbots.

Stories from BNN often appear higher in Google Search results than the original genuine articles. Our concerns were initially prompted by searching “Vhembe” in Google News. Vhembe is the area covered by Limpopo Mirror, a legitimate news publication that often works with GroundUp. In February a BNN story that was a plagiarised, rewritten version of a story of Lottery corruption that GroundUp and Limpopo Mirror co-published appeared high in Google’s results, far above our story. Later, another BNN story that appeared to be a rewrite of an Eyewitness News article appeared at the top of the results.

BNN’s business model appears to depend on Google Search ranking its articles high. This attracts readers, who then click articles on BNN that host Google Ads. Websites are remunerated by Google Ads based on the number of times adverts are viewed. Even more money is earned by websites when the adverts they host are clicked.

A Google representative assured us that the Google Search algorithm does not privilege sites that run Google Ads.

BNN’s model takes views away from the legitimate websites that published the original articles that BNN plagiarises. For news sites that depend on advertising, this amounts to lost revenue. As we pointed out in last week’s article, Google Search is currently the biggest driver of traffic to many news websites.

Last week Google stated that it was taking steps to crack down on what it calls spam sites. We expressed scepticism because BNN Breaking articles continued to show up, but it now appears Google has made good on its commitment.

A search of “BNN Breaking News” from Google’s main search page now only shows the BNN Breaking website very far down.

Searching “BNN Breaking News” from the Google News front page doesn’t show any links to BNN Breaking’s website.

Searching “Vhembe” no longer brings up BNN stories.

It will be interesting to see if Google manages to successfully filter out sites like BNN in the future. Unfortunately, it has become extremely easy to replicate BNN’s spam model.

TOPICS:  Freedom of Expression

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