If you thought your Google News results looked a little odd Monday morning, you weren’t wrong, nor were you alone. As initially reported by Search Engine Land, Google News was taken over with hacked content for both pharmaceutical and dating site spam in the early morning hours of June 12. Proving that even the largest of our tech giants aren’t infallible, this rather large-scale mistake initially appeared on the main Google News page, and was then relegated to just the Health section.
For those who didn’t see the spam injection, search results were essentially replaced with various ads seeking to peddle Viagra and other drugs, as well as online dating sites. While Google News generally exclusively lists the most recent articles from their vetted catalog of news sources, it seems as though only the headlines of these news pieces were replaced, not the sources themselves. Thumbnail images, headlines, and article previews were all edited to look like spam, but the media channels themselves appeared legitimate.
Search Engine Land was ultimately informed that “the issue was on the publisher side,” and the article listings have been amended.
So what happened?
It would appear that some news outlets were hacked over the weekend, with malicious links redirecting from their websites. As Palate Press (an Indiana-based online wine publication) told IBTimes U.K., “We are not sure how the hackers got in, but it took two days to clear out the thousands upon thousands of malicious files. Once that was done we had to ask Google and Bing to recrawl the site to flush out the bad links.” And Google noted that no “human editors [are] selecting stories or deciding which ones deserve top placement,” and that news listings are instead determined by freshness of content, diversity of content, and originality of content.