Google’s current methods to keep the Internet safe from the harmful spread of malware may be doing more harm than good.
Google blocked access — through both its search engine and Chrome browser — to a wide array of sites it flagged as potentially harmful to its users in early February. Several websites — including The Daily Caller, Google’s own YouTube, MercuryNews.com, The Verge and several other smaller sites — were flagged.
Several major tech sites had also reported that they were hurt by a similar instance in January, when Google falsely identified them as problematic.
Google sees its warnings as a service to keep its users, and the Web, safe from the spread of malicious viruses. In issuing these warnings, Google blocks off Web access through its search services to the flagged website often for several hours at a time, causing the websites to experience a drastic reduction in traffic.
Even if larger sites might be able to weather the drought, the loss can be critical to smaller websites. For example, alternative news site BeforeItsNews.com publisher Chris Kitze told TheDC that the malware warnings had been a significant problem for his company.
“With the malware warnings of course, you lose probably about 40 percent of your traffic,” said Kitze. “We had one earlier in the week that lingered for probably four or five days,” he added, noting that at times he isn’t convinced there’s even a real malware threat.
“Even though our site reads clean on Google Webmaster Tools, it still tells people that there’s malware,” he said. “Google is in a very powerful role.”
John Ekdahl of Ace of Spades HQ, which was also affected by the warnings, told TheDC that he works with Google’s products on a daily basis for clients. While generally positive about Google’s overall product experience, he was critical of their response time for when issues, like the warnings, suddenly arise.