What do the authors of misinformation have to gain?

Medium, which has been great at removing misinformation about me, rightly asked (after removing yet another fake story about me), ‘Why are they using your name? What are they gaining?’ I replied:

Thank you, and I’m glad you’ve asked. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this for a while, ever since these articles began appearing. The earliest might have been December.

There’s an SEO program out there called Semrush. They have a Keyword Magic Tool, which purports to tell users what keywords or combinations are trending. A couple of the people in February who wrote about me, and who I queried, told me that they used this tool.

I’ve approached Semrush to ask what happened, but they’ve clammed up. Officially, on their site, they say they rely on third-party providers to tell them what’s trending. I think one of those providers has been using random bot activity and selling it to them. My blog began seeing referrals with the search term google seo jackyan through December. I have blogged a few times about SEO (not favourably) and that might have been enough for the provider to link me with that world. I’ve also blogged about Google. I think it’s a classic case of “AIs” getting out of control.

What’s in it for these folks? There’s the usual motive: get some hits out of Google, because they think these are trending keywords. A few who have Adsense accounts might have got a few cents or dollars out of it.

Then there’s the motive to sound “professional” or ahead of their game in the SEO business. Almost all of the people I’ve reported, and I’ve found online on their own minor blogs, are involved in this world. Semrush encourages you to write pieces of a certain length in order to game Google. Almost all of these stories are the same length and cover the same areas. If they’ve posted on Medium or Linkedin, they usually point back to their sites.

Since most of these people are lazy, the earliest pieces look bot- (or LLM, or “AI”) written, and I guess the models must have linked me into all of this. Then these were repeated.

Only a tiny handful took the time to investigate a bit further, but generally the ones who got roped in to this are people for whom English isn’t a first language. Pakistan seems to be the home to a lot of these people writing misinformation.

You may have noticed everyone I’ve reported so far has other articles of the same ilk—not all of them are connected, and the majority read as though bots wrote them. So when you take down these users, you help limit misinformation not just about me, but about many others.

I’m really grateful for your help as the few blog posts I’ve put up to ask that people stop writing this BS haven’t really stemmed their tide. But I guess the silver lining is that those that might have been hiding on Medium are now getting revealed.

The disappointment here has been the sheer laziness of so many of the writers, who probably relied on bots. And these have illustrated just how dangerous “AIs” are. The real story of why my name is appearing in Semrush surely is more interesting than the Google SEO misinformation going around the web. Yet bot-written misinformation was easier for them, when they could have cracked a much bigger story about fake data infecting a program they used, for the good of their own community.

No one bothered to look into the truth, except for a tiny handful of people who tried to inform others that the whole thing was BS. No wonder it’s so easy these days to write falsehoods, especially on sites like OnlyKlans, and have so many people willing to believe you, even cheer you on.
My huge thanks to Lindsay Shelton at Scoop for running this release, which sheds some light on the issue—and hopefully fights back against the bots with some truth.

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