Prominent figures from Jacob Gottlieb to Betsy DeVos got help from a reputation management firm that can bury image-sensitive Google results by placing flattering content on websites that masquerade as news outlets. The Wall Street Journal reports: Jacob Gottlieb was considering raising money for a hedge fund. One problem: His last one had collapsed in a scandal. While Mr. Gottlieb wasn’t accused of wrongdoing, googling his name prominently surfaced news articles chronicling the demise of Visium Asset Management LP, which once managed $8 billion. The results also included articles about his top portfolio manager, who died by suicide days after he was indicted for insider trading in 2016, and Mr. Gottlieb’s former brother-in-law, an employee of Visium who was convicted of securities fraud. Searches also found coverage of Mr. Gottlieb’s messy divorce in New York’s tabloids. So last year Mr. Gottlieb hired Status Labs, an Austin, Texas-based company specializing in so-called reputation management. Its tactic: a favorable news blitz to eclipse the negative stories.
Afterward, articles about him began to appear on websites that are designed to look like independent news outlets but are not. Most contained flattering information about Mr. Gottlieb, praising his investment acumen and philanthropy, and came up high in recent Google searches. Google featured some of the articles on Google News. His online makeover shows the steps some executives and public figures are taking to influence what comes up on the world’s top search engine. It also illustrates that despite Google’s promises to police misinformation, sites can still masquerade as news outlets and avoid Google’s detection. Google removed five websites from Google News after The Wall Street Journal inquired about them. Google, owned by parent company Alphabet, said the sites violated its policies around deceptive practices. Google’s news feature forbids “content that conceals or misrepresents sponsored content as independent, editorial content.”
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