Just about a year ago, we wrote about a bunch of academics at Harvard and Oxford who were going to take on all kind of malware with a new service called Stopbadware.org, which was supposed to call out sites and applications that had malware included. Of course, the big problem with any such service is coming up with a reasonable definition of what "badware" is. Set the definition too loose, and you end up bringing down perfectly legitimate sites. Set it too strict, and the system is useless. It would appear that the StopBadware folks haven't quite figured it all out yet -- and it's made even worse by the fact that Google is apparently relying on them for warning people to stay away from certain sites. Someone anonymous submitted to us the story of one website that lost a ton of traffic after Google took the Stopbadware rating on their site, and placed any search results that linked to it with the following warning: "Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!" Now, we have little sympathy for sites that get pissed off at Google for bad rankings, but having Google actively state that your site might harm their computer seems to take things to another level. You would think that someone at either Stopbadware or Google would at least first make some sort of effort to confirm the potential harm. Apparently, instead, it just took a random complaint from someone to get the site in question on the list. The site owners were given no chance to prevent the listing. In fact, the only thing that the site owners could do was appeal to Stopbadware after they were already on the list, which is apparently a 10 day process. Of course, there was also the alternative: they posted about it on their blog, generating a bunch of interest, which convinced either Google or Stopbadware to fix the problem a bit more quickly. It's nice that Google and Stopbadware ware so interested in preventing people from accessing dangerous sites, but it would seem like they need a better process of ensuring the sites in question are actually dangerous before putting them on the list.
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