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Shady infographic practices: bloggers, protect yourselves

As with any good thing the internet has going for it, the bad guys have shown up to crash the party, and shady infographic practices are in play. Make sure your blog or website isn’t set up to hurt your visitors.



shady infographic practices

shady infographic practices

The shady infographic practices of today

In AP Economics, one of the first things we learned was TINSTAFL, said “tin-staff-full,” and Mrs. Burger insisted that when looking at anything in life, There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, a concept that dates back generations and will continue to be taught in our culture, and in our schools, and it is based on the very human principle that people don’t typically give things away without a catch.

Lenders give away tacos for breakfast if you sit through their seminar, bankers give away free gift cards if you apply for a specific loan or program (even if you don’t want the program, since they say you can always cancel later), car dealers give away free televisions if you take a test drive. If, if, if. Life is all based on “if this, then that” conditional logic.

So why does anyone think any of this is different for companies that are mass producing infographics? A while back, we instituted a policy here that we would not publish any infographics unless it was unique to our news organization, added so much more to a story than words could, or for other small reasons, but in general, we shy away from them.

Why? Because there are endlessly shady infographic practices today. Oh what, you thought that random company you’ve never heard of was doing you a service and giving you a free infographic for your blog with no strings attached? No, there is a catch. and other infographic shops

Dan Tynan’s column at IT World examined the current practices, adding that he too has published others’ infographics, fully aware that these companies give away infographics they paid to produce so they can get backlinks to their sites, and get “Google juice,” all of which is pretty obvious, and no one is hiding behind that practice. Tynan warns, however, that sometimes “the motives are a little more nefarious.”

“One of the biggest producers of infographics – and one of the skeeviest, in my opinion – is,” Tynan said. The company has over 100 infographics on various non-school related topics, so Tynan investigated the site, finding that they are not hiding that they are a lead generation company for online schools, and after he went through the application process to see what happened, he was instantly deluged with calls and emails, and bombarded by online schools.

But that’s not nefarious, he had to go through the application process before his information was sold blindly to all online colleges, even those that didn’t offer the program he said he was seeking. No, Tynan notes that OnlineSchools emailed him two years after using an infographic, asking that the anchor text of his post be changed. The company emailed, “We have recently received warning from Google that they are suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding this, and we want to make sure that you are taking the necessary precautionary measures so that your site is not adversely affected.”

Years down the road, requests being made

We have also received this exact email, years after using an infographic, and if you Google it, AG and Tynan are far from alone. Tynan asks, “How, I wondered, could running a link to an infographic adversely affect my site, some two years down the road? Why would Google think I’d traded something for that link? Who was OnlineSchools, exactly, and what the heck did they want from me?”

Thus, his experiment began. We handled it differently than Tynan – when someone contacts us requesting changes to any infographic anchor text, or for there to be a link to a different page than original, or for an image to change, for any reason, we either deny the request, remove the infographic, or remove the entire article altogether, depending on their request and response.

Most infographics are legitimate, and put out by companies that have pertinent information to share, but the handful of schemers prey on those that don’t understand how this scheme works. Most infographics have the name of the company (“” or otherwise) printed on the actual infographic, which should suffice, but no, they want a link to their website.

This got us to thinking about vulnerabilities

This got us to thinking – because most people grant them this request, what is to stop them from changing the actual link 30, 60, 365 days down the road to point to something nefarious? What if the spammers begin to (or already are) producing infographics, blindly sending them to bloggers with the only request that the infographic link back to them, and in a month when you click the link, it no longer goes to the hosted infographic, it is a page that says “log in to learn more” which asks for email information which is then sold, or worse, the link later points to malware instead of a graphic.

While we will continue working with the handful of companies we know personally and have exclusive agreements with, we will sharpen our policies even more in regards to infographics. Most of them are barely more than a wall of text with some lame vector images anyhow, but for the legitimate infographic creators, the bad guys have shown up, shady infographic practices are in play, and the blogger world must pause and consider what they are doing before hitting publish.

If an infographic has a link typed into the image, that should suffice if a company truly wants to get the word out about something, otherwise, you may just be a pawn in their SEO game or worse. Do you really want your customers and readers clicking on a link that gives Google juice to a spammer, later requests their information, or even infects their computer? Think about it.

Bonus: the entire article above also applies to the “guest blog posts” random companies are offering you, all in exchange for a link that may point to a malware site in 60 days.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. WayneHarriman

    December 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I got the exact same request from them about a month ago. They asked me to either remove the link completely or change it to what they wanted it to be. Since what they gave me to change it to seemed to be no different than what I already had, I removed the link all together. Their reply? “Perfect! Thank you very much for your time and help!”. So, now they have NO backlink from me!

  2. Neil Patt

    December 17, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Infographics are some of the most powerful SEO tools in the social media world never knew it can also be used for negative purpose.

  3. Tinu

    December 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I’m really careful about Anything I like to, and have a spider go through and check that I’m not linking to garbage periodically. It’s not always spammers either. Sometimes someone lets their domain expire, or changes their address. I’m also wary of infographics because I find them inaccurate a good deal of the time, or based on faulty research. Takes me forever to even LINK to one, let alone embed them on sites I write for or my own.

  4. Pingback: The anatomy of a Kickstarter scam, starring Peachy Printer - The American Genius

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Social Media

Instagram announces 3 home feed options, including chronological order

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is allowing users to choose how their home feed appears so they can tailor their own experience… and chronological is back!



Instagram home feed options

Break out the bottle of champagne, because they are bringing back the chronological order in Instagram!

About time, right? Well, that’s not all. Per Protocol, Instagram has announced that they are rolling out three feed options in the first half of 2022. What?! Yes, you read that right.

3 New Feed View Options

  1. Home: This feed view should feel familiar because it’s the algorithm you already use. No changes to this view.
  1. Favorites: This feed view option presents a nice and tidy way to view creators, friends, and family of your choosing.
  1. Following: Last, but not least, is my favorite re-boot, the chronological view of every account that you follow.

Per Protocol, recent legal allegations have been made that Instagram and Facebook have been prioritizing content viewed as harmful in the algorithm and specifically in Instagram. Instagram is widely believed to be harmful to teens. Per the American Psychological Association, “Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems”.  They have been under scrutiny by lawmakers and in response are posing the chronological feed as a solution.

However, this won’t fix everything. Even if the algorithm isn’t prioritizing harmful posts, those posts will still exist and if that account is followed it can still be seen. The other issue with this solution is the knowledge that unless Instagram lets you choose your default feed view, they could still cause the algorithm view to be the automatic view. Facebook doesn’t allow you to make the chronological feed your default view. This means you would need to choose that view every time. This bit of friction means there will be times it is overlooked and some may not even know the functionality exists. Knowing this information about Facebook, prepares us for what’s to come with Instagram. After all, Facebook, or Meta, owns both.

While as an entrepreneur, the chronological view excites me, I know the reality of it being used is questionable. I would love to know others can see the products and services I offer instead of hoping that Instagram finds my content worthy to share in the algorithm.

As a human being with a moral conscience, I have to scream, “C’mon Instagram, you CAN do better!” We all deserve better than having a computer pick what’s shown to us. Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize this band-aid quick fix for what it truly is and continue with making real changes to benefit us all.

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Social Media

Facebook’s targeting options for advertising are changing this month

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Do you market your business on Facebook? You need to know that their targeting options for ads are changing and what to do about it.



Laptop on lap open to Facebook page representing ad targeting.

Meta is transforming Facebook’s ad campaigns beginning January 19th. Facebook, which has been infamously battling criticism regarding election ads on their platform, is revising its limited targeting ad campaigns. Per this Facebook blog post, these changes eliminate the ability to target users based on interactions with content related to health (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”), race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religious practices (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”) and sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”).

These changes go into effect on January 19, 2022. Facebook will no longer allow new ads to use these targeting tools after that date. By March 17, 2022, any existing ads using those targeting tools will no longer be allowed.

The VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing at Facebook, Graham Mudd, expressed the belief that personalized ad experiences are the best, but followed up by stating:

“[W]e want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

To help soften the blow, Facebook is offering tips and examples for small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups to continue to reach their audiences that go beyond the broad targeting of gender and age.

These tips include creating different types of targeting such as Engagement Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, Website Custom Audiences, Location Targeting, and Customer Lists from a Custom Audience.

Here’s the lowdown on how it will happen.

Per the Search Engine Journal, changes can be made to budget amounts or campaign names without impacting the targeting until March 17th. However, if you go to change the ad set level that will then cause changes at the audience level.

If you need to keep that particular ad to reuse, it may be best to edit the detailed targeting settings before March 17th in order to ensure you can make changes to it in the future.

I believe it was Heraclitus that declared change is constant. Knowing this, we can conclude other social platforms may follow suit and possibly adjust their targeting in the future as well.

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Social Media

Hate speech seemingly spewing on your Facebook? You’re not wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook (now Meta) employees estimate its AI tools only clean up 3%-5% of hate speech on the platform. Surprise, Surprise *eye roll*



Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device for hate speech.

As Facebook moves further toward Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, concerns about the efficiency with which the company addresses hate speech still remain, with employees recently estimating that only around 2% of offending materials are removed by Facebook’s AI screening tools.

According to Wall Street Journal, internal documents from Facebook show an alarming inability to detect hate speech, violent threats, depictions of graphic content, and other “sensitive” issues via their AI screening. This directly contradicts predictions made by the company in the past.

A “senior engineer” also admitted that, in addition to removing only around 2% of inappropriate material, the odds of that number reaching even a numerical majority is extremely unlikely: “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term.”

The reported efficacy of the AI in question would be laughable were the situation less dire. Reports ranging from AI confusing cockfights and car crashes to inaccurately identifying a car wash video as a first-person shooting are referenced in the internal documents, while far more sobering imagery–live-streamed shootings, viscerally graphic car wrecks, and open threats of violence against transgender children–went entirely unflagged.

Even the system in which the AI works is a source of doubt for employees. “When Facebook’s algorithms aren’t certain enough that content violates the rules to delete it, the platform shows that material to users less often—but the accounts that posted the material go unpunished,” reports Wall Street Journal.

AI has repeatedly been shown to struggle with bias as well. Large Language Models (LLMs)–machine-learning algorithms that inform things like search engine results and predictive text–have defaulted to racist or xenophobic rhetoric when subjected to search terms like “Muslim”, leading to ethical concerns about whether or not these tools are actually capable of resolving things like hate speech.

As a whole, Facebook employees’ doubts about the actual usefulness of AI in removing inappropriate material (and keeping underage users off of the platform) paint a grim portrait of the future of social media, especially as the Metaverse marches steadily forward in mainstream consumption.

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