The Slander Industry

Aaron Krolik and Kashmir Hill:

At first glance, the websites appear amateurish.

They have names like, and Photos are badly cropped. Grammar and spelling are afterthoughts. They are clunky and text-heavy, as if they’re intended to be read by machines, not humans.

But do not underestimate their power. When someone attacks you on these so-called gripe sites, the results can be devastating. Earlier this year, we wrote about a woman in Toronto who poisoned the reputations of dozens of her perceived enemies by posting lies about them.

To assess the slander’s impact, we wrote a software program to download every post from a dozen of the most active complaint sites: more than 150,000 posts about some 47,000 people. Then we set up a web crawler that searched Google and Bing for thousands of the people who had been attacked.

For about one-third of the people, the nasty posts appeared on the first pages of their results. For more than half, the gripe sites showed up at the top of their image results.

These were the Google image results for “aaron krolik nyc.”