Maybe you are familiar with Made in China and Made in UK labels. Ever heard of MFA? That means Made for Adsense, referring to articles in the Internet which serve to generate traffic for online ads. Behind MFA is a money-spinning industry for both individuals and companies. This is how it works. The search engine, Google, provides the service of indexing and matching ads to websites with relevant content for maximum advertising results. Thus, more websites mean more traffic and wider ad reach, as well as potentially higher sales volume. Subsequently, more advertisers will subscribe to the search engine provider and more users will find information through the search engine, creating an endless and profitable cycle of supply and demand. Google ensures that the traffic continues by rewarding the website owner each time a surfer or visitor clicks on an Adsense advert. Google directs a certain amount of the money paid by its advertisers to this anonymous and global workforce. It’s a win-win situation for all. Or is it?

What are the problems that arise from this partnership? Some website owners publish content that has been plagiarised to cash in on the financial reward. The content serves little value beyond generating income for the owner. Material repeat itself and the Web becomes a huge rubbish bin full of thrash. Some owners write gibberish to deceive the search engine’s indexers. Others subscribe to services which churn out hundreds of versions of similar articles which fool the search engine’s monitoring system. Although Google constantly monitors its websites, some of these articles inadvertently slip through. The result is not just traffic jam on the Internet due to the amount of thrash, but also the publication of possibly misquoted and inaccurate information which can cause much harm to unwary Internet users.

How can we recognise these bogus articles on the Internet? Spelling and grammatical mistakes, amateurish layout and ideas that are suspect are good tell-tale signs. Unattributed and unreferenced material is another indicator. But as experts acknowledge, the line is very thin and subjective.