While investigating corruption in Venezuela's oil industry, I stumbled upon dozens of newly created websites that appeared to exist only to obfuscate search results about the people I was investigating. It was what technologists call "black-hat reputation management." I tried to figure out who might be behind this effort, and ended up on a months-long hunt that connected several otherwise unrelated scams. I tentatively identified the person who was working for all of these different scammers. This article shows how I solved the puzzle. The article became the best-read page on my blog, thanks in part to a link from Boing Boing. In response to it, Google.com changed its search results, the reputation manager deleted some of the offending sites, and someone decided to take out aggression on me. Immediately after I posted the article, someone, most likely the person fingered in my investigation, posted web sites that say I'm an extortionist on the run from the law. The revenge sites also include personal family photos taken from my mother's Facebook page. This article shows that an independent, unfunded blog can do serious investigative journalism with a real-world impact.
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