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PSA: Googling your symptoms? Watch out for sketchy AI-generated results from Quora

Be careful with medical information you find online. It may be AI-generated content from fake Quora accounts.

Published onJune 18, 2024

quora app
Andy Walker / Android Authority
  • Fake profiles are gaming the Google algorithm using AI to make Quora answers popular and sell affiliate products.
  • These profiles have achieved a high ranking on Quora and, through it, on Google, likely spreading AI-generated misinformation on medical advice and terms.

It’s always better to seek medical attention whenever you have any worrying symptoms. That said, trying to get some information on what may seem like minor symptoms while you wait until your next doctor visit can help calm some nerves. Sadly, it seems spammers and scammers are gaining further reach with recent Google algorithm updates.

SEO expert Ori Zilbershtein recently came upon some worrying evidence of what may be becoming a misinformation epidemic. As an active individual, Zilbershtein claims he looked for info on neck and back pain, which he has been suffering from. One of Google’s top results came from a fake Quora profile. The account was created and managed using artificial intelligence, something that became very worrying, given that this is medical advice and information.

After digging around, he found the profile was created on June 1, 2024. The image was apparently made with the website, which is an AI image generator that creates images of fake humans. Since then, this specific account has answered 159 questions with AI-generated text responses to user questions. All of these posts were between 240 and 300 words in length. The content generated over 26,000 views.

This is not an isolated case, as Ori also found multiple other very similar fake profiles, as well as a much wider set of accounts used to upvote content and increase the odds of this content ranking higher on Google.

Aside from spreading what would be considered unreliable medical information, Ori Zilbershtein also discovered there was a very clear ulterior motive for all this AI SEO wizardry. It seems all answers included a link to the fake account’s article, which recommends a questionable “alternative cream product” that claims to help with back pain. Of course, it is an affiliate link that generates profits.

Sample of fake AI medical advice from Quora

The main issue appears to be with Google’s latest algorithm updates starting September 2023. These changes prioritize opinions and personal experiences more, especially by showing them in the ‘Discussions and Forums’ section within searches. Such personal content is much like what you find in questions and answers sites like Reddit and Quora. The issue is that Google seems to have applied many of these changes across all topics, which may not make sense in something like medicine.

When it comes to health, finance, and YMYL, it doesn't matter what the user likes, it matters what the truth is. Ori Zilbershtein

With all that in mind, Google and the community face a new issue that was nonexistent before these Google algorithm updates. Before these updates, the incentive to show up in Quora was tiny, and the community wasn’t that big. Now that Quora content has a good chance of showing up in Google’s top results, some shady people are trying to exploit it.

So, next time you look for medical information, just be wary of where it comes from. Quora isn’t as controlled or moderated as other websites, or even Reddit. This means people can sign up for an account and then do whatever they wish with little to no friction. Always consult an actual professional. And if you’re going to do some online research, at least try to find more reputable sources, like Mayo Clinic and WebMD.

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