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theEweekly Wrap: Child labour, Google penalties and homeless tweeters

Jobs for juniors Apple has conducted its annual investigation into its suppliers, with shocking results. The responsibility report found that 91 children were working for Apple suppliers in 2010, compared to just 11 discovered in 2009. Children were working at ten of the 127 audited establishments, with the worst offender – employing 42 children – being fired. The other employers were ordered to pay the children’s education costs.

The investigation also found that only a third of suppliers are complying with maximum working time regulations, while 57 per cent has sufficient health and safety measures. The report marks the first time that Apple has admitted that 137 workers in China were poisoned by n-hexane, a chemical used to produce the iPhone touch screens.

JC Penney’s big black hat The SEO world has been dominated by one story this week: the revelation that US department store chain JC Penney has been involved in black hat tactics. The New York Times reported that JCPenney.com was appearing at the top of Google search results for countless generic terms, ranging from ‘dresses’ to ‘furniture’. The paper asked a search expert to investigate, and discovered that most of the links into JCPenney.com were on seemingly unrelated and unmaintained sites; leading to the conclusion that these were paid links.

The company’s reaction was to fire its SEO agency and deny that they ever authorised, or were ever aware of, the black hat strategies. JC Penney will not be removed from search results, but have faced what Google’s Matt Cutts called “strong corrective action”.

Google wrath The corrective action in question was detailed by Matt Cutts on Wednesday in a YouTube video, without reference to any specific offenders. Apparently, Google can punish websites in two ways: manually, or with algorithmic penalties. Manual penalties occur when reports are submitted to Google, and depending on how serious the transgression was, will expire after a certain amount of time. Sites can also request reconsideration of a manual penalty.

However, algorithmic penalties are a little more serious. According to Search Engine Land, “content spam, keyword stuffing, cloaking, sneaky Javascript redirects and so on” can be combated with classifiers in the Google algorithm. These cannot be removed or reconsidered – to climb back up the search results, webmasters will have to change their sites and change their ways.

Tweets from the streets Advertising interns in New York are hoping to give homeless people a voice through Twitter. Rosemary Melchior, Robert Weeks and Willy Wang were interns at BBH ad agency, and were challenged to “do something good… famously”. By “pairing social media and social advocacy”, Underheard in New York was born.

Four homeless men – @putodanny, @awitness2011, @albert814 and @jessie550 – were provided with lessons in social media use, Twitter accounts, basic mobile phones, and unlimited text messaging for a month. The creators hope that the tweets will raise awareness of the plight and humanity of homeless people; be they discussing their daily lives, the impossibility of preparing for a job interview or paying a fine, or simply wishing followers a pleasant day.

Written by Rachel Hand

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