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Dumb Satire of Yelp South Park Lawsuit Rises (Briefly) to Top of Google News

A satire site briefly trolls Google News.

Comedy Central

Late on Tuesday night, an article took off online claiming Yelp was suing South Park, the long-running Comedy Central cartoon, for $10 million because of how the company was depicted in an episode.

That is not true. The article comes from the URL, which is not the website of NBC. The spoof site has an Australian address and reports it is “proudly owned by NBC President & CEO Dr. Paul Horner,” who was also listed as the Yelp spokesman in the article. He is not. He is also not Steve Burke, the actual chief executive of NBC.*

The satire fooled several people. It also, apparently, fooled Google’s news results — at least temporarily. If you typed “South Park” or “Yelp South Park” in Google News this morning, the article popped to the top, attributed to NBC.

Now, the top News result is a debunking of the article from Eater, one of our sister sites. (Clever move, Google.)

On the Google News blog, the search company notes that it will occasionally tag satirical articles as such “so you’ll know that you’re reading a satirical article.” Google and Yelp have a very lengthy history of animosity, although we very much doubt the move was intentional on Google’s part.

Last night, Yelp pinned this tweet on its Twitter page. And a spokeswoman passed along this statement: “We have no interest in legal action against the fantastic team that makes the South Park magic happen.”

We asked Google for comment and will update if they do. It’s likely they’ll come back with some variation of this disclaimer, which rests at the bottom of all Google News search results: “The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.”

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named Jeff Zucker as the NBC chief executive, not Steve Burke.

* Disclosure: NBCU is an investor in Vox Media, which owns Re/code.

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