Boing Boing recently noticed that several adult-oriented sites, which they classify as "nonfiction sex ed or indie alt-erotica fare", had been pushed way down in the index for searches for the sites' own names, articles on the sites, etc. The post questioned Google's motives, as well as putting forth the argument that a single source, like Google, virtually owning the information distribution mechanism is a dangerous thing.
Shortly after the issue was raised, Matt Cutts, head of the Google's Webspam team, joined the conversation in the comments of the Comstock Films site (link to blog is SFW, rest of site may not be), which was among those affected.
Most of the issues, at least with the sites Boing Boing named specifically, seem to have been resolved. A Google spokesperson told us that they cannot comment on what specifically occurred, but that "our engineers are aware of the issue and are looking into it in a very responsive way."
To be fair, it seems none of the sites contacted Google or used its Webmaster Central tools to try to resolve the problem before it was picked up across the blogosphere. But it is admirable that Google has been so responsive.
The sites involved are not the only ones that have had issues in the past weeks. Several forums are buzzing with talk of a data refresh that seems to have happened earlier this month. The ever-vigilant Matt Cutts responded in that thread that "Google hasn't launched any major scoring/algorithms updates recently, so any changes you see are normal operation."