Google’s John Mueller responded to one complaint about a publisher trying to trick Google, saying that technique is “an old trick.” Of course, that implies whatever the trick is, that it is something Google already handles and using that technique does not help the page rank higher.
In short, someone was upset that Fast Company was changing the article publish date and datemodified code to say the article was written today, but it was written long ago. The person assumed it was helping the pages rank well but I doubt it was.

.@fastcompany and other sites set their old article’s published date tag to today to remain high on Google (accidentally or deliberately)
— Pieter Levels @ 🇳🇱 (@levelsio) August 28, 2017
In 2013, we reported a similar technique with BBC & USA Today using this method. In short, Google knows when that URL was discovered, when the content on the page first appeared and when it was changed.
Google doesn’t need to use the datemodified tag or a published date on the story to know that.
Here is John’s response:

These are old tricks 🙂
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) August 28, 2017
Forum discussion at Twitter.

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