Google Feels Heat On Shady Ads

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It took a lawsuit from Rosetta Stone, the language software company, and a Congressional hearing, but Google apparently has finally been embarrassed into taking responsibility for policing some shady ads on its search engine site.

This week Kent Walker, Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel, announced that the Internet giant would step up its efforts to prevent counterfeiters from advertising their goods on its site.

Google's action comes after Rosetta Stone sued the company over ads promoting counterfeit language lessons. That was followed by a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, where Rosetta Stone told lawmakers that Google’s ad products are enabling rogue websites to make money and the company is turning a blind eye to the problem.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Google was more interested in generating revenue than protecting the intellectual property interests of the United States.

Google's Walker wrote that the company will now act within 24 hours on complaints from brand owners that counterfeit goods are being advertised.  The company will improve its ant-counterfeit reviews and has introduced a new help center for reporting counterfeits.

It's a step forward, but as our recent report shows there are still a host of sleazy ads on Google's sites touting such things as mortgage modification and other financial scams.

Interestingly, Walker acknowledges the counterfeit initiative is in Google's self-interest:

"After all, a Google user duped by a fake is far less likely to click on another Google ad in the future. Ads for counterfeits aren't just bad for the real brand holder – they're bad for users who can end up unknowingly buying sub-standard products, and they're bad for Google too."

Now Google needs to recognize that many other unethical and sleazy ads — like the mortgage scams —  continue to continue to plague their site and to aggressively clean up its act.  Maybe the embarrassment there has not outweighed the revenue. Why else would Google continue to turn a blind eye?

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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