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Google Sued Over Deceptive Search Results

CmdrTaco posted about 7 years ago | from the we-come-from-a-land-down-under dept.

Google 246

biggles266 writes "Internet goliath Google claims to rank search results by relevance, but the search engine engages in deceptive conduct by selling off the top positions to commercial partners, a Sydney court has heard. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is taking world-first legal action in the Federal Court against Google Inc over allegedly deceptive conduct related to sponsored links on its websites. The ACCC has brought a two-pronged case against Trading Post and Google — including subsidiaries Google Australia and Google Ireland — for potentially misleading consumers. The consumer watchdog alleges Google does not do enough to differentiate "organic" search results — those ranked by relevance — from sponsored links which appear at the top of the results page."

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what next (2, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | about 7 years ago | (#20540347)

Suing my doctor because of the choice of meds he offered me happened to match those in the advertising crapola that he got sent.

Re:what next (5, Insightful)

tgatliff (311583) | about 7 years ago | (#20540611)

Well if you doctor is getting paid for picking those drugs, then yes, then that would be next to go after... :-)

Personally, if Google was not specifying that the links were "sponsored", I would agree that is was deceptive behavior and think it was wrong. From my understanding, though, they do seperate their paid for links from the other search results so as a consumer I feel I am well informed... Meaning, when I look as the "sponsored links" section, I am fully aware that these companies paid for these links. That to me is what matters...

Re:what next (4, Insightful)

tha_mink (518151) | about 7 years ago | (#20540817)

Personally, if Google was not specifying that the links were "sponsored", I would agree that is was deceptive behavior and think it was wrong. From my understanding, though, they do seperate their paid for links from the other search results so as a consumer I feel I am well informed... Meaning, when I look as the "sponsored links" section, I am fully aware that these companies paid for these links. That to me is what matters...
And how much is Google charging you for their service again? Oh right, it's free. So....nothing. Maybe you can get your money back.
Seriously, why a lawsuit? If you don't agree with their policies, then get them to change them through bad press. Why does everybody have to sue for everything that a company does or doesn't do?
Sponsored or not, the link they provide either works for you or it doesn't. Meaning, you get the content you were looking for or you don't. If you get the content you're looking for, you come back. If you don't (consistently) then you find another search engine. It's that simple. Obviously, Google is better at finding what people are looking for quicker an easier than everyone else. Sponsored or not, I don't care. If I find what I'm looking for, I come back.

Re:what next (4, Insightful)

sydsavage (453743) | about 7 years ago | (#20541141)

Seriously, why a lawsuit?


Here's your answer. [google.com] Note the large number labeled Mkt Cap.

If somebody can't tell by the colored box around the sponsored links, or hey, the text that reads "Sponsored Links", then what exactly could Google do to make it more obvious that these results are paid for?

Re:what next (1)

y86 (111726) | about 7 years ago | (#20541703)

Google searches for products and products reviews has become terrible. It is no secret, I tried to research a camera I was buying and found 300 pages of paid for merchant links that didn't remotely match what I was searching for. Why not just choose a NON-SHITTY search engine?

Are there any left out there?

Re:what next (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#20540761)

Suing my doctor because of the choice of meds he offered me happened to match those in the advertising crapola that he got sent.


I don't think we're talking about mere coincidence here. If you could show that your doctor was taking money to prescribe specific medications (and not using his own medical judgement), I suspect there might be a lawsuit in there somewhere. I know I'd be pretty pissed. As it is, there is only an indirect association between what you are prescribed and the advertising crapola from drug companies. There's no explicit contract that I am aware of.

-matthew

Re:what next (1)

pokerdad (1124121) | about 7 years ago | (#20541047)

I don't think we're talking about mere coincidence here. If you could show that your doctor was taking money to prescribe specific medications (and not using his own medical judgement), I suspect there might be a lawsuit in there somewhere.

The thing is that in many cases either several different medications solve the same problem or at the very least several different medications are relevent to the same symptoms. This is where the drug companies exert their influence; when the doctor doesn't know the med won't fix the problem, he is encouraged to give a particular brand.

And while I don't know that I bunch of lawsuits couldn't stop this, keep in mind whose business model would be threatened by such a lawsuit; you can bet that the drug companies would happily offer their lawyers to assist any doctor so threatened.

What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

Laebshade (643478) | about 7 years ago | (#20540355)

Are they talking about the "Sponsered Links" section at the top? They're clearly marked. Or are they talking about the normal results?

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (3, Informative)

Laebshade (643478) | about 7 years ago | (#20540383)

Ok, so they are talking about the "Sponsered Links" section. Well, it's in a beige background, different from the rest of the results. It does say "sponsered links", but granted, that is off to the right of the results.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540499)

OK, I'm fucking nearsighted and miss a lot of stuff on pages, it takes me a long time to find anything most of the time, and even I find the 'sponsored links' text easy to find, and even I notice they are obviously differentiated from the normal text.

AbuseOfTheLegalSystem tag please.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (3, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | about 7 years ago | (#20540667)

Any of the 'sponsored' links Google serve up on a search results page are a damn sight easier to discern from the normal results than those 'advertisement features' that appear in magazines - which try as hard as they can to emulate the look and feel of legitimate features, with the only concession to those who value the truth being a small 'advertisemnt feature' tag placed as discretely as possible somewhere on the page.

I think I'm pretty astute at recognising that sort of deceptive practice, but these things have caught me out more than once.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20540669)

"sponsered links"

Ahhh! Now I see the problem. Google misspelled "sponsored". You'd think they could afford a spell checker.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (4, Informative)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | about 7 years ago | (#20540911)

The article skims the details of those involved. The ACCC is one of the few worthwhile government departments, who basically prosecute breaches of consumer rights like false advertising. The Trading Post is the most popular classified ad newspaper and website, of which the majority of ads are for cars and motorbikes. It is very likely that the ACCC will get their way, which probably means the Trading Post gets charged for fraudulently posing as an affiliate or representative of the dealerships. It is far from clear how Google will be affected, but already google.com.au seem to have pulled the sponsored links from the top.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

lantastik (877247) | about 7 years ago | (#20540435)

You could just RTFA before posting a comment and then not look quite as foolish.

"The consumer watchdog alleges Google does not do enough to differentiate "organic" search results - those ranked by relevance - from sponsored links which appear at the top of the results page."

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

ajs (35943) | about 7 years ago | (#20540489)

You could just RTFA before posting a comment and then not look quite as foolish.

"The consumer watchdog alleges Google does not do enough to differentiate "organic" search results - those ranked by relevance - from sponsored links which appear at the top of the results page."
That quote was in the summary too. I think the GP is just confused, and seeking confirmation that the suit is really that baseless. They're essentially claiming that having sponsored ads at the top of a search results page (that are marked as such) is somehow misleading.

Why the heck is it that EVERY day, Slashdot publishes something negative about Google that's totally insane?!

I'm a LONG time Slashdot reader, and I have to say that I've begun to question WHY that is.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (5, Informative)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20540709)

No, the FTA states that selling adwords to COMPETITORS is deceptive. If you read past the first sentence you'll note that a competitor bought adwords including trademarks of a rival and have it link to them instead.

The complaint isn't stating that adwords or sponsored links is deceptive. It's talking about how in this instance it's being abused.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (2, Informative)

charleste (537078) | about 7 years ago | (#20540807)

Something similar was already an issue in France (over two years ago) - akin to selling the Versace adword to ISL et. Al. French Court Orders Google to Stop Competing Ad Displays [slashdot.org] . I imagine the same result will follow. I guess it isn't "wrong" until the law says it is, so from a business perspective, why stop doing the same type of thing.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

2short (466733) | about 7 years ago | (#20541083)

"I guess it isn't 'wrong' until the law says it is, so from a business perspective, why stop doing the same type of thing."

I don't see how it's wrong at all, so I wouldn't stop doing it until the law made me either.

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#20540871)

Why the heck is it that EVERY day, Slashdot publishes something negative about Google that's totally insane?!


They're just trying to get on the Google-bashing train early so they can say "we were doing it before it was popular."

Honestly, I kinda like it. It sure beats the Google dick sucking that we get every time they announce some new desktop-app-in-the-browser crap.

-matthew

Re:What, the "Sponsered Links" section? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 years ago | (#20540993)

I read the f'ing thing, and don't see what half the beef is, google sponsored results are clearly enough marked for any one with IQ over 90. Now the other half of the beef was the ranking of sponsored links having placement of competitors mentioning search term superceding the searched paying sponsor!

popularity != relevance (2, Interesting)

ColinPL (1001084) | about 7 years ago | (#20540359)

Google does not do enough to differentiate "organic" search results -- those ranked by relevance
Google search results are ranked by popularity, not relevance.

Re:popularity != relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540397)

Google search results are ranked by money paid, then popularity, not relevance.

Fixed that for you.

Re:popularity != relevance (1)

ajs (35943) | about 7 years ago | (#20540563)

Google does not do enough to differentiate "organic" search results -- those ranked by relevance

Google search results are ranked by popularity, not relevance.
This is incorrect.

Google's results take popularity into account, but they also look for your key words in the body of the page, assess where they are in absolute terms, and relative to each other, and also perform some nebulous other analysis on relevance (e.g. articles with your terms in the title are ranked somewhat higher, though title-spamming has limited the usefulness of that).

Not differentiating? (3, Insightful)

ucblockhead (63650) | about 7 years ago | (#20540367)

So they should do something other than giving them a different background color and adding the text "Sponsored Links"?

Re:Not differentiating? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#20540625)

You're also forgetting the different format of the result. In reality, if I've ever confused the two, it was several years ago. I find this suit ridiculous.

Re:Not differentiating? (1)

ttapper04 (955370) | about 7 years ago | (#20540907)

It is enough for us, but not for grandma.

Sponsored Links (4, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | about 7 years ago | (#20540379)

Don't Google's sponsored links say "Sponsored Links" right next to them? They also have a different background which is visible even on my low contrast display. Anything more would make it look obnoxious I think.

Re:Sponsored Links (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540647)

What about us who only have 2-bit displays you insensitive clod!

Being vision-impaired, I feel every pixel on my mechanical braille display by hand.

Re:Sponsored Links (1)

the dark hero (971268) | about 7 years ago | (#20540797)

Don't Google's sponsored links say "Sponsored Links" right next to them? They also have a different background which is visible even on my low contrast display. Anything more would make it look obnoxious I think.

Indeed. I work for a small company who happens to pay to be within the top entries, but i thought that much was common practice. At the time i learned that the results were no different than the regular results.

Re:Sponsored Links (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#20541001)

Don't Google's sponsored links say "Sponsored Links" right next to them?


I wouldn't know. I block all ads which includes Google sponsored links, you insensitive clod!

Give Me a Break (3, Insightful)

cromar (1103585) | about 7 years ago | (#20540391)

Thats utter bullshit; the results are only ambiguous if you can't read.

Re:Give Me a Break (0, Offtopic)

somersault (912633) | about 7 years ago | (#20540433)

Yeah.. I was like wtf? Then saw the 'whatthefuck' tag. Good to see the tags thing working :D

Re:Give Me a Break (1)

cortesoft (1150075) | about 7 years ago | (#20541257)

The article says nothing about the ambiguity of sponsored link vs. non-sponsored link. The problem is that if when someone typed in the name of a car dealership, and sponsored link appeared that seemed to be the dealerships site but was actually someone else's.

"These hyperlinks appeared in a shaded area titled "Sponsored Links" at the top of the results page, but appeared to be the dealerships' official sites, or at least affiliated with the dealerships"
So the problem has nothing to do with sponsored vs. non-sponsored sites, but with a sponsored link misleading people to think it was the dealership when it wasn't.

Tag (-1, Offtopic)

StarvingSE (875139) | about 7 years ago | (#20540431)

Tag: googlelawsuitoftheweek

Seriously, is suing google the newest business model in the US? sheesh

Re:Tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540465)

This is happening in Australia, but don't let that stop you from shooting off your mouth.

Re:Tag (1)

kaufmanmoore (930593) | about 7 years ago | (#20540467)

Suing has been the US business model for at least a decade now.

Re:Tag (5, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 7 years ago | (#20540475)

Seriously, is suing google the newest business model in the US?

Did Australia become part of the US when Bush was down there last week?

Re:Tag (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 7 years ago | (#20540679)

Seriously, is suing google the newest business model in the US?
Did Australia become part of the US when Bush was down there last week?
No, they've been the 51st state since a little after 9/11.

Re:Tag (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 7 years ago | (#20541647)

No, they've been the 51st state since a little after 9/11.

We've been the 51st state since 1966

After a Cabinet meeting on 20 January 1966 Robert Gordon Menzies, who was reluctant to involve Australia in Vietnam, suddenly and unexpectedly resigned after 17 years as Prime Minister of Australia, nominating as his successor then Treasurer Harold Holt. Holt announced almost immediately that Australia was to go all the way with LBJ [then US President Lyndon Baines Johnson] into the Vietnam War. At that crucial point Australia severed ties with Britain and the British Commonwealth, and hitched itself behind the stagecoach of the United States of America. Australia has been going all the way with LBJ ever since.
Just in case you didn't know, we fought in Vietnam, and Korea, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have the body bags to prove it. All thanks to our leaders sucking up to Uncle Sam in the vain hope of getting some respect.

Re:Tag (1)

bobetov (448774) | about 7 years ago | (#20540693)

Did Australia become part of the US when Bush was down there last week?

What, you didn't get the memo?

Re:Tag (1)

jcorno (889560) | about 7 years ago | (#20541025)

Did Australia become part of the US when Bush was down there last week?


Next week we're renaming it South Hawaii.

Re:Tag (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | about 7 years ago | (#20540501)

Maybe, but this is happening in Australia. I can almost understand not reading the article, but see the first and second sentences of the summary. sheesh

Re:Tag (0)

StarvingSE (875139) | about 7 years ago | (#20540633)

Read tfa... Just mistyped since I live in the US, google is based in the US, so naturally the first thing I think of is the US when posting google-related comments.

I sincerely apologize to the slashdot crowd for my mistyping, it was due to lack of coffee resulting in a low blood-caffeine content this morning.

I need to remind myself to not go for the +1 funnies when the /. crowd is cranky...

Re:Tag (1)

truthsearch (249536) | about 7 years ago | (#20540739)

I need to remind myself to not go for the +1 funnies when the /. crowd is cranky...

At least wait until 3:15EST when we've just come back from our 3rd coffee break. Thanks. :)

Re:Tag (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#20540727)

Not reading the summary is the newest business model in the US.

Re:Tag (1)

Erris (531066) | about 7 years ago | (#20541605)

I prefer "fudgoogle" as a tag for nonsense like this. Lawsuits like this are created to FUD Google's business model and services. Other search engines do the same and worse.

Really... you can't tell the difference? (2, Insightful)

MrGHemp (189288) | about 7 years ago | (#20540441)

Does anyone here have trouble telling the difference between paid ad placements and non-paid search results on Google?

Since when does a website legally have to tell you what is an isn't an ad?

Re:Really... you can't tell the difference? (2, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 years ago | (#20540609)

Does anyone here have trouble telling the difference between paid ad placements and non-paid search results on Google?

Yes. Lots of people.

Since when does a website legally have to tell you what is an isn't an ad?

Couldn't happen soon enough for me. I think advertisers should be tortured to death, personally.

Re:Really... you can't tell the difference? (1)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | about 7 years ago | (#20541439)

So you want google to donate their time and resources as a public service?

I hate to say it (5, Insightful)

Vexor (947598) | about 7 years ago | (#20540447)

but if you cannot tell the difference between those adds and the "results" you probably shouldn't be on the internet.

Proof (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540453)

Not everything is computer generated. They do nerf [google.com] certain linkbombs, for instance.

Flash Ads only (5, Funny)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 7 years ago | (#20540471)

Obviously the consumer cannot tell the difference because it is not a "Flash" ad moving wildly across the screen saying "Spank the Monkey, Spank the Monkey!"

I guess using Google does not qualify your ability to understand the search results.

Re:Flash Ads only (1)

bittmann (118697) | about 7 years ago | (#20541105)

I certainly agree. Having results returned, sequestered as they are in an area with a colored background along with a label that (very deceptively) states that these are "Sponsored Links", most certainly gives the user no indication that these URLs are in any way special.

Re:Flash Ads only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20541599)

I guess using Google does not qualify your ability to understand the search results.

You are looking at it from the wrong perspective. As somebody who gets business by both google search and adwords, I could give two shits if the users are capable of interpreting google results. My clients are not limited to the computer literate. All I care about is that they can find my site and go to it. I would be pretty pissed if google was letting somebody place ads with my trademarks precisely because those people who are less capable of parsing google results would mistake that other site for mine. Posting AC because I modded in this thread.

ACCC should (2, Insightful)

jointm1k (591234) | about 7 years ago | (#20540479)

turn off "SafeSearch filtering". That ought to give a more representative result on what consumers want.

Two separate issues (2, Insightful)

johndiii (229824) | about 7 years ago | (#20540487)

One appears to be the sponsored links section, which seems like it ought to be obvious to anyone looking at a results page.

The other issue is that Google appears to have sold the names of some local car dealerships as AdWords to a competitor. That seems to be a trademark violation, at very least. It does raise a question of responsibility, however. Is Google responsible for checking all uses of AdWords, to make sure that they are not trademark violations? Many cases are clear (as this one is), but others are more ambiguous. Clearly, Trading Post is in the wrong, but does Google share that responsibility?

Re:Two separate issues (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 7 years ago | (#20541159)

Using a competitor's trademark is not necessarily illegal. A trademark doesn't allow you to forbid people from referring to your product by name. A business can say, for instance, "we have better prices than Acme," even if Acme is trademarked.

They aren't allowed to use a trademark to mislead consumers about who they are dealing with. Trademarks are intended to eliminate confusion. I don't believe using a competitor's trademarked name in a keyword is always a problem; it depends on the ad, and what claims are made therein.

Lowest common denominator (5, Insightful)

Kazrath (822492) | about 7 years ago | (#20540527)

Here we go again. Let us keep adjusting society based off of the dumbest individuals and not the average individual.

I read the article and decided to try to get some sponsored links to appear. Doing a search for "Digital Camera" resulted in some pretty obviously highlighted results that have the words "Sponsored Links" in the highlight. Who the hell is this not clear enough for? I am not an advocate of mass murder but we really need to figure out a way to weed the gene pool.

Re:Lowest common denominator (1)

pembo13 (770295) | about 7 years ago | (#20540593)

Easily done: stop putting obvious warning labels like "don't put your hand in the electric socket" or "don't swallow this bottle of drain cleaner" or "don't put this piece of plastic into your mouth".

Re:Lowest common denominator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540685)

As a boy I jumped through Windows, as a man I play with Penguins.

dumbest---sig----evah!!!!!

This is about misleading (5, Informative)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | about 7 years ago | (#20540575)

FTFA, one of the complaints generated involved searches that produced sponsored results that linked to a party with no commercial affiliation to the object of the search. Given that a user understood that the link was sponsored, they might wrongly assume a relationship with the business that does not exist. This could be benign, or damaging to the reputation of the business. It's more complex than whether users know whether a link is advertising or the genuine algorithmic results of the search.

Who cares why something is on top? (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about 7 years ago | (#20540585)

Anyone who uses Google can figure out that the search results are not simply a blind mathematical formula. Google has always said that their aim is to provide the most relevant results. Not the most fair or unbiased. The most relevant, and they fudge the numbers to give people the results they are expecting. There is a reason that Wikipedia always shows up in the top two or three results. As long as the results that Google returns are what people are looking for, I fail to see how they generating those results matters at all. And if they are not giving people what they want, then some other search engine will.

it's legit (5, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20540643)

Here's what their complaint states [in simple terms]. Company B bought adwords that included the trademarks of company A. Company B is paying Google so that when you search for company A it gives links that point to Company B instead.

E.g. a google for [say] Pepsi brings links that *say* Pepsi but instead go to Coke when you click on them.

Since Google is selling this service they have no rights to use other peoples trademarks (making the distinction between this and their non-profit web search).

This is akin to company B buying ads in the local paper that say "Come to Company A's new sale, located at 123 Front St." and when you get to 123 Front St, you find Company B selling the same products. They're using the name (which is presumably trademarked) to draw attention. Trademark law says you can't do that.

Re:it's legit (2, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | about 7 years ago | (#20540697)

So Company A needs to sue Company B for trademark infringement, regardless of the advertising medium.

Re:it's legit (0, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20540769)

Unfortunately, Google is also liable since they're publishing the infringing material. They should do some due diligence and background check adword purchases. Except, the goal there is to just shovel fistfuls of cash into their coffers. Not run a legit business.

Re:it's legit (1)

pembo13 (770295) | about 7 years ago | (#20540865)

How would you propose doing a background check on every word submitted by every potential advertiser to any one advertiser?

Re:it's legit (2, Insightful)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | about 7 years ago | (#20540983)

Well, to be fair, its not the job of courts or lawyers to tell companies how to perform their jobs or how to avoid falling foul of the law. I'm not saying its correct or justified or not justified or anything - I don't really have an opinion on that right now - but just because your shovelware business model makes it hard to do due diligence doesn't mean you get a free pass.

Re:it's legit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20541527)

just because your shovelware business model makes it hard to do due diligence doesn't mean you get a free pass.

YES! YES! YES! This is exactly the point. YES!

Re:it's legit (1)

libkarl2 (1010619) | about 7 years ago | (#20541223)

Its amazing how much of a difference reading the article makes!

Thankyou for your clear, informed reply. It stands in sharp contrast to all the glib, ancedotal, mal-informed remarks that a rather large subset of /.ers delight in posting these days.

Conspiracy with Company B to deceive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540893)

True.

But the company delivering the deception needs to have its wrists slapped too. And that's Google.

A contract killer doesn't get immunity just because some 3rd party paid for a bad deed to be done. And this is particularly the case when Google is flying a flag of "Do no evil".

Re:it's legit (2, Insightful)

mungtor (306258) | about 7 years ago | (#20540751)

That's great, but does trademark law make the local paper responsible for checking your ad first?

Re:it's legit (0)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20541355)

Yes. You can't publish libel, regardless if you're the author or not. Why would copyright or trademark laws be any different?

It's part of the "value" you contribute to society as a publisher that you check facts, authorship, etc. Any jackass can run a printing mill, or website.

Re:it's legit (5, Informative)

pnuema (523776) | about 7 years ago | (#20541671)

Yes. You can't publish libel, regardless if you're the author or not. Why would copyright or trademark laws be any different?

It's part of the "value" you contribute to society as a publisher that you check facts, authorship, etc. Any jackass can run a printing mill, or website.

Bullshit. You are talking out of your ass.

This [pa-newspaper.org] took all of 3 seconds to find. Granted, may be Penn. specific, but I would be stunned not to find similar laws in other localities. Quote:

Newspaper Liability Under the UTPCPL

The provisions of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law shall not apply to any owner, publisher, printer, agent, or employee of a newspaper or other publication, periodical or circular, who, in good faith and without knowledge of the falsity or deceptive character thereof, publishes, causes to be published or takes part in the publication of such advertisement. (73 P.S. Â201-3)

If Google didn't remove the Ad-word association when asked, that's one thing. Otherwise, I can't see how they are in violation of American law, and if they are in violation of Australian law, I'm amazed papers stay in business there. Something else is going on.

Re:it's legit (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 7 years ago | (#20541411)

I wonder about that. For the most part, Google is providing an automated system. If someone's misusing a trademark, I would think that the entity that bought the ads would be most liable. Google does catch prominent trademarks, but it would seem unrealistic to expect them to block all trademarks, including those held by obscure companies.

Re:it's legit (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 7 years ago | (#20541011)

E.g. a google for [say] Pepsi brings links that *say* Pepsi but instead go to Coke when you click on them.
Is this really the case? I just did a search for the trade-marked term "HP-UX" and the sponsored links section did not contain the word "HP-UX" anywhere in that portion of the results. Even when the results do contain the search term, it does not appear to misrepresent the link as being the official website for that term.

Seems to me that what Google is doing is returning search results that are related to the given search terms but are not misrepresented as being the official site. So, to continue with your analogy, searching for "Pepsi" brings up a list of links that say things like "Best Cola in the World" or "Better than Pepsi!" To the best of my knowledge, is perfectly legal in the USA to name your competition in your own advertisements, although it might not be in Australia.

Re:it's legit (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20541617)

If you RTFA the complaint is that a rival car dealership bought adwords containing the trademark names/terms of a competitor. The idea being to trick users into going to their website.

The complaint ISN'T that google does this for every company, or that Google did it on purpose even (note that doesn't limit liability).

Re:it's legit (1)

KevMar (471257) | about 7 years ago | (#20541295)

This whole thing is messed up. They target google because of the big pockets people think they have.

the first issue about Sponsored Links that say Sponsored Link is silly.

the second one about letting others use competitors brand names in search results is a little more complicated. But the fault should be on the people using those keywords and any fines google receives should be passed on to the offending sites.

If i registered a blog on blogspot and wrote hate speach on it. is google at fault? it is there servers after all. I can see them removing it after the parties could not come to an agreement. But the posting of the content is not something you can hold google accountable.

I think someone needs start a campain to poision search results for one large company. make it so any search for that company promotes there competition higher. lets see who they sue then.

Re:it's legit (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 7 years ago | (#20541549)

No, they're suing because google is profiting from the misappropriation of other peoples trademarks.

Should I be able to open stores called K-Mart just because I feel like it? Then why should google be able to run pay-per-click ads using trademarked names they WEREN'T GIVEN PERMISSION FOR.

As for the "hate speech" line ... unless they're a common carrier (which blogspot is not) they are liable for all of their published content. Let's go over a basic concept of reality. Just because something is possible doesn't mean you should do it. If blogspot cannot monitor their content with reasonable efficiency they shouldn't do it. I fell victim to this myself, when my 2nd book came out haters were talking smack about my book [which wasn't even out yet]. Amazon STILL has the posts there to this day. All else being equal, I can't reasonably assume that their comments are neutral w.r.t. my sales. At least Amazon removed the fraudulent reviews, I'll give them that much.

Anyways, long story short, just because the net technically permits the publication of any random content, doesn't mean our laws permit said actions. You're still responsible for what you publish directly or indirectly. It's part and parcel of being a publisher.

Re:it's legit (1)

ComputerSlicer23 (516509) | about 7 years ago | (#20541637)

If they what you describe, that is problematic. If however, a search for "Pepsi" brings up a link that is for "Coke", but the link isn't labelled "Pepsi" I've got no problem with it.

Kirby

Re:it's legit (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 7 years ago | (#20541709)

Since Google is selling this service they have no rights to use other peoples trademarks (making the distinction between this and their non-profit web search).

Whether or not they sell something has nothing to do with using a trademark. They can use it within the bounds of the law.

This is akin to company B buying ads in the local paper that say "Come to Company A's new sale, located at 123 Front St." and when you get to 123 Front St, you find Company B selling the same products. They're using the name (which is presumably trademarked) to draw attention. Trademark law says you can't do that.

No., it's more like tell someone "I'm interested in Product X" and they say "Why not try Y - you can get it at ..." and they're paid to push Y. They (Google) present a list of options based on your search - some of which are paid insertions - but you are not likely to confuse Pepsi's site with Coke's when you go there.

adds by google (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540675)

Best anonymous prices at
www.anonymouscoward.com

They should just pull out of Austrailia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540821)

21 mil people isn't much in the way of marketshare. People there can just use US or GB Google, too.

Must make life easier for morons (1)

athloi (1075845) | about 7 years ago | (#20540823)

If they can't tell a link is sponsored, they might accidentally purchase the wrong brand of toothpaste and die early from cancers. Lords knows, not enough morons are breeding or making it into middle management in this world as it is.

Hope the get a jury award ... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#20540835)

I hope the jury awards them all the money they paid to Google as fees do the search.

Re:Hope the get a jury award ... (1)

browman1 (993559) | about 7 years ago | (#20541327)

Wow, that would be like a couple of hundred dollars or something for the adwords involved...

Think of what a car dealership could do with that... like not rip someone off for a change?

Like Microsoft buying Linux adwords? (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | about 7 years ago | (#20540863)

If TFA is right then i think i can sense some wrongness in this. Selling adwords that points to some business or market to their competitors is a bit shady. I always cringe when i search for something Linux and for example Microsoft shows up. It should never be possible to buy misleding adwords. That takes away any usefullness of the whole adwords thing for the users. Myself i never look at them anymore because i know they are so skewed. I think google need to think about how people should be able to buy adwords for a long time.

Re:Like Microsoft buying Linux adwords? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20540975)

That would be the whole POINT in advertising.

Re:Like Microsoft buying Linux adwords? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20541187)

It seems to me that the culpable party is the one buying the adwwords and using them deceptively, not Google. Unless the adwords are globally registered, Google should not have to ban adwords because they happen to be trade marked in some local community. Meh! Another case of going after the deep pockets.

Because sponsored links (1)

Tweekster (949766) | about 7 years ago | (#20540913)

Because the heading "Sponsored Links" is just simply too confusing.

Not-for-profit, my butt! (1, Troll)

Renaissance 2K (773059) | about 7 years ago | (#20540937)

So, can we safely assume that Wikipedia is paying Google for the top spot on every single possible search query?

Re:Not-for-profit, my butt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20541345)

Not necessarily. Google has, as they did for FIRST Robotics, given different sites an increased weight in their search queries when Google supports the website.

An example of this: search "first" in Google and look what comes up. :)

Re:Not-for-profit, my butt! (2, Informative)

Renaissance 2K (773059) | about 7 years ago | (#20541581)

Um... [google.com]

I for one... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20541023)

would like to see the sponsored links more clearly separated. A box round them or even just a horizontal line underneath would be fine for me. But the current pale yellow background is not all that obvious and pretty-much invisible in some lighting conditions.

I don't think better separation would be harmful to Google - I would happily read the sponsored links if I were looking to buy something, and I feel deceived if I accidentally click on when I'm only looking for info. Of course, if I'm only looking for info, my click is of no value to a sales site anyway unless they are deliberately looking for accidental clicks to raise brand awareness, and I'm not sure that associating a brand with feeling deceived is good for the brand anyway.

The way I see it... (1)

dontspitconfetti (1153473) | about 7 years ago | (#20541053)

This lawsuit is a ploy to get more web traffic to their sites. DON'T GIVE IN!

They probably want to get a higher spot on the search results for "Google lawsuit" too. They are slowly but surely moving up!

Why? (3, Insightful)

flynt (248848) | about 7 years ago | (#20541059)

Why would Google "owe" any of us anything? Couldn't they just do whatever they want, I don't think I ever signed a contract with them specifying what behavior they are bound to?

Re:Why? (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | about 7 years ago | (#20541679)

> I don't think I ever signed a contract with them specifying what behavior they are bound to?

No, but they signed one with your government. It's called a corporate charter.

And this is google's problem how? (1)

browman1 (993559) | about 7 years ago | (#20541181)

With the speed that these things need to change to work, it would be pretty crippling if Google needed to check every single adword purchase for trademark infringement before it was published (and this would open up more cans of worms than I can be bothered to think of right now).

Surely this is simply down to another company using deceptive practises to earn trade, or just a knee jerk reaction by the victim to shoot the messenger.

Not new (1)

40ozFreak (823002) | about 7 years ago | (#20541381)

This isn't anything new, I don't think. I work for a major online window treatment retailer in the U.S. that has, for years now, paid Google top dollar to be at the top of a number of queries related to our area of business, both in relevance and sponsored searches. I never assume we were the first to do so nor the last, and I'm curious as to why more people didn't know about this in the first place?

consumer? (1)

kemster (532022) | about 7 years ago | (#20541579)

How am I a 'consumer' ? I have given Google nothing (directly), and they owe me nothing. How can I complain about a free service? Beggars can't be choosers?

And what about when I go to the supermarket and buy cat food, and on the back of the print-out receipt is a coupon for a competing cat food? Can the manufacturer of the cat food that I bought sue the supermarket?

Strange.. (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 7 years ago | (#20541639)

I wasn't aware I paid Google to do anything. In fact, it seems I'm using a free service. It's odd that apparently I am paying Google for a service and apparently they have some kind of responsibility to me?

On what basis do these idiots think Google has some contract with me or anyone else _except_ their advertisers to show any kind of search result in any kind of order at all?

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