Google has filed a lawsuit to dissuade scammers from using Google Maps and Business Profiles to post fake businesses and fake reviews. Google said “bad actors posted more than 350 fraudulent Business Profiles and tried to bolster them with more than 14,000 fake reviews.
The lawsuit. You can find the court document over here that spells out the details of the lawsuit that Google filed. The defendants listed in the lawsuit are Defendants Ethan QiQi Hu; GMBEye; Rafadigital, LLC (“Rafadigital”); and Does 1– 20.
Google said the purpose of the lawsuit is to stop the “complex and misleading scheme to deceive consumers, business owners, and Google by unlawfully manipulating Google’s industry-leading business listing services.”
It goes on to read:
“Over the past two years, Defendants—led primarily by a single individual, Ethan Qiqi Hu—have abused Google products to create fake online listings for businesses that do not exist, and to bolster them with fake reviews from people who do not exist. Defendants sell these listings, and the inquiries from confused consumers who are lured in by them, to individuals and entities looking to promote their businesses on Google platforms. Defendants deceive these small business owners too, making unsubstantiated and impossible claims about their ability to guarantee a favorable position in Google’s search results and implying preferential treatment or access with respect to certain Google processes.”
There is a lot of detail, including screenshots and the alleged methods used by the defendants in the court document.
Google has done this before. In the past, Google has done a number of things to try and stop this kind of fraud, including filing lawsuits. Not just with local, but also with web search.
Why we care. Will this lawsuit put fear into those scammers that have yet to be sued by Google and encourage them to stop their practices? Will this lawsuit lead to less spam and scams in Google Maps and Google Local? Time will tell but it is nice that Google is taking efforts, beyond just removing spam and fake profiles, to target these spammy efforts.
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About the author
Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.