Time to regulate Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies in front of Congress
It was nice to see Google CEO Sundar Pichai testify on Capitol Hill in December. Sadly the committee asked the wrong questions. Pichai needed to be asked about protecting consumers on their platform. Google doesn’t allow businesses to use PO Boxes for their GMB listings, then why are spammers able to continue to create these listings? Surely Google would be able to create a database where they kept all of the Po Box addresses and anytime a listing is created using one, they could automatically suspend it. It is in their TOS. Google picks and chooses when to uphold their Terms of Services. It is Google’s platform and they are either unwilling to or completely inept to police their platform. Google is a monopoly when it comes to search. They have map packs and knowledge panels to display the results of business for consumers. The problem is consumers are playing a bad game of Russian roulette with fake listings or unscrupulous businesses with fake reviews. Mr. Pichai needs to be asked about protecting its users. Google used to have the moto don’t be evil. That moto is long gone and seems to be replaced with see no evil. Prostitution is illegal, yet spammers have been able to create listings for erotic massages and escort services offering sex for sale. The laws clearly state that is is illegal, yet spammers keep creating these listings and using Google’s categories for illegal services. Google does a better job of regulating their PPC or paid ads platform and ban marketers from creating ads for these services. So why can people create these listings?

Google needs to be regulated and have Congressional checks and balances put into place to protect consumers. Google needs to define who their users are. It’s not the legitimate businesses. It’s not the searcher and appears to be the spammers that are running around like Max from where the wild things are. Spammers break every TOS imaginable when spamming Google. Keyword stuffed names, PO boxes, virtual offices, private residences, illegal services, fake reviews, stolen identities, and negative review attacks. The fake reviews are illegal and can result in fines and jail time. So far on the New York Attorney General goes after these businesses. If states want to balance the budget, put a team in place to go after these businesses with fake reviews and fine them. If ten businesses were fined the twenty-five thousand dollars, the state would make two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Most states average eighty businesses, the state would collect two million dollars in fines. With a minimum eight thousand business, I project two hundred million in fines.

If Google wanted to, they could easily build a spider to follow all of the businesses being review by one fake review user and build out a list of businesses faking reviews. They could email the business advising that they have been identified engaging in illegal review practices and if caught doing it again be subject to suspension. It’s a privilege to be listed on Google and not a right. Google penalized websites for spammy link techniques with the Penguin Algorithm. At this point, Google needs to do something drastic and make waves. A suspension here and there won’t be enough of the deterrent. It takes Google to long to action a spam report. A friend and I submitted 350 fake listings to Google in September. Several of those listings are still live. The company behind them has no idea why they are losing a handful of listings and probably are used to it by now and just chalk it up as the cost of doing business. If Google had suspended all of the three hundred and fifty businesses, then the people behind the nonsense would have taken more notice. Google also knows the business behind the fake listings. They left their calling card attached to the listings. If the company and the fake listings had made the news, Google would have removed them all right away. You see Google is capable of doing the right thing with the proper motivation, they just need the proper motivation.

Google needs proper motivation

Google was alerted to the fact that fake rehab listings were being created and then sending people needing help to motels to be treated. Once the news story broke, Google magically was able to clean up the fake listings. See proper motivation works. The sad part is that these fake rehab and treatment facilities claim the life of Detroit Red Wings’ announcer’s son. I have seen it when a business gets covered on the news for having fake reviews, Google removes the fake reviews shortly afterward. A1 Garage door in Tempe had all over their fake reviews removed by Google when ABC reporter Joe Ducey contacted Google for information for his story. The business went back to business, as usual, soliciting fake reviews. They current have 396 reviews Another user reported the business to the GMB forum shortly after the story aired and Google has yet to take down the reviews. For the fake 1-star review attacks I reported in December, the spam team removed the negative reviews left for one business, however, they left the rest of the fake positive reviews intact.  

Google needs the proper motivation and the government needs to step in and start regulating the platform. Safeguards need to be put in place to protect consumers. The spammers behind the fake networks need to be prosecuted and the business engaging in these tactic needs to be finde and/or put out of business. The FBI and Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General recently filed RICO charges against a moving company that kept creating fake listings in an attempt to hide the complaints from unsuspecting consumers. I see the same complaints with a garage door company that prides themselves on overcharging consumers for unnecessary repairs. With these tactics, consumers have no idea what is a reputable or unreputable company anymore.

Since the government hasn’t stepped in and Google is continuing to operate unregulating and it is obvious that Google is incapable of policing themselves, I have to continue to battle the GMB spam. I am happy that I am not alone and that I work alongside my friends to help clean up the mess that is GMB. We do it to help protect consumers from being scammed. I need to create new documents and escalation threads for fake reviews and keep playing whack-a-mole since the spam won’t die. It’s better to try than to give up and do nothing. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke. There is speculation of whether or not Edmund said this quote, but I like it nonetheless. “I guess one man can make a difference.” Stan Lee in Spiderman. Too much is at stake to not at least try.

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