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  1. #1
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    In message 6 above, I promised an article re intermediaries helping to support purveyors of unwanted software. The article is now posted to my site: http://www.benedelman.org/news/052305-1.html .

    You may be surprised to see what company is behind more of 180's current ads than any other single intermerdiary. I certainly was surprised!...

  2. #2
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    Excellent job. So they ignore another rule, this and the scraping rule. Ben do you know when this relationship started? Pre-ipo they enforced the no-scraping rule, post ipo? Nope...

    Chet

  3. #3
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Ben continues to amaze me!!! Check out this section of his report:
    http://www.benedelman.org/news/052305-1.html#google

    Among other very interesting observations Ben has made, you'll find this:
    "Second, notwithstanding Google's statements about the quality of sites in its network, Google's relationship with 180 is surprisingly large: Of the 88,388 current 180solutions ads, some 4,678 (5%+) include Google AdSense ads, making Google the most prevalent source of funding for web sites advertising with 180solutions."

    Read that last part again....
    "making Google the most prevalent source of funding for web sites advertising with 180solutions"

    Unbelievable!

    The more Ben exposes, the harder legislators (and folks like Google) will clamp down on these bad actors. As a neighborhood watchman, I am glad he lives on my street!

    Without his research, a ton of this activity would go undocumented and behind a curtain of confusion.

    If the gov't were smart, and interested in efficiency, they'd take a nice fat chunk of enforcement money ($10 million more just announced for authorities to tread through this quagmire) and hire Ben. He's shown he can achieve truckloads on what I imagine is a very tiny budget compared to what the feds have available.

    Damn glad I contributed $100 to you last month. My ROI is huge!

    ROCK ON BEN!!!!!!!!!

  4. #4
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    I just want to point out to everyone that these AdSense accounts are not 180's, but actually individual accounts of those who are in advertising "partnerships" with 180. So Google AdSense isn't sending an AdSense earnings check to 180 directly. It is simply that someone using 180 for promotional purposes also is running AdSense.

    I think the inherent problem with Google AdSense trying to quality check these kind of situations is that someone could report the URL the men's grooming URL, but when a quality checker from the AdSense team looks at it, it is fully within all the AdSense terms and policies. All the on page factors look fine, and from their point of view, there is no pop-up. It is just your typical AdSense-compliant webpage.

    To actually see where the problem lies, someone on the AdSense team would have to sit down, install 180, and then start surfing and see which publishers are using 180 to advertise and promote their AdSense. And only then would it really be possible for them to see that the sites are being promoted utilizing 180.

    And with 4,678 (5%+) including Google AdSense ads, I suspect it is actually a small number of individual publishers who are actually promoting pages this way. And because Google doesn't tell those who report terms/policy-violating sites what the outcome is, there could have been advertisers in the past who have been reported and no longer use 180 as they did in the past. And I know at least one publisher was was warned to stop using a program that promoted sites in pop-ups (not sure if it was 180 or another similar program) by Google.

    So, the bottom line. Is Google to blame? Not really, their usual quality checks would pass these sites with flying colors. Is Google lining 180s pockets with gold? Nope, it is simply that some publishers have made the decision to promote their sites using 180, the same way some publishers make the decision to promote their sites with PPC, traffic exchanges, etc.

  5. #5
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Whoo Hooo CJ gives 180Solutions the boot! Ben nailed it as the flow of commissions to these forced cookie stuffers, and even those paying to use 180Solutions type theftware to drain CJ's search PPCSE marketing placements, hardly makes a burp in ValueClick/CJ's cut on theftware activity. Ben is starting to see no one in the Adwhore business gives a hoot about stopping the draining of merchants AD budgets by affiliate cookie/click tricksters.

    The only way to bring this to a head is for the actual budget raped merchant's management to swear out criminal warrants for fraud to be served to AM's, networks and advertising intermediaries. Google and Overture should like wise issue arrest warrants for fraudsters and file a class action suit against all those abusing and ignoring their PPC terms.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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  6. #6
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenstar
    So, the bottom line. Is Google to blame? Not really, their usual quality checks would pass these sites with flying colors. Is Google lining 180s pockets with gold? Nope, it is simply that some publishers have made the decision to promote their sites using 180, the same way some publishers make the decision to promote their sites with PPC, traffic exchanges, etc.
    If Google has a policy, they are responsible for enforcing it.

    As an AdWords advertisier, I have a contract with Google - my ads get shown on their network - my PPC money is paid to Google and they will be paying a part of it to those in their network who are breaking Google's own rules.

    If their current quality checks are not sufficient, they need to devote more to the issue.

    I am not saying Google is the bad actor, but as Ben is pointing out, their lack of enforcement is resulting in money flowing to those sites that are doing it.

  7. #7
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Another way I view it Jenstar, because I think you're asserting Google doesn't have the resources (infected computers, people to look at it), is that little ol' Ben Edelman is collecting this information with tools he built. Google is a multi-billion dollar company - Ben is a lone independent researcher. I love Ben, but collectively, I sincerely hope Google has more brain power, time, dedicated and required interest, fidiciary responsibility, PR at risk, money, computers, programming skill and chutzpah to get a little more done than Ben... even if he did graduate from Harvard.

    They could easily get Ben's help for small slice of a wart on the smallest fraction of a penny's on the dollar of what they have at risk here...

  8. #8
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    Another way I view it Jenstar, because I think you're asserting Google doesn't have the resources (infected computers, people to look at it), is that little ol' Ben Edelman is collecting this information with tools he built. Google is a multi-billion dollar company - Ben is a lone independent researcher. I love Ben, but collectively, I sincerely hope Google has more brain power, time, dedicated and required interest, fidiciary responsibility, PR at risk, money, computers, programming skill and chutzpah to get a little more done than Ben... even if he did graduate from Harvard.

    They could easily get Ben's help for small slice of a wart on the smallest fraction of a penny's on the dollar of what they have at risk here...
    Don't hold back there.... Donuts
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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  9. #9
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    The problem is google is selectively enforcing their rules, but still telling advertisers they have these rules in place. Which is why I am for the current lawsuit against google that many on here were against, google has to start living it to what they agree to.

    Chet

  10. #10
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    Ben,

    In those 4600+ pops attributed to Google, were any of them direct Google links or forced Ad Sense clicks? Or were they primarily what you showed in your example, a web site in the pop up which contained Ad Sense? I ask because I've seen pretty much all the other PPCSE's show up in parasites (for quite some time now many parasites have been shifting their inventory to search) with just PPCSE listings in the pop up and at times forced hidden clicks for a PPCSE. I've never seen this for Google myself, so I'm just curious.

    I'm also curious about how you calculated your figures. If a web site popped up in a 180 ad which had AdSense on the page but also had ads from other sources (just for example say FastClick banner also), how did you count that in your tallies? Did Google and FastClick both get a tally?
    Last edited by Kellie aka Ms. B; May 25th, 2005 at 08:29 PM.

  11. #11
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    My merchant clients refuse to pay a dime in PPCSE fees filtered through to the 180Solutions BHO type popups. They'd rather use natural serps and set daily PPCSE budgets to 20.00 then let the PPCSE aggregrators farm out their brand to any sleezebag affiliate PPCSE trickster pissing off their customer base. Screw the Adwhore intermediaries who refuse to even try to generate a click from their domain web pages. That would require a physical click, merchant focused page content and traffic to their web site. Merchants should require lie detector tests for their AM's asking pointed questions if they knowingly recruit all types of commission thieves. Fail the test and the AM gets fired and forced to pay restitution for defrauding their merchant boss.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  12. #12
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    If Google has a policy, they are responsible for enforcing it.
    Yes, but in the same note, publishers have agreed to uphold to the terms and policies themselves, as well.

    I think you're asserting Google doesn't have the resources
    Nope, nothing to do with not having the resources, at all. But they might not have realized there was a problem there at all because looking at it normally, it would appear to be fully compliant.

    Google makes a point of not violating publisher privacy by emailing back those who report questionable practices by publishers, to let them know the outcome of the investigation. I'm sure most people here would be upset if a competitor reporting you for a compliance issue (whether deliberate or accidental) and Google then repllied to your competitor detailing the action they have taken against you.

    So it is quite a likely scenario that is something that is an ongoing process right now. We could see all those publishers either no longer advertising via 180, or removing AdSense, after they do look into those publishers and begin the process of sending out warnings and/or suspensions. But just because Ben hasn't heard anything, doesn't mean that it isn't something Google is actively pursuing right now.

    The problem is google is selectively enforcing their rules
    That's not really the case, it is more an issue of them being spotted and reported first.

    If you want to report a page or site running afoul of any of the AdSense terms/policies, go to the page in question, and click on Ads by Google. That form will automatically imbed the publisher and page information. Then detail what the compliancy issue is. The more detail the better (ie. "this site is in a pop up" would obviously not be as good as "when viewing this page with 180 installed, when I search for widgets, this publisher's page comes up in a pop up with a Sponsored by 180 title....") and then they can look into it.

  13. #13
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    some 4,678 (5%+) include Google AdSense ads
    I meant to ask, was this figure for individual ad *units* or for individual ads (ie. one leaderboard would equal 4 ads; one banner would equal 2 ads)

  14. #14
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    Jenstar, but you are wrong. There has been a shift in Google. I have been reporting site scrapers as soon as google said that was a no-no. Previously they would take action within one week, no more. It is over 2 months and counting for a network of sites that are obviously violating the rules.

    It seems they have realized these underhanded tactics work in their advantage, so they have begun to allow them to continue even after they have been reported.

    And also remember, it is not just a nice thing to do, it is requirement that if they tell advertisers their ads will not be shown in different ways, to actively police their publishers to prevent this from happening. And do you really think google doesn't have a method to see where the ads are being served? That is not rocket science.

    Chet

  15. #15
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    I like Jenstar!

    Welcome Jenstar

    =============
    I promissed I'd be zip lipped on this thread but what the heck ... I saw Ben's example and all I saw was a site that was poped up by 180 that happened to have adsense on it ... WTF is the issue with google here? The affiliate is wrong not google. Period. No way to go, no wow Harvard, just wow CYA because you not only just blamed google of wrong doing but were waaaaaay wrong and waaaaaay out of line.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
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  16. #16
    Troll Killer and best Snooper!
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    I've become very suspicious of Google's motives in this most recent (ongoing) juggling of ranking. When I've held a top 10 position for a keyword phrase for months and suddenly I've been relegated to page six of the listings, along with the other sites who I shared page one with...AND...page one contains forum posts and site scrapers...I have to wonder who exactly Google is serving. The public searching for relevant sites...or Google serving up sites that can generate the most AdSense income?

    This update makes no sense to me unless I frame it in terms of what best serves Google's own interests.

  17. #17
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    Sorry to be so slow to reply. Have been traveling all day today.

    Jenstar: You are right in your description of what is occurring, how Google is involved, how others are involved, and how Google would have to run tests in order to see the issue. If you see any way my write-up could be improved or clarified to help make this that much easier to understand, do send me a note. You are also correct that some AdSense sites run many ads with 180; the 4,678 number is a number of distinct 180 ad URLs, not a number of distinct AdSense sites.

    Chet: I think you are right that it's particularly odd for Google to tell advertisers that they have rules and can make assurances as to quality, but then to fail to take reasonable steps to assure such quality. I tried to emphasize this piece in my article.

    Chetf, Donuts, and Ecomcity: Thanks as always for the kind words.

    Kellie: My robots and my hands-on observations do not indicate any forced clicks (though in all honesty I don't know that my robots would identify or report this if it were happening). I agree that other PPCSEs also show up in parasites, often with forced clicks. Google's system might be somewhat harder to force clicks in, since AdSense members only get embedded JavaScript, not full XML feeds, so it's harder for an AdSense member site to even figure what URL to force a click for.

    Where an ad passes meets the criteria for inclusion in multiple rows of my table, it is included in all such rows for which it qualifies. The underlying database query for the Google row is (roughly) "tell me how many ads include an embedded Google AdSense ad panel" -- so an ad comes up in this query even if the ad also is reached through (say) a DoubleClick tracking link.

    Jenstar: I think you're right that Google doesn't generally reply as to particular allegations of wrongdoing. However, whree an allegation pertains to a broad class of activities, I have previously received replies as to Google's view of that general class of activities and the actions taken to stop it (if appropriate). I have received no such reply here.

    Jenstar: As to your question in message #13: 4,678 is the number of 180 ad URLs that include one or more Google AdSense ad units. If a given 180 ad URL includes multiple AdSense units, it still only counts as one ad towards the 4,678 total.

    Haiko: I gather you don't think this is a big deal. But why not? Google has specifically said that this is prohibited, yet it has no obvious enforcment system in place to detect or stop the activity. To the contrary, the activity is widespread. Meanwhile, Google's advertisers receive specific representations from Google that their ads are being shown on "high quality" partner sites, but that apparently is not actually the case (since some of the sites don't meet the "high quality" standard). Whether or not Google is "blamed of wrongdoing" is an open question, and ABW readers may reach their own conclusions; my article doesn't purport to take a position one way or the other. (See paragraph four.) But clearly Google's system is being used to pass fees to 180, just as CJ's system is used for that purpose in other examples we've all looked at previously; and I know that's of serious concern here. Finally, as to your Harvard reference, I guess I don't understand. Why do you mention Harvard at all? Totally irrelevant!

  18. #18
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Ben,

    Harvard line ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Donuts
    ... than Ben... even if he did graduate from Harvard.
    I gather you don't think this is a big deal. But why not? Google has specifically said that this is prohibited, yet it has no obvious enforcment system in place to detect or stop the activity. To the contrary, the activity is widespread.
    No it's a big deal, don't mis quote me ... I didn't you! You overly seam to imply that google is directly responsible for this horsehockey ... and all I said it wasn't. Google is a behemouth and needs to curtail many inadequacies it has because it is soo damn big including click fruad and these tricksters.

    Whether or not Google is "blamed of wrongdoing" is an open question, and ABW readers may reach their own conclusions; my article doesn't purport to take a position one way or the other.
    F that ... it's not open ...
    You may be surprised to see what company is behind more of 180's current ads than any other single intermerdiary. I certainly was surprised!...
    You already pulled the J'accuse on googler ... ain't nothing "open there" ... your article doesn't take a position? Ok maybe, just maybe your post did? whatever Ben ... your tooo smart for me and ... obviously can lefthandedly blame google for 180 shoot cause it's .... ummm Wednesday?

    I'm done in this thread.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  19. #19
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    You overly seam to imply that google is directly responsible for this horsehockey ... and all I said it wasn't.
    I think we actually agree: Google is not directly responsible for these actions.

    Recall what my article actually says:

    My take: Advertiser and intermediary liability is an interesting question of law, well beyond my aspirations for this brief piece. But where ad intermediaries purport to certify or stand behind the quality of the venues where their ads are shown, I'm not receptive to their claims that they can't do what they've promised. Where ad intermediaries merely count advertisement clicks without even claiming to assure traffic quality, the case for blaming intermediaries for improper use of their tracking links may be somewhat weaker (though still cognizable).
    So the issue is not that Google is "directly responsible"; everyone agrees that it is not.

    Rather, the issue is that Google put in place a set of economic incentives that predictably led to this result, and Google seemingly didn't and doesn't have systems in place to stop it.

    Signing off until late tomorrow (or perhaps even until Friday morning). More travel duties.

  20. #20
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    my article doesn't purport to take a position one way or the other.
    But Ben your article does do just that. I think the most important part of what you should have taken from Haiko's post is the CYA part. And after going back and reading paragraph 4 as you suggested, looking at your answer to my questions, rereading the whole article and looking at the wording of what Google says with regards to both popups and client software, I would highly recommend the same thing.

  21. #21
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    I'm not getting Kellie's and Haiko's CYA point... I don't see Ben relieving the advertisers of wrongdoing - nor do I see him claiming Google is doing specific direct wrong, but rather he's pointing out an omission of action to police the wrong done by others. I see him saying that Google's not enforcing their rules which is allowing bad actors to benefit. And he clearly said the specifics of G's liability are beyond the article and then gets back to his point about what and how he observed advertisers doing what they're doing through Google.

    To me, it's like he's pointing out pawn shops where he's spotted stolen goods. He didn't say the pawn shops stole anything - he said the pawn shops have a rule against buying hot goods, but they're not enforcing it always - and this is allowing money to flow to thieves.

    My pawn shop analogy is much harsher than his article - he didn't say anyone was stealing or were thieves and such. To me, he's just observing the pawn shops and pointing out that he can observe what's happening in their business, where the shop owners have said they want to do the same, and he's questioning why they aren't doing more than counting the goods flowing through their pawn shop.

    So what am I missing?

    And by the way, I am not being sarcastic here. Kellie has CYA'd me a few times - always the right move. So I trust there's merit to her suggestion. I'm just not seeing it. Perhaps it's best communicated between Ben-Kellie-Haiko - there's surely history and details I'm lacking to grasp the whole impact. Please sort it out quickly - with or without replying to my question above. I'd rather see a "we chatted and got our meanings across to each other" than anything else. The potential impact of the report demands you 3 iron this wrinkle asap.
    Last edited by Donuts; May 26th, 2005 at 08:15 AM. Reason: clarifying wrong "done by others"...

  22. #22
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    Donuts,

    I don't think it would be necessarily beneficial to Ben to post publicly regarding CYA points. KWIM?

    I will say in general that for anyone making statements and putting out information on these issues, it is prudent to be sure you have all your ducks in a row prior to inking it on the web (even more so at this particular point in time than in the past). Repeatedly going back after the fact to clarify and modify what has been put out there publicly regarding others can potentially be problematic. Additionally, you should be consider what you are saying as a whole and how the message is likely to be interpreted and weigh how heavily one or two statements (whose function is to disclaim) in the whole context of what is being said will indeed serve the purpose of protection.

    In your pawn shop example, the trafficing of known stolen goods is illegal...it's called fencing in the pawn shop business. Now if you say you have spotted stolen goods in a pawn shop and the pawn shop is not always enforcing their policy of dealing in stolen goods (a law), then you have indeed accused that pawn shop of engaging in illegal activity. So hopefully you can back-up your claim that they were knowingly turning a blind eye and engaging in such activity.

    Of course I tend to be very cautious and conservative along the CYA lines. Everyone has to weigh for themselves to what degree they feel comfortable of potentially painting a bullseye on their backside. For me, it's a very conservative approach and I will spend quite a bit of time comtemplating the best way to get my message out with the minimal amount of preceived risk on my part. I'd rather not have to devote time away from what I'm doing to deal with real or possible legal issues if I can avoid it.

    I did find something very interesting in Ben's article that hasn't gotten mentioned here however with the focus on Google nor seemed to addressed directly in the article. In his table, there were only 2 Affiliate Networks listed: ClickBanks and CJ. Best I could determine Ben used an incident rate of 500 occurences as determine if an Ad Agency would be listed or not. So while it's possible that other Affiliate Networks showed up in his testing they were below his threshold for reporting. I find this good news specific to Affiliate Networks when comparing that with Ben's previous reports on 180. I'm not sure if in his counts if he looked for 'inline' ads in the pop ups for the other Ad Agencies reported on like he did for Google or those other Ad Agencies only were counted if the Ad Agency's URL itself was directly served up through 180's software. Even if it was the later case, with regards to the reports for Affiliate Networks this is looking like an improvement from Ben's previous reporting.

  23. #23
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    This may be a stupid post here for some, but what do the "CYA" means?
    Just remember that there are a lot of new members in ABW and I bet that 90% of them, don't know what do the "CYA" acronym is.

    If I am wrong, then delete this post, anyway anyone can just google it they don't know it.

  24. #24
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    CYA = cover your @ss

  25. #25
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B
    CYA = cover your @ss


    Thanks.


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