Google, Click Fraud and Hezbollah & Al Qaeda Terrorist Groups?

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At the Search Engine Strategies Conference in Chicago, Webmaster Radio‘s Jim Hedger is currently holding a press conference which is making public the investigative report that:

1. Google is serving Adwords and Adsense advertisements on Google properties within Orkut which are managed by terrorist cells and sympathizers.

2. Google is serving advertising on the sites of Google AdSense members who are connected with Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups which are benefitting from revenue which is originated by Google advertisers.

3. Click fraud and click bots are escalating the revenue generated by these 3rd party Adsense partner sites, and this revenue is making its way into the hands of organized crime and terrorist groups.

Google, Orkut and Advertisers

The specific Google properties which are serving these ads are housed on the Google Orkut social network. Orkut groups which were serving these Google Ads were set up by Hezbollah, Iraqi insurgent and other terror oriented groups.

I took it upon myself to perform some searches within the Orkut network and came across multiple Hezbollah and Al Qaeda groups, associated forums and member profiles which are serving Google AdWords contextual advertisements.

The following is an example of one of the hundreds of terror oriented groups within Orkut serving AdWords ads from probably unaware Google advertisers:

This is a condensed shot, please click for the full screenshot.

Update, here is a screenshot of an Orkut Hezbollah group which is serving paid advertisements from eBay and other Google publishers via Google AdWords : Hezbollah Orkut Group Screen Capture.

Sure the argument can be put together that Google is not responsible for the content which is created by members of their Orkut community, which lets registered users set up their own forums, blogs, and groups to connect different users over the Google network.

Pay per click revenue from these ads goes directly to Google.

Google, Click Fraud and Terror Funds

Furthermore, Jim Hedger of Webmaster Radio has spoken with a contact who was behind the lines in Fallujah working with the Iraqi insurgency, who was setting up blog networks which serve Google AdSense advertisements, and incentivize their readers to click on the ads.

Not only, however, are users clicking on the ads, but these insurgent based networks are using clickbots, automated programs which click on Google advertisements, to click on these advertisements.

How would this system work? The Google AdSense partners are then, once they receive their payments from Google, donating these funds to ‘invisible’ charities which are then funneling the funds to Internatinonal Hezbollah groups, Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda networks.

1. Groups set up blogs and sites with Google AdSense ads
2. Commit click fraud on those sites
3. Collect revenue from Google
4. Donate revenue to ‘charities’ which funnel to terror groups

Is Google knowingly funding these terrorist groups? No, they are not. However, holes in the Google click fraud tracking and identification system may be.

More About Clickfraud, Clickbots and Botnets

For those readers who are new to the click fraud controversy, the Wikipedia entry on Click Fraud has good background information.

Jim Hedger also adds (read more from The Silent Epidemic of Botnets)

“The real victims of click fraud are PPC advertisers. Both the perpetrators and the PPC advertising providers make money every time an advertiser pays for a fraudulent click. If the fraudsters have been paid out by one of the PPC engines, it is a safe bet that engine has made money as well. Though the search providers, most notably Google and Yahoo, already detect and delete a wide array of invalid clicks, the rapid proliferation of botnets is considered mute testimony to the success of the underworld endeavor.

As efficient as they are at automating fraud, botnets require human control and activation. There is always a central controller. The controller is not necessarily the person responsible for writing the malicious code. The controller might not even be directly associated with the person or organization profiting from the scheme. Controllers are often highly paid mercenaries who happen to be very, very good hackers.”

This post has been edited due to the inclusion of 3rd party information which was obtained by Search Engine Journal and not provided by Webmaster Radio. We will have more information on this news story as Webmaster Radio continues to break this story.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Wow… this only proves to me what I’ve known for a while. Google has, unfortunately, become a corrupt company that is accountable to no one.

  • bwb

    Oh jesus christ guys, take a break, google runs ads that can be put on sites… they don’t support anything except making money nor can they easily monitor all of them. They try.

    Also some social group that calls itself a terror org is probably not. I was on a soccer team called red devils which also sounds pretty scary and cool…

    It is people like Webmaster Radio’s Jim Hedger who are idiots.

  • The real issue behind this story is how the reluctance of Google to eliminate click fraud is leading to such practices.

    People are making money hand over fist right now because of the holes provided by shotty click fraud tracking, and not everyone is using such revenue for honest means.

    So, it’s not too surprising that terror organizations and organized crime have pinpointed click fraud and splogging as methods to increse their funds and money flow.

  • How much money are these groups getting via AdSense?

  • Dirson, hopefully the source of the story can shed some light on those numbers. I’m only reporting upon what came out of today’s press conference.

    By the way, bwb, Mr. Hedger is no idiot.

  • No Jim Hedger is not an idiot. However this goes back to what I said a long time ago. Search engines KNOW about the fraud on their networks. They also do NOT eliminate revenue from a particular source unless they have another source to replace it.

    I’ve worked for enough engines and been privy to enough conversations to know what I am talking about here.

    Fact is they may not know WHO they are funding but they do know that the crappy traffic is there making them money.

    And they DO let it happen.

  • A huge scoop for Webmaster Radio – If it’s all true (this is not the kind of thing you’d want to publicise without some evidence), not that surprised about orkut being used by terrorist organisations. IT wasn’t that long ago when a bunch of drug dealers in South Amerca was founf using the ‘social’ network. I can see them trying to clean the click fraud, but if many thousands of real people start clicking on ads to support their cause, there’s not a lot Google can do.

  • Nilhan, Webmaster Radio has released the files to the top industry anti-click fraud and web analytics firms and experts right here at the conference.

    Furthermore, Google is working on the information as well. Expect a statement from them within the next 24 hours.

  • Nilhan, they won’t clean up click fraud unless stories like this one get out and force them to in order to save face. As I mentioned in my article linked to above, some industry experts estimate that 30% of all clicks are fraudulent. Imagine what would happen if Google had to clean all that up! Their stock would tank, their revenues would shrink, and their costs would go up. They have an incredible incentive NOT to do anything about this type of activity. They simply ban small time publishers (and keep their money by the way) to make it SEEM like they are doing something about the 300 lb gorilla in the room. When, as we can see through this story, there thousands if not millions being made through organized click fraud networks, and google doesn’t touch those.

  • Loren can you get the link to the archived audio and post it when you get a chance?

  • anon

    Those look like public service ads (PSAs), that Google runs for the benefit of non-profit organizations. They’re the default on non-commercial or negative content (e.g., hurricane katrina story).

  • Obviously Google needs to do something about this, however I can also see how a company who has typically stayed neutral on these issues would have a hard time reacting fairly.

  • 99% sensationalism here.

    Chances are the diamond you bought your wife financed a lot more terror than Adsense.

    Anon has a good point. Do you have a better example?

  • Veronika

    Maybe it’s time for Google to reconsider their “do no evil” campaign. Not only is it not true, but it’s disingenuous. Hubris can only take you so far before a fall. They are pretty lucky.

  • With all respect …but this story does not make sense to me.
    If these guys know how to do click fraud with clickbots why the hell would they only do it on terror groups/blogs and not on mortgage sites with much higher CPC? How the hell did the “terror supporter group” sign up on Adsense with an address in Iraq? There are too many unanswered questions and I believe it is BS unless I see some serious evidence (sample blog).

  • I agree with Aaron and Markus. But, I will say this. I think it is sad that Jim Hedger decided to out this the way he did. At the very least take it to the FBI, CIA or NSA before taking it out in public. If these guys are really Al-Qaeda, and this is really as big of a deal as it is made out to be, then surely rounding up this giant Al-Qaeda fundraising conspiracy would have been a better choice. No? There would surely still be an exclusive on this story after all was said and done. How the hell does click fraud, something I as an Adwords advertiser deal with, compare with Al-Qaeda? Maybe I missed something.

  • “The specific Google properties which are serving these ads are housed on the Google Orkut social network.”

    I’ll start debunking this immediately. The claim is that Google is funding terrorists via AdSense ads on Orkut. That’s false because ad clicks on Orkut don’t pay money to individual users. So it is literally *impossible* for bad guys to be making money via Orkut ads.

    In fact, it appears in the picture from the article that Google is correctly detecting that this might be objectionable content and as a result is showing “sponsor an orphan” ads instead. Google doesn’t charge anyone for those charity ads at all.

    Loren, you mention “This post has been edited.” Can you say what you’ve removed or edited from the original post you did?

  • I’m wondering if this is going to hit mainstream media and take on a life of it’s own.

  • Come on man, put it together. It’s unreasonable to expect google to investigate who they send cheques too. That’s why they pay tax, which funds national security projects. This way, we can have an organisation that specialises in search, and does it well, and also an organisation that specialises in hunting terrorists, and does it well. That’s much better than putting a handful of inexperienced power-hungry witchhunters in every corporation, to try to stop giving money to terrorists.

  • Hey, seriously. Enjoy the same blood money you’re making money off of the traffic on. It’s hardly different. I mean other than the fact that you’re completely wrong and Google isn’t a Governmental Investigation company nor should they be. Other than that enjoy it.

  • notepad

    Got some news for you fella — there aren’t any terrorist groups, except for the traitors in Washington and who have hijacked the USA and handed it over to the Mossad in Tel aviv.

    I’m an American and I object to your profiling of innocent civilians and defenders of their homelands as insurgents and terror groups. We’ve got more than enough propaganda without you adding to the stack.

    Stick to webdev till you’ve decided to stop spreading lies, or at least done some real research on the situation. BTW, Bin Laden’s been dead since 2001.

  • Hey Loren,

    I actually blog about Orkut on my site, and Google (as well as the CIA, FBI, etc.) are very aware of these groups presence AND I would not be surprised if the only reason they were up was for intel purposes.

    Second, no one but Google makes money for Ads on Orkut. Not the terrorists, not me, not any of the popular forums.

    Third, announcing it here is a great way to bring traffic, but also alert the enemy. I’ve made the same mistake (so I can’t condemn you here) but next time alert the FBI or contact Google about it as they (from my experience) are VERY aggressive against this sort of thing.

    PS

    Matt Cutts is right on the money regarding this one.

  • Brandon

    This is just about the stupidest story I’ve ever read with the expectation of reading one that wasn’t stupid. Starts off saying that the ads on Orkut were funding terrorist organizations, claiming some group called Al Qaeda on Orkut was started by Al Qaeda… then suddenly changes subject to sites outside Orkut. Written like so much link bait. You have fun with that.

  • Mike

    I can’t even fund a trip to Taco Bell once a month with what I make off AdSense. Those .03 and .04 clicks I get don’t add up. Those insurgents groups would have to run the clickbots 24/7 to get enough to buy their camel a bale of hay.

    Even though the Google’s top trio are aknowledged left leaning Gore lovers I can’t see them willingly aiding Al Qaeda.
    Kiddie porn maybe, but not bin laden’s group.

  • CPCcurmudgeon

    I won’t comment on the terrorist angle, but the botnet issue is well-known. As always, my general response is that CPC is a poor business model because it is so easy to defraud. I continue to be mystified at how what is a classic, well-understood security problem is still so continually ignored. Yeah, advertisers are getting better ROI than on broadcast or print media so they spend their budgets in full on PPC … for now.

  • The Link to Jims Article in Loren’s Post will become invalid when the next Sitepronews article gets posted in a few days.

    Here is the permalink of the article
    http://www.sitepronews.com/archives/2006/dec/6.html

  • Wooh boy! I don’t envy google in their position right now! 🙂

    G-Man

  • j

    99% sensationalism here

  • G-Man:
    Matt Cutts already responded. See previous comments.

    J:
    I agree with you 98% 😉 The Jim Hedges article is pretty good though. I will blog about it after this comment.

  • No matter what the publisher of the forum or website says, releasing “g” from policing this is just a smidgeon away from the use of these networks to gain cash through illicit means.

  • John Doe

    I think jim hedger is exagerating the situation to bring attention to bot nets.

    If you honestly think a company the size of google and with that many lawyers did not consider the basic flaws of adense, then you are not thinking logically.

    More important, if terrorists wanted funding, why would you create a website supporting Terrorism for ad revenue, your better off basing your website on some random topic and getting funded through adsense.

  • The debate about click fraud itself is interesting to me. Having seen the *utter* fraudulence that plagues most “ad networks” (non-Google or Yahoo!)–with 90%+ fraudulent clicks on occasion–I wonder why anyone complains about even 30%. The whole system works on economics. Think of shoplifting: it costs store owners money, but not enough to close the store. Eventually it might, though that’ s unusual, at which point (eventually) the market will encourage a return to the now-abandoned property because the overhead is so low. This is happening to even the most blighted American cities. Similarly, yeah, it sucks that you are paying a 30% surcharge to every click. But, um, kids, that just means you’re making piles of money, not obscene piles of money. If this were really a problem, you’d stop doing it, right? Hmm? Wanna go back to TV? How many of *those* views are fraudulent? And gee…it’s a bit more expensive, isn’t it? The percentage should be brought down. But it’s not some apocalyptic mess. Keep your shirt on.

  • Esteban

    I notice this site has Google ads on the left. How much of your clicks would you estimate are fraudulent? If Google’s “reluctance” to “fix” click fraud is so unethical, why don’t you take your Google ads off the site, rather than be a party to this moral outrage?

  • TDW, I mean no offense but your analogy does not apply at all.

    First of all let me say that thousands have stopped using Adwords due to click fraud. I’m sure thousands more have as well and don’t even realize it, they just don’t see any profit in it. Well if the prices were 30% lower, they might well have made a profit off it.

    Now, to your shop lifting analogy. To make it fit, you’d have to say that the shops people are stealing from make money off the stolen items. This is the big problem. People who commit click fraud aren’t stealing from google or Yahoo, they are MAKING money for google and Yahoo. They are stealing from the advertisers (business owners etc) and giving a large chunk of the stolen money to google to look the other way. That’s why you only see small publishers banned. They don’t make enough money to appease google.

    Matt Cutts is simply trying to divert media attention from this story in hopes that their vested interest in allowing click fraud to continue won’t ever see the light of day.

  • Glad to see some of this getting debunked – The first clue was Drug Cartel using it? Uhhh not that I am in the drug business but I am pretty sure that selling drugs has a higher margin than click-fraud. Good money in Click fraud but really good money in moving drugs and if Al-Queda is in Afghanistan then I am pretty sure there is a cash crop there that can help fund their operations.

    I also agree with John Doe – if I was doing the drug and terror thing I would not advertise in that niche – kind of a giveaway. This whole article makes for good buzz but I think it comes from a bunch of people who don’t have a faint clue on how these organizations work and to think that a terror organization or a drug cartel would want a US company, (with great auditing capabilities and high probability of going to the authorities in the name of their country), to know where their people are in their network who are clicking on stuff and possibly creating heat from the authorities is I think a bit naïve. Part of being a successful criminal is about flying under the radar and this one does not sound to safe to me.

    That’s my two cents.

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • Ooops – I could have sworn the article talked about a Drug Cartel somewhere – maybe that was in one of the comments. I must be losing my mind – hmmm – well my point about laying low still applies.

    I am backing away from this discussion very slowly – O.K. now run!

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • Jim Hedger

    “I think jim hedger is exagerating the situation to bring attention to bot nets.” – john doe

    friend… you haven’t actually heard the story yet and have no idea who is exagerating what. Please listen to WebmasterRadio.FM once the first interview in a series of discussions I’ve had is posted later today. I am a journalist. My sources make allegations and I investigate and report. Again, please wait to actually hear before passing judgement.

  • You can make money from AdWords and make very good money. Like many digits a month. Among the tricks is to get Google to serve up ads with very high bid rates, and to have lots of traffic. Maybe even paid traffic, if you can balance the cost to buy traffic against the return from AdSense.

    To me the story seems…plausible.

  • Difference Between Orkut & AdSense Click Fraud:

    To end a discussion going on in these comments, Orkut ads would not help fund organized crime, as they are served on a Google property and not by AdSense parters, who would be a 3rd party server of the ads and collector of revenue.

  • DeVries

    Has anyone thought about the fact that Google may actually be helping to FIGHT terrorism by doing this? Instead of the writers of TFA running off in all the melodrama of it, consider:

    Point 1:

    Orkut – Has networks of those interested in Islamic Fundamentialism/Radicalism/Terrorism

    Aside from letting people with wayward ideas converse, it provides the intelligence community with a bloody good starting point through which to isolate interesting individuals & infiltrate potentially dangerous groups- something which would otherwise take a lot of time/money. Not only that, but its a nice way to get a route to suspects personal computers, and the content on them. Its a place where idiots are basically putting their hands up and saying ‘hey CIA, look at me!’ – terrorists clearly are the biggest muppets of all.

    Point 2:
    Oh no, Google has ad sense programs which are giving terrorists money!

    Again for the love of god guys- think about the next step and don’t get wound up in drama.

    So Google diverts a few $$$s to terrorist organizations. By doing so (as part of the payment process) the intelligence community is able to identify intermediaries (the ‘charitable funds’ mentioned in TFA), the route and end point of payments. Subsequently by reverse sourcing this information other sources of revenue and Donors can be identified and assets freezed if needed. Again- terrorists nil, google/cia/everyone else one.

    The intelligence community has been giving terrorist groups $$$s as a means of unlocking the bigger picture since the beginning of time. Its tried and tested, and on the whole, works.

    This is NOT a major issue that has been uncovered I’m afraid. Sorry, it just isn’t.

  • its people like Webmaster Radio’s Jim Hedger are idiots that are scarring the general public so that everything that has the woreds Terrorism is being read and selling papers and clicks. It’s time to grow up and sell the coffee. REALY what a joke! get real!!!

  • Matt Cutts, you wrote :

    The claim is that Google is funding terrorists via AdSense ads on Orkut. That’s false because ad clicks on Orkut don’t pay money to individual users. So it is literally *impossible* for bad guys to be making money via Orkut ads.

    Perhaps the key point of this article is a little misleading. Google Ads within Orkut are not helping to fund 3rd party groups. Only Google would be collecting PPC revenue from these ads.

    Google AdSense ads on 3rd party sites and blogs which are owned and targeted by clickbot & clickfraud groups which WM Radio is scooping do infact end up paying AdSense revenue share to groups claiming to be funding terror cells.

    Big differentiation point here and it was never my intention to drive that Orkut is funding terror.

    Instead, Orkut, as Google, Brazil and anyone following social media, in the same respect to other social networks is providing a space for these groups to gather, trade and manage information.

    And yes, Google is serving paid advertisements within Orkut terror oriented groups (if one does consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization which is ofcourse based upon the end users perception).

    Matt also wrote:

    “In fact, it appears in the picture from the article that Google is correctly detecting that this might be objectionable content and as a result is showing “sponsor an orphan” ads instead. Google doesn’t charge anyone for those charity ads at all.”

    I have uploaded and published a new screen capture which shows paid AdSense ads from advertisers such as eBay, Apus.edu and AllianceTrac served to Orkut users who are ‘organizing’ via the various Hezbollah groups within Orkut.

  • Matt, “Can you say what you’ve removed or edited from the original post you did?

    That information will be released today by Webmaster Radio and is being fact checked by atleast 10 different search industry analytics companies, SEM black hatters and analysts.

  • Blah blah blah. Scare-mongering and needless worrying over something that in the end is barely relevant.

    http://hypocalypse.com

  • I’ve been following the increasing problem with Click Fraud and knew that it was a major concern to CPC advertisers who are spending millions of dollars on worthless clicks… but this angle definitely puts a whole new spin on the issue.

  • Click through fraud is getting out-of-control but so few of the PPC advertisers know about, or at a loss what to do if they suspect it.

    I’ve heard first-hand of ‘click sweat shops’ in India that have rampant organized click through fraud. Also in China and everywhere else for that matter. Now terrorists are in on it too?

    Not long ago my 12 year old son was clicking on ads from one of my personal sites just to see. Well, Google came back to me weeks later and said that ‘fraud’ was evident. My Adsense account was closed, I appealed, and Google then sent me a letter with the intentional wording that perhaps a family member clicked on those ads.

    I then replied that yes, my son did click on some ads and I instructed him not too. Google then replied and denied my appeal as I admitted guilt and violated their TOS agreement. Ironically, my sites generated nominal income from Google and those monies went to help charity hospitals.

    It bugs me that Google goes after my 12 year old son and shuts down my charity work while allowing terrorists get away and sends them the money. Check is in the mail!

  • I think google is not doing this on purpose. Google should strict it’s moderation on Orkut.. lots of illegal communities like this exist there.

  • John Doe,

    It has always been a mystery to me that Google didn’t do more about curtailing click fraud before AdWords or AdSense were released. It is a basic security problem, for which the solution is to switch to a payment scheme that is far less susceptible to fraud, such as fixed fees.

    TDW,

    It is far more difficult (but not impossible) to commit TV ad fraud. This is because the ad prices are determined based on a statistical sampling of the audience, rather than some absolute number of televisions that are tuned to channels at given times. An individual (who is not an insider) only marginally influences how much a advertiser spends because, at best, s/he only controls the feedback s/he gives to the ratings system. Yet PPC advertising is susceptible to fraud from both insiders and outsiders.

    Also, don’t confuse the payment scheme with pricing. PPC is successful because it is cheap relative to traditional media (for now). However, if traditional media slashed its prices, there would be much more angst over the increasing amount nonconverting clicks advertisers are seeing.

  • JustThink

    The first argument makes absolutely no sense. Why are ‘terror’ sympathisers clicking on Google ads on Orkut if they are not benefiting from it?

    How about all the rednecks in the US that invented click fraud?
    Jim Hedger is a good guy, he just got hungry for headlines.

  • Quite interesting topic over here. Some says they are making money and some says not. Of course from adsense they are not. But if you look at it quite closely the adds or announcement they are posting there, you can not deny that it could be a source for them to make money.

  • exactly what another user said.. google can’t monitor all sites.. and this is no threat. if I start a site saying.. illegal terroristzzz

    i’m no terrorist.

  • This all amazes me. I had adsense ads on my blog for about three months and had built up just over $50 in my account, NEVER clicked on the ads or ever encouraged anyone else to do so. Google steps in arbitrarily and says there has been signs of illicit clicks and boom, pulls my ads and keeps all of my money…a measly $50. What really angers me is that I am accused of click fraud and I have no defense.

    I have seen the guy that had the cars on his blog and was flooding the safelists with emails saying he had set up a website for charity and asking everyone to click on his ads. How was that going on and yet, Google is pulling ads from someone who NEVER and NEVER would have fraudulenty clicked on an ad? They pulled the ads off my wife’s blog also, because she was my wife even though her blog was entirely independant of mine.

    Oh well, Google can have their adsense ads, I’m making more money running my own ads on my site.

  • After reading all that everyone has said I am left to wonder why no one ever mentioned the FTC, Doesn’t the Federal Trade Commission require that Google, Yahoo, and any other ppc advert companies to have to substantiate their click charges to advertisers? Are there not filters and metrics in place to prevent these fraudulent click charges? And if there are none of these things in place to protect advertisers, should we not ask for legislation to make Google, and Yahoo the victims rather than their struggling advertisers trying to make a decent honest living, and can we not wade through the web access logs to see where each and every click comes from and then ask the SEM people to issue credits or at the least investigate the validity of those click charges?
    WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • I am amazed that it took this long for this issue to become well known.

    Both Jim and Loren deserve to be commended for their work in bringing public attention to this abuse which has been known only inside the SEM community.

    We have seen pro-American, pro Second-Amendment pages banned from the AdSense program. It’s about time that Google extended the same harsh treatment to our nations enemies.

  • Wow! My comment is specific to Gary Madden’s comment at 6:30 AM 12/8/06.

    Gary, out of all the comments I read here, your’s is the one that really caught me off guard. How in the world and why, would Google take such a harsh position with you when you know for a fact that have never committed click fraud or encouraged anyone to do so on your behalf? This just blows me away that Google would pull your ads and keep your money. I’m sort of in the same boat in that my adsense earnings are a measly $75 right now and, that’s been since April 2006 to current! However, I have commissioned a webmaster/programmer to build me content rich, topic relevant websites that actually sell a product and include Google adsense, too, but I WAS ALARMED after reading your experience.

    The question is, what is one to do if Google decides to squash you?

    I am really interested to learn how you’re making more money with your own ads on your websites. This is a strategy I am totally unfamiliar with.

    Cappy

  • They just journalist without earn pay per click from Adsense, only pay per big news

  • Arthur Freed

    I have to say, on the one hand, impressive post and good comments to think further on, but on the other hand, I don’t really get the thrust as to where all this should be headed in terms of a conclusion.

    Google already went way of course, ethically and with implications, in regards to how it handled Chinese government requests. But it was legal. It also gave ips if not names, did blocking etc..but it was legal.

    NOW suddenly, that system should be policing itself against “America’s enemies”. The enemies for now at least. Aren’t Chinese dissidents, the enemy of “our enemy”, our allies? So didn’t Google just sell-out our allies and help “the enemy”? Or must it always be some Muslim profiled yahoo (no pun intended)? By that I mean, this is akin to going house-to-house in a warfare that is virtual, in the ether as it were.

    Either do the whole, or not at all. But just to find a few groups, foolish enough to put their name on site, is not to address an overall set of rules that needs to be established for an information system that wants to be free to mutate and make (itself) money. And clickbots are part of the fact the system is not fair nor is it regulated.

    Should be some filter? Against what exactly? Just the groups on our “get” list? But so they change names, go underground. .

    I think what all this raises is that, it will in the future, only be possible to filter out unwanted, unethical uses, by looking for ways to establish a set of laws that operate to address the method and philosophy of financial gains through information, data gathering, social systems, and don’t keep going after one or two boogeymen that utilize the system, but rather the real boogeyman in the future, and now, which is the supposedly lackadasiel nature that covers up the implications of Google.

  • Jane

    This is just as bad as Shoemoney’s link bait!

    From what I see on the screen shot is two people who “support” Al Qaeda and with one not even being a member, so for a start your title is very misleading.

    How about posting a screenshot that actually proves “members” of Al Qaeda or even Hezbollah are using Orkut?

    Very misleading and pathetic link bait – IMO.

  • Jane, the click fraud money train associated with AdSense & criminal groups is one story.

    Google serving advertiser ads within Orkut Terror groups is another.

    Simply enough, both should not exist.

    Click fraud, of course, is the bigger story, no matter where the money goes. But if it’s going into the hands of where the Hedger story and his informants say it’s going, then that even makes the story even larger.

    Have you listened to the story?

    Here is the link to the breaking story and its audio file. We should have more info from WebmasterRadio.fm within the next few days:
    http://www.webmasterradio.fm/breakingstory.php

  • I just closed our adwords account with them. I feel the problem is getting worse instead of better. We are a small company and started a PPC campaign with them in November. In 6 weeks we have had to pay $3000 to them for “customers” that clicked on our ad. but out of this $3000 that we had to pay not one single sale that came from it, not one. For us not to get one single sale this time of year tells me that it was click fraud and that google could careless about it. Them having to pay 90 million was like us having to pay $10.00. Its a shame that noting can be done

  • After seeing the following two pieces I’m kinda doubtful on how all this went down:

    http://www.enquisite.com/blog/2006/12/06/google-click-fraud-hamas-al-qaida-jim-hedger-chicago-ses/

    And a follow up:
    http://www.enquisite.com/blog/2006/12/07/jim-hedger-click-fraud-update/

    As a guy who has been in and around this issue for a long time and is still today the only search executive to talk about click fraud openly – I’ll say this…..

    While I respect Jim Hedger greatly I will wait until I see the whole story in detail. Right now I have some doubts on the claims I hear being made. Although I know a lot of it to be true in a general sense – I want to understand the specifics before I judge.

    Everyone knows that PPC money goes to potential “undesireables”. There is nothing new in that whether it is a Terrorist group or the local drug cartel. The FBI and others have been looking into this problem for a while now. They know what the deal is already. Don’t kid yourself into thinking they have no idea what is going on.

    The bottom line for click fraud is, what is the solution? Who has an ADVERTISER VERIFIABLE system (not an industry verifiable system – that’s hogwash) that works to stop click fraud?

    I can assure everyone that it is coming one way or another.

  • First step to improve the PPC-system is to give advertisers much better insight to what we actually pay for. Similar to phone companies, PPC-engines should give us a list of the clicks they charge us for – IPs and referring domains. This way, at least, we can see if the traffic comes from verified users in the regions we have limited our campaigns to and from websites within that region and language. If we then find clicks we should not have been charged for we already have the data and would not have to discuss the validity of such any further with the engines.

    Secondly, PPC-engines should have a trusted third party validate the logs we are given to secure us that they are indeed valid. This is done on many other medias and works (at least better than what we have now!).

    Having said that I ultimately think we will have to move on to a CPA (or mixed) solution. PPC is simply too easy to fraud. yes, CPA models can also be manipulated but to fake actual buys you would have to also commit credit card frauds and not only is that more difficult to scale up it is also much more illegal.

    In fact, I am not sure committing click fraud is actually illegal in itself – at least not in all countries. I live in Denmark and I am pretty sure if I set up a website here, put AdSense on it and click the ads myself (or have a bot do it) would not be illegal. Sure it would be a violation of Google’s TOS but that does not make it a criminal act. Google may be “God” but they are not lawmakers, police or judges 🙂

    This is, I think, one of the problems here – the ones committing the “click fraud” may not actually be doing anything criminal. That makes it a very easy choice for many – and from a “risk/profit” point of view much more attractive that most other kinds of fraud.

  • I’m with Joe!
    there will always be bad guys, some not so naive and sweet “business men” who will do all there is in order to hurt their competitors.
    the question is what can we do to stop them?

  • People who think that geotargeting is an effective weapon against click fraud should read http://www.ccsl.carleton.ca/~jamuir/papers/TR-06-05.pdf . The paper describes the unreliability of geotargeting. Even if there is no fraud, it is still unreliable.

  • We had problems with Google in NOV. Our account skyrocketed to three times it’s normal billing, with NO increase in real visitors. We contacted Google with the problem and got the company montra, NO Fraud. Well we found the fraud and they still wont admit it. Heavens knows they would never refund for it.
    So we have a better approache that works everytime.
    Last spring Oveture (Yahoo PPC Search) did the same type of thing. With the same answers from the company.
    We pay for those PPC accounts with a MasterCard. We simply filed charge back forms for every single charge to our card that even looked like it might have fraud involved in it.
    Funny thing about charge backs, the processing bank charges the merchant, in this case it was Oveture a Charge Back processing fee (if you take credit cards you know about that fee) So Oveture ending up paying the fees for 12 chargebacks and we won 10 of them. We got our refund and they paid extra to give it to us.
    This time we will file against Google. If everyone would do that the charge back fees alone would prompt them into better research, closer tracking of possible click fraud and a whole lot better refund policy for fraud.
    Oh and by the way, if you take credit cards you know this already, the credit card companies policies are fixed to give the card holder all the benefit of any doubt and the merchant has the burden of proof. It is assumed that the merchant defrauded the customer so they take the money right away and then ask for documents. Just a thought.

  • Yet another leading story about an advertiser screwed by Google – no, wait, yet another advertiser advertising that they set up campaigns wrong:
    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/watching-a-story-part-ii/

  • Over 2 years ago I ran an ad campaign for a small business owner with a PPC company. I too noted the sudden increase in traffic, drop in conversions, the suspicious source of the clicks, etc. When I brought this click fraud to the attention of the PPC company they looked into it and refunded 2/3 of my client’s money. Unfortunately, it would take them some time to be able to block the kind of fraud that was found. My response was to drop my bid amount (there was a threshold below which the fraud seemed to stop, i.e. fraudsters click through on the higher payouts so that their revenue share is greater) and then to find other ways to advertise.
    Some click fraud will always exist, it will be impossible to eliminate. It will be a cost of doing business much like shop lifting. Stores which do not get a handle on this theft will loose their customers due to higher prices, a poor environment, etc. Consumers should realize that a part of the cost of an item is due to theft costs spread out into the prices of items. On a similar note, I wondered if there could be a class action suit against magazine publishers over the fact that not all magazine recipients will ever open the mag. The advertisers in the mag. are paying for the ad because they were told that it will be “seen” by a given number of people. Hmm. I suppose that for those advertisers who are paying attention they will realize that their roi is not as good as they thought it would be and then they will take their advertising somewhere else.
    As far as regulating google like a phone company – Yikes! Save Us All! Perhaps all hosting companies should also be regulated like the phone companies? I’ve dealt with some pretty nasty phone / hosting / advertising / (fill in the blank) companies but I would Never wish for them to be regulated by a federal organization. If you think that the cost of click-fraud is high, wait till you factor in the cost of regulation to your click cost. We’ll pine for the earlier days!
    Google – work hard on your click fraud problem and settle with the companies who are having a problem with the fraud without going to court. This is a business matter and shouldn’t be a court matter (or a federal regulatory one either).
    Advertisers – this is not just a Google problem. Keep pressure on all advertisers to represent their value correctly and keep an eye on your roi. There are always other ways to advertise.

  • Actually we make quite a bit of money from AdSense ads. Not near as much as the monthly donations we receive from the Google owners. They also gave us 2 million shares of their stock when they went public.

    So we appreciate Google funding our cause.

    Osama
    (I’m in an internet cafe in NYC – SOHO)

  • And you call this an “investigative” reporting?

  • AIT.COM itself and personnel involved in Questionable activities:

    “AIT CEO Clarence Briggs Charged with Criminal Assault”

    “Business executive and soldier get in fight”
    09/18/05 at 6:28pm

    Fayetteville Observer Newspaper
    (http://www.fayettevillenc.com ):

    Business executive, soldier in fight

    By Paul Woolverton Staff writer

    Clarence Briggs, the chief executive of Advanced Internet Technologies, has been charged with knocking an Army soldier to the ground Aug. 26, hitting him in the face and smashing his head into the concrete.

    Briggs, in turn, has charged the soldier, Staff Sgt. Rodney Goudy of Fort Bragg, with throwing him to the ground and threatening to kill him.

    The violence happened outside the B&B Sports Tavern on Person Street in downtown Fayetteville, records say.

    AIT’s chief financial officer, Steve Young, has also filed a charge against Goudy from the incident. Young accuses the soldier of threatening to hurt him.

    AIT is an international Internet Web-hosting company that Briggs started in his home in Fayetteville in 1996. Its headquarters now fills much of a city block in downtown Fayetteville.

    Briggs and Goudy are scheduled to face their charges in Cumberland County District Court on Monday. However, court and Fayetteville police records say that Briggs has not yet been served with the warrant charging him with assaulting Goudy.

    Goudy, Briggs and Young presented varied accounts of what happened at the bar.

    In his charge, Goudy wrote, “Mr. Briggs asked me to go outside to discuss something because the music inside of B&B Sports Bar was loud. When we turned the corner, Mr. Briggs had his arm around me like we were old friends and he stuck his leg out, grabbed me and threw me on the ground, sat on me and proceeded to hit me in the face. He threw my head back into the concrete.”

    Goudy declined a request for an interview. Goudy’s lawyer, David Courie, said that his law firm is “investigating scope, severity and frequencies of their alleged behavior,” but declined to make further comment.

    Young also declined an interview request. Briggs referred questions to AIT spokesman Alex Lekas.

    Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached woolvertonp@fayettevillenc.com or at 486-3512.

    AIT.COM involved

  • I feel suckered being pulled in by such undercooked linkbait.

  • Interesting the discrediting of Mr. Briggs after he make his claims and Google shuts his accounts down and now the story comes out and now its to mudslinging?!?!!?

    Ohhh and Matt, the terrorist organizations that Google Hosts on Orcut may not profit those organizations directly.

    But exactly what does google do with that money? First off, its a crock that you guys put only charitable ads up there. I have screen shots where you guys are trying to seel high-yeild CD’s, and even Nitrogen for tires?

    Is Google donating that money to a charitable orgainzation or more that really could use it? Or does blood money smear nicely on those quarterly reports?

  • Vij

    I use Orkut quite frequently and I really doubt this is happening. The ads that come on orkut are put up by the orkut team and not the people who create those communities. I dont think there is any way someone can make revenue ( apart from the orkut people) from the google adsense on the site.

  • google adwors will still got the problems

  • 99abx88

    Loren Baker is making cheap money with this cheap shot at Google. What a looser…

  • tetet

    you’re completely wrong and Google isn’t a Governmental Investigation nokia housing covers nor should they be

  • kushal dilan fernando

    to join

  • I think that by now the proliferation of Botnets on one hand, and anti-clickfraud and anti-spam initiatives by social networks has driven the revenues that these hackers make to a minimum. I do have to say that it's an ever evolving game, in which the user is always the bait for these initiatives.

  • I think that by now the proliferation of Botnets on one hand, and anti-clickfraud and anti-spam initiatives by social networks has driven the revenues that these hackers make to a minimum. I do have to say that it's an ever evolving game, in which the user is always the bait for these initiatives.