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.”