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Google files lawsuit over fake review scams

June 28, 2023 /
All industries  /   Google Business Profile 

Google constantly struggles against spam. In October of last year, it specifically targeted the search engine optimizations spammers use to outrank legitimate businesses. In February, Google then tried to purge listing and review spam, but accidentally removed legitimate content in the process. The problem has only grown worse with Google admitting that its attempts only managed to block 20% of the total spam generated in 2022. With ChatGPT and other AI language models now expediting the process of spam generation, this percentage is likely to look even lower in 2023.

Unable to combat spam within its own platform, Google launched a lawsuit against these spammers. In a court filing, Google lists the defendants Ethan QiQi Hu; GMBEye; Rafadigital, LLC (“Rafadigital”); and Does 1– 20. Google claims that these defendants run misleading schemes to deceive consumers, business owners, and Google itself by unlawfully manipulating Google’s business listing services. Google’s lawsuit goes on further to say:

“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.”

The lawsuit specifies that those within the lawsuit “posted more than 350 fraudulent Business Profiles and tried to bolster them with more than 14,000 fake reviews.” While this is a large number for a handful of spammers to post, it is not even a fraction of the total spam on Google. This lawsuit isn’t intended to put an end to all spam (the absolute number of spammers is far too high), but it does intend to act as a deterrent for large-scale spam businesses.

Google’s inability to handle the spam problem automatically has made spammers confident in both large-scale, long-term spam operations as well as short-term scams targeting specific competitors. Leads and ranking positions are held hostage and many businesses find themselves having to pay a random spammer when they see a sudden drastic drop in their online sales. There is still one inefficient option left to combat spam and that is through manual monitoring and reporting of bad actors.

Spam is often generated automatically, making manual means to combat it ineffective. But if manual reporting is carried out strategically, individual business owners can at least prevent their brands from feeling too harsh an effect. By carefully monitoring your Google metrics, specifically your local rankings on relevant keywords, you can spot when your locations have been targeted by spambots. Responding quickly to a sudden dip stop leads from being stolen from underneath you.

The tools to perform this real-time ranking monitoring and mass spam removal isn’t simple for any business owner to develop. That’s why DAC provides these services to our clients. Whether you need to track your rankings in real time or need help removing the spam that already blights your online listings, we can help. Get in touch and let us fight back against the spam that Google itself struggles with tackling.