NY Attorney General Settles With 19 Companies In Fake Review Crackdown

pinocchio-lies-fake-toy-featured Little by little, the fake online review industry is cracking. Today, the New York Attorney General's office announced a settlement with 19 companies that agreed to stop writing fake online reviews. They'll also pay more than $350,000 in fines. The announcement marks the end of a year-long investigation that the AG's office called "Operation Clean Turf." The full list of 19 companies is available in the attorney general's announcement. It includes a mix of SEO/marketing firms and small businesses. A handful of companies agreed to pay fines that range from $2,500 to almost $100,000, while [...]

Appeals Court Rules Facebook “Like” Protected By Constitution

facebook-like-thumb-icon The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects Facebook Likes as free speech. That's according to a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The underlying facts of the case involved sheriff's deputies who were fired for endorsing (Liking) the sheriff's political opponent on Facebook. The existing sheriff discovered this and canned the deputies. They sued to get their jobs back and for damages. The lower federal court ruled in favor of the defendant sheriff on "summary judgment" and against the plaintiffs. The court said that a Facebook "Li [...]

Yelp Sues Law Firm For Faking Reviews, Firm Claims Retaliation

yelp icon You'd think that lawyers would know better. According to a lawsuit filed August 20 in California Superior Court, Yelp is suing the McMillan Law Group for breach of contract and related claims. The site claims the law firm posted fake reviews about itself. The Yelp suit recites that McMillan Law Group employees used personal Yelp accounts or created fake accounts to write five-star reviews about the bankruptcy firm. In many of these cases the users posed as clients of the firm and fabricated experiences. The following is an example representative of the claims in the lawsuit (full complai [...]

Edmunds.com Settles With Texas Marketing Firm Over Fake Reviews

edmunds-com-logo A Texas marketing company that was accused of registering more than 2,000 fake accounts to write car dealer reviews on Edmunds.com has agreed to a ban on using the site. That's part of a recently announced settlement between Humankind Design and Edmunds.com, which also calls for Humankind to pay a portion of Edmunds.com's legal fees and turn over information about all accounts and reviews that it submitted to the popular car-shopping website. In a statement, Edmunds.com CEO Seth Berkowitz called the settlement a victory for car shoppers and car dealers. "This is undoubtedly a victory no [...]

Edmunds.com Sues Texas Marketing Firm For Allegedly Posting Fake Car Dealer Reviews

edmunds-com-logo Edmunds.com, the popular car-shopping website, is the latest company to take legal action against fake reviews. The company has issued a news release explaining its lawsuit against Humankind Design, a marketing company based in Friendswood, Texas, for "fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement." Edmunds, which says it manually screens every auto dealer review submitted to its site, claims that Humankind tried to register more than 2,000 accounts and used them to post fake reviews. An Edmunds' spokesperson tells TIME magazine that the fake reviews from Humankind began in Ja [...]

YouTube Becomes Latest Google Target By State Attorneys General

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has been accusing Google of facilitating consumer access to illegal sales of prescription drugs and counterfeit goods and from profiting from related ads shown in its search results. Now, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are setting their sights on Google's YouTube, claiming Google profits from ads served alongside videos promoting illegal activity. TheHill.com is reporting that the two state AGs sent a letter to Google lawyer Kent Walker asking how much the company has earned from the [...]

Yelp Sues To Take Down Paid Review Mill

Fake Yelp reviews First brought to our attention by The Daily Dot, Yelp has sued to terminate and collect damages from a site called BuyOnlineReviews.net. The site leads with Yelp but it promises to generate fake positive reviews for a range of local directories and social sites including Google +, Citysearch, InsiderPages, Local.com, SuperPages, Foursquare, Kudzu, YellowPages as well as Yelp. Yelp has sued for a whole range of alleged illegal activities and violations. The company's objective is to close the site and collect fees and damages. Before the site is taken down -- and it will be -- you should [...]

Survey: 96 Percent Say “Do Not Track” Should Be Respected

privacy-security-online-computer A new survey from a group called Consumer Action has an unequivocal message for marketers: do not track us. The telephone survey was conducted in May among 1,000 US adults. The findings are pretty negative, even ominous, for publishers and ad networks. However, they should come as no surprise. In numerous past surveys consumers have consistently expressed ambivalence and even outright hostility to the idea of being tracked and targeted by online marketers, ad networks and publishers. This survey was partly funded through "a grant from Microsoft." Below I highlight some of the findings bu [...]

Europeans Take New Look At Google’s Android Licensing Practices

google-europe-featured The Financial Times is reporting that Google is now "facing an investigation by European authorities into allegations that it supported the leading Android smartphone platform and its mobile services by means of cut-price licensing and exclusivity deals." There isn't a formal investigation on this question yet. Rather, the European Commission is submitting a questionnaire to device makers and mobile carriers for their input. Google's rivals are undoubtedly behind these complaints to keep pressure on the European Commission, which is on the cusp of settling its antitrust (search-related) in [...]

Twitter Loses French Appeal To Avoid Disclosing Hate-Speaker Names

Twitter Logo Twitter has lost an appeal in France to avoid disclosing the identities of people behind anti-Semitic hashtags that appeared and trended last year. Among them were #unjuifmort, which translates "a dead Jew," and “unbonjuif" ("a good Jew"), which became a source of jokes about The Holocaust and killing Jews. Anti-Semitism is currently on the rise throughout Europe. The Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) and other human-rights groups sought disclosure of the identities of those behind the hashtags. Twitter refused, though it removed some of the more outrageous content. In January, [...]

3 Reasons Why Social Media Policy Is More Important Than Strategy

cart horse [caption id="attachment_47969" align="alignright" width="300"] Image via shutterstock.com[/caption] Social media policies aren't typically the first things that come to mind when you're developing a social media marketing strategy. But they should be. Without social media policies in place, social media marketing plans are unsustainable. On social networks, reach is a function of engagement. Without engagement, there is no reach. Thus, in order for social media marketing messages to get noticed, they need to get passed along to friends of friends and their friends. That means other [...]

As Early As 2000 NSA Set Out To “Live On The Network”

Great Seal of US An enormous amount has already been written about the National Security Agency's (NSA's) "domestic spying" since The Guardian's initial revelations about the secret collection of telco company records just a couple of days ago. That was followed 24 hours later by even more explosive revelations from The Washington Post of supposedly direct NSA access to the servers of major US Internet companies such as Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. Almost all the companies named in top-secret slides exposed by The Washington Post have issued strong denials -- in the case of Google, multiple denials [...]

Twitter Reaches Spam Lawsuit Settlement With Tweet Adder

twitter-legal-law Twitter has settled its lawsuit against Tweet Adder, one of five companies that Twitter sued last year, accusing them of making tools that spread spam across its service. As AllThingsD first reported, the settlement places strict rules on what Tweet Adder is allowed to do with its current software -- primarily, it has to play by all of Twitter's rules. From the settlement document: "Defendants ... are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly ... creating, developing, manufacturing, adapting, modifying, making available, trafficking in, using, disclosing, selling, licensing, distrib [...]

Microsoft, Google To Build New Windows Phone YouTube App Together

microsoft-google-logos Microsoft and Google appear to have buried the hatchet over the YouTube app that's been available for Windows Phones, and say they're "working together" to get a new app out "in the coming weeks." The two companies issued a statement today, two days after the deadline that Google had given Microsoft to remove the previous app from the Windows Phone Store. Earlier this month, Google sent Microsoft a cease-and-desist letter because Microsoft's version of the YouTube app wasn't showing Google's ads. Google's letter asked Microsoft to remove the app by May 22nd, but today's statement says th [...]

Microsoft To YouTube: Where’s That Interoperability Larry Page Was Talking About?

microsoft-google-logos Microsoft and Google are involved in a battle over the YouTube app for Windows Phones, and Microsoft has followed a cease-and-desist letter from Google by questioning Google's commitment to interoperability and working together. As The Verge reported today, Google sent Microsoft a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Microsoft remove the YouTube app from its Windows Phone Store because Microsoft's version of the app doesn't include Google's ads. Microsoft has responded today in a statement shared with Marketing Land that says Google hasn't given Microsoft access to the necessary APIs t [...]

Cookie-Stuffing Could Land eBay’s Top Two Affiliates In Jail

ebay-logo-240px Business Insider has an interesting and in-depth article about the ongoing legal cases that could land eBay's two biggest affiliates in jail soon on charges of wire fraud. If you've been in the online marketing industry for a while, you may recognize the names Shawn Hogan and Brian Dunning. They're the two affiliates that eBay and the FBI started pursuing in 2006 after suspecting that they were earning millions while violating eBay's affiliate terms of service. According to court documents, Hogan made an astounding $28 million in affiliate commissions from eBay, and Dunning made $7 milli [...]

Twitter Warns Reporters To Be “Extra Vigilant” After @AP Account Compromised

twitter-hacked-200px (screenshot via CNN) Twitter is warning media outlets to be "extra vigilant" in light of today's incident involving a fake tweet sent out by hackers that had gained access to the Associated Press' Twitter account, @AP. It's also good advice for brands and marketers -- and for all Twitter users, actually. Shortly after 1:00 pm EST today, the AP's account sent out a (fake) tweet saying that President Obama was injured after "two explosions in the White House." The Dow Jones stock market index momentarily tanked almost 150 points. The AP disabled its Twitter accounts, at least temporari [...]

Why Are Banner Ads Showing Up On Popular Websites Like Apple.com & Bing.com?

According to a recent Ars Technica article, two CMA Communications customers have reported banner ads being injected directly into webpages on popular websites, and they are blaming the ISP. Earlier this year, Robert Silvie and Zachary Henkel noticed banner ads running along the bottom of pages belonging to companies like Apple, Walmart, Target, Bing and eBay. Both Silvie and Henkel were using Internet service provider CMA Communications when they spotted the suspicious banner ads. Knowing that Bing didn't run commodity banner ads at the bottom of its home page, Silvie first thought it w [...]

FTC Updates “.Com Disclosure” Online Ad Guidelines

FTC ad disclosure rules Under the banner of preventing "fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices," the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has updated its online advertising disclosure guidelines and requirements. A previous version of these guidelines was issued in 2000. The rise of mobile devices and social media marketing, in particular, were cited as reasons the guidelines were updated: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, takes into account the expanding use of smartphones with small screens and the rise of social media marketing . . . Like the original, the updated guidan [...]

Facebook Says Employee Computers Were Hacked, No Evidence That User Data Was Compromised

facebook-security-hack-featured Facebook is the latest major Internet company to admit that it's been victimized by hackers, but says it's found no evidence that user information was compromised. In a blog post this afternoon, Facebook says it discovered the hack last month after "a handful of employees" had visited a compromised website. The website hosted an exploit that installed malware on its employees' computers. "We have found no evidence that Facebook user data was compromised," the post says in bold lettering. Facebook says the episode was the result of a "sophisticated attack," one that involved a zero-day [...]

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