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A California man who claimed to have software which automatically clicked on Google cost-per-click ads has been charged with extortion and wiretap fraud.

Michael Bradley of Oak Park, California is accused of threatening Google that he would to sell the software to spammers unless the search engine firm paid him $150,000. He was arrested in March and is pleading not guilty to the charges.

A successful automatic ad-clicker could cost Google, and its advertisers, millions. But we're not sure why it would be of interest to spammers. The most obvious beneficiaries of artificially-inflated click-throughs would be publishers, such as, err, The Register, which have signed up to Google Adwords. But few would get away with scamming for long.

From time to time, Google axes a blogger or two on suspicion that they are manipulating their Adwords response. The company knows how many ads it serves through third party outlets and it has a good handle on what the range of click-through rates should be. Anything out of the ordinary sets alarm bells ringing. ®

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