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Onetime Google nemesis cranks click-fraud crusade

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Advanced Internet Technologies once took Google to court over click fraud. But that was small potatoes.

Now, the Fayetteville, North Carolina web hoster is locked in litigious combat with a net-happy local newspaper that allegedly hit the company with a click scam from inside its own data center. And alleged click fraud is just a start. There's alleged online defamation too.

AIT was the lead plaintiff in a 2005 California class action suit that accused Google of doing relatively little to prevent click fraud on its AdSense advertising network. Google eventually settled a similar class action in Arkansas, and though the search giant ponied up 90 million smackers to compensate click fraud victims and their lawyers, no cash ever went to AIT - something the company is still upset about.

In short, Google paid $30m to an army of attorneys and set aside $60m in AdSense credits for companies complaining of fraud. But AIT had no interest in AdSense credits. "Imagine walking into a restaurant and getting food poisoning," CEO Clarence Briggs told The Reg. "And then the restaurant tries to make things right by giving you half a dozen coupons for more food."

Click fraud crusader

Briggs claims that his company lost up to $500,000 while advertising on AdSense, a Google-run network of third-party websites. When advertising on the network, you typically pay if someone clicks on your ad, and the fee is split between Google and the third-party site where the click occurred. But some sites have been known to rig the system, artificially boosting fees by clicking on ads themselves.

Google told us that across all of its ad systems, less than ten per cent of the clicks are fraudulent. And that dates back to 2002. Meanwhile, Briggs claims that he saw fraud rates as high as 50 to 60 per cent in 2005, and research firm ClickForenics says the rate across all "search engine content networks," including AdSense and the Yahoo! Publishers Network, is 25.6 per cent.

"There are a number of different third-party estimates out there," said Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for Google's trust and safety division. "Some of them are higher than ten per cent and some of them are actually lower."

Even after handing out that $60m in credits set aside by the Arkansas settlement, Ghosemajumder told us, Google continues to credit advertisers whenever fraud is identified. But Briggs doesn't want to hear it. He says that Google refused to hand him a single credit while he was advertising on AdSense, and he vows never to use the network again.

Meanwhile, he continues to advertise on other networks, and he's still crusading against fraudulent clicks. AIT runs an anti-click-fraud site called IGeryon.com, and the company is planning a new breed of search engine designed to put a stranglehold on such scams. If you're scamming AIT, be very careful. Especially if you're doing it inside the company's data center.

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