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Onetime Google nemesis cranks click-fraud crusade

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Observing The Observer

In November of 2005, just before it took over as lead plaintiff in that Google class action, AIT told local police that the Fayetteville Publishing Company (FPC) - publisher of the hometown Fayetteville Observer - was running a click fraud scam against the company. From inside AIT's data center.

"[AIT] has placed and continues to place a significant amount of online advertising on the Fayetteville Observer's web site," the police complaint read. "AIT is also the technology company which provide co-location for the Observer's servers, and when AIT grew suspicious that it was being over-billed for advertising, AIT as the web-host was able to monitor web traffic to and from the Observer's web site."

In this case, AIT was advertising directly with FPC. There was no Google-like middleman. AIT claimed that up to 50 per cent of ad clicks coming from The Observer's site were "manufactured" by a server inside their data center.

"AIT received fraudulent impressions and clicks from the same IP address in rapid succession over and over, often originating from foreign countries and generated by malicious systems designed to automate and inflate clicks."

A few weeks later, FPC filed a civil action against AIT at the county courthouse, claiming that the web hoster had nabbed its servers and wouldn't give them back. Then AIT filed a counterclaim and went public with its accusations against FPC on its anti-click-fraud site.

But it gets better.

'We don't suck'

Eventually, the case was dismissed and the servers were returned to FPC. But AIT appealed and requested a restraining order to prevent FPC from tampering with the servers. The case is still up in the air. But now there's a new one.

As part of a settlement in a completely separate legal action, AIT recently nabbed control of the websites www.aitsuck.net and www.aitsucks.net.

"Just like Dell and WalMart, we were lucky enough enough to grow to the point where someone started a sucks site about us," Briggs said. "We sued and settled with the folks that were hosting these sites and got all the server logs."

Well, AIT has now filed yet another suit, claiming that FPC - including at least one Observer reporter - used these sucks sites to post defamatory comments about the company. "We were shocked and disappointed to see that a lot of the postings were done by FPC anonymously," Briggs continued. "We were able to backtrack their IP address."

When we contacted FPC about the matter, the company referred us to its lawyer, who did not return our calls. It's a shame really. We'd love to hear more. ®

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