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Google Finance, Govt, Policy and Business Issues Forum

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Google sued for banning sites - possible class action
goodroi




msg:1236291
 12:28 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

In an attempt to force Google to reveal information about their ranking method, KinderStart filed a civil complaint against Google and is trying to get class action status in order to represent all sites that Google has banned.

[washingtonpost.com...]

Too early to say if this attempt will make any progress. It is interesting to notice the increasing number of lawsuits against the search engines as the Internet has become mainstream and people better understand the online economics.

 

gregbo




msg:1236292
 1:44 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google's terms of service are clear on its (non-)obligation to retain sites in its index.

I imagine it will be very difficult to get legislation passed that would require Google to act as some "essential service" such as a (regulated) telecom provider. In particular, as there are numerous other search engines, and any user is free to switch, one can't argue that Google is a monopoly.

Bentley007




msg:1236293
 2:33 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with you fully, Goodroi...it is too early to make a judgement. It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. In my humble opinion, Google ought to invest in some good PR (as in Public Relations). They have been taking the piss in the press as of late. Perhaps the Cuttlets could be transformed into an army of PR hacks? :)

walkman




msg:1236294
 2:43 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

this is interesting if you look at it this way:
Google has a first amendment right to say that sitex sucks and does not deserve to be on top. Their decision costs you a fortune.

Can the company who determines the FICO score claim the same right? Their decision can cost you a fortune in increased rate.

Reno




msg:1236295
 3:33 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

It strikes me that Google is in a similar position now as MS was when they were sued over IE. That is to say, Google is so prominent that their decisions can seriously impact free trade.

Personally, I hope that the KinderStart suit will require Google to give site owners fair warning when they are being "punished" for some perceived infraction. People's incomes are at stake, and that means mortgage payments, medical care, children's education, and a lot more. It's not all fun and games -- this is survival in many cases.

While it's not a perfect analogy, suppose the phone company decided to turn off your telephone number for awhile because they did not like the way you advertised your business?

Suppose the management of a mall decided to not turn on the electricity for one of the stores because they did not like the way the employees were dressed?

Google is too big now to be making life altering decisions about the ranking of websites without giving the site owners a reasonable opportunity to make the necessary modifications, and to that end, I hope this KinderStart suit will force the change. Everyone will come out ahead -- including Google.

................................

gregbo




msg:1236296
 5:08 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google's prominence primarily comes from the fact that they are the most popular search engine. However, because there are many other search engines -- some said to have better ranking and relevancy than Google, and users are not tied to Google in any way, one cannot prove Google is a monopoly.

As an exercise, consider the following: Google ranks sites primarly based on how they're linked to. Suppose everyone who links to some site decides to remove those links. Google's crawlers won't find it, and eventually, it may be dropped to a low results position or even removed from the index. Is Google at fault here, or is it the collective conspirators? How would you remedy this -- how would you guarantee "inclusion" into Google's index? People seem to hate paid inclusion because then only the richest people get the best placement.

simey




msg:1236297
 5:23 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

What about 'bugs', the 301 bug etc. Do we get to sue for mistakes like that cause loss of rankings.
Where I live electrial service IS a monopoly. The power sometimes goes out for hours, even days. Businesses lose revenue due to the outage- they Don't get to sue for lost revenue.....

walkman




msg:1236298
 5:52 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> Businesses lose revenue due to the outage- they Don't get to sue for lost revenue

wrong comparison but they do get sued. Search for a few of these words and you will find articles: coned outage spoiled food sued

Reno




msg:1236299
 6:07 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Any company that has to go to court to defend it's right to harm online businesses is in one seriously unenviable position. The last thing Google wants is to be seen as moving into an adversarial position vis a vis site owners.

Their introduction of the sitemap.xml control panel was a great help to webmasters and a shining example of how they can be a partner, not an adversary. If they simply expanded that feature to include some basic information about the reasons for an impending drop in rank, then the web itself would be a better place, because faulty sites would improve. Any site that refused to make modifications would have no one to blame but itself -- "you have been warned", so to speak.

That is do-able and that is helpful and that would be applauded; but on the other hand, if they insist on the right to arbitrarily injure people because of secret internal "rules" which they refuse to explain, then they are in a lose-lose position and their stature will inevitably suffer, as no one likes the arrogance of power, no matter how well intentioned a company may have started out.

...............................

europeforvisitors




msg:1236300
 4:01 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wonder if these guys are aware of the judge's ruling in the SearchKing v. Google case:

[research.yale.edu...]

Miop




msg:1236301
 4:03 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I see they have non-www and www 'sites' both present.
A quick look at their Alexa traffic over two years shows the dramatic fall in traffic last spring.
Possible that they lost due to the sudden Google 'split' of www and non-www?
If so, they, and a lot of us have a point there, but since there is no contract...

Could be complicated!

Kufu




msg:1236302
 4:14 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here is my question: Would WebmasterWorld allow someone back in the forum if they kept spamming (or did something that severly offended the rules), and then complained that they were thrown off the board and were suffering financial loss because now they didn't have access to this wealth of useful information that can indeed help someone with their business?

Reno




msg:1236303
 4:16 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Don't know the law, but its Google's toy, surely, and they can set it up how they want.

That's the argument that MS made and they loss. When a company reaches a position of near dominance, it acquires significant power, and with power comes both responsibility & accountability. Google can no longer just do what it wants because they want to, just as MS cannot suddenly decide to put out an operating system that only runs IE and nothing else, because it's "their toy".

Can't see this getting very far. Otherwise anyone who ranks any other site, on their site, is open to nuisance suits.

If I understand this lawsuit correctly, it's not about Google's ability to rank, it's about their failure to explain why they are abitrarily harming a company by dropping the ranking. The company is injured and has no recourse to correct the inequity, because Google is claiming it has no responsibility for any explanation.

This is comparable to the police deciding to close off direct street access to a real world grocery store. When the store owner says "why is this happening", the police respond "it's our secret and we won't tell you". Sorry, not acceptable.

No one should expect Google to go around fixing everyone's bad coding or questionable linking practices, but it is not unreasonable for them to provide a broad rationale as to why they are dramatically re-evaluating a website's position within the publicly viewable search results.

So as I said earlier, the more they insist on maintaining the right to capriciously lower rankings -- without regards to injury -- the more they hurt themselves. Loyalty is a fickle friend, as many once golden Silicon geniuses have learned these past 10 years.

..............................

Phil_S




msg:1236304
 4:19 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

If google would help website owners/webmasters better. Maybe this would not happen.

We have a duplicate penalty against our main website.

It's my fault. I have two web sites, one for our retail and one for our mail order business with the same link structure and text. I made the mistake of letting google in both web sites.

I have been trying to fix this for five months.

We put tags on one website (retail website that we advertise locally) and block it via robots.txt.

I've emailed Google and wrote them a letter. They did respond to the letter and told me we "do not have" a penalty.

Yea, right.

So, I've experimented a little.

We put a few our our pages on a different website I own, and what do you know... not long after google picked them up they are in the top 20.

The same exact pages on my main website are about 130 or less in the index.

We used to get about 500-700 visitors per day from Google, now we get single digit numbers and it seems the duplicate penalty will never go away.

Miop




msg:1236305
 4:21 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

< Here is my question: Would WebmasterWorld allow someone back in the forum if they kept spamming (or did something that severly offended the rules), and then complained that they were thrown off the board and were suffering financial loss because now they didn't have access to this wealth of useful information that can indeed help someone with their business? >

Surely not, but what if Webmasterworld was lifting content from that users website and using it to make money?

Web_speed




msg:1236306
 4:36 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google's terms of service are clear on its (non-)obligation to retain sites in its index.

BUT

1. They should fully disclose to the public the fact that they are currently actively blocking millions of web sites from appearing on a given search(for absolutely no reason in 75% of cases).

2. They should fully acknowledge that their mantra of a democratic ranking system with almost zero human interference is no longer true.

3. They must provide web site owners with a better penalty debug/appeal mechanism.

They will not be able to hide much longer beyond their false mantras.......too many businesses are affected and are now demanding answers. These law suits may or may not succeed but one thing for sure, they raise a lot of public awareness, trust the legislator to start following on it pretty soon.

larryhatch




msg:1236307
 4:38 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hello Miop:

For now at least, and probably influenced by fairly good Google SERPs, I'm a Google fan.
I probably would be anyway, even if grudgingly, because I like their stated plan.

You implied that G was 'lifting content'.

I love it when they 'lift' my content to the first, second or third page.

Most complaints here come from people who were not so fortunately elevated.

Banned sites are not 'lifted', they are kicked out entirely.

Which is it? Lifted or banned? Polar opposites it seems to me. -Larry

Kufu




msg:1236308
 4:41 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

but what if Webmasterworld was lifting content from that users website and using it to make money?

Exclude Google from your site. Problem solved!

One can't want all the benefits of a relationship without adhering to strict rules that makes it profitable for both parties.

I am not cheering on Google for everything they are doing, but do hate seeing stupid lawsuites that make no sense (at least to me).

europeforvisitors




msg:1236309
 4:50 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

That's the argument that MS made and they loss. When a company reaches a position of near dominance, it acquires significant power, and with power comes both responsibility & accountability. Google can no longer just do what it wants...

1) Google doesn't have a monopoly on search the way Microsoft was ruled to have a monopoly on PC operating systems; and...

2) Even if it did, antitrust laws don't trump the First Amendment. (Again, I'll draw your attention to the SearchKing v. Google case.)

birdstuff




msg:1236310
 4:55 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Even if it did, antitrust laws don't trump the First Amendment.

The activist court we have today has repeatedly "trumped" the original intent of several sections of the constitution in their rulings.

zeus




msg:1236311
 5:03 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google move out of the USA, that country just ruins big business all the time with there lawyers and NO ONE can complain about there rankings on google its a free listing take or leave it, you can coment on different bugs of cause.

cabbagehead




msg:1236312
 5:26 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

As I've been saying for a year now - Google has way too much power and I bet its a matter of time (unless their current path changes) that regulation will be required. That's my prediction for 2012. :)

In my opinion, Google has been very arrogant with their approach. They have the power to single-handedly wipe out entire industries and they will bury a business online without a second thought. In what other industry would that be tollerated? Permanently throwing a website into Supplemental Results prison is the equivilent of someone building a brick wall in front of someone's storefront on main street. Would that be tollerated?

With great power comes great responsibility. At some point there must be greater consideration for the wake they cause. At the VERY least, I would like to see Google be more accessible and take more seriously webmasters who's websites fall into the abyss. Until then, I personally will cheer every lawsuit like this I hear about!

My $.02.

Kufu




msg:1236313
 5:34 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

the equivilent of someone building a brick wall in front of someone's storefront on main street.

That is an incorrect analogy. A better one would be to compare a convention organizer not allowing you to set up your display because it doesn't adhere to the standards they set forth, or making you pack up and leave because you are causing a disruption to the rules of the convention in some manner. Would they be right in doing this? Yes (Google can throw you out of the index if they want). Can you ask for a refund? Sure. In this case webmasters don't pay Google anything; they want to be on Google because they know of the great benefits.

Dayo_UK




msg:1236314
 5:52 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

As has been mentioned above - looks like a non-www, www - duplicate homepage split PR problem.

PR reduced to 0 in time (some DCs still showing the PR7) - although on Big Daddy DCs it has the live PR ( <RK> ) back at 6 on the non-www and 7 on the www - although rankings have not improved yet and the PR is still split. :(

Hmmmmz - I have been hit by this bug as lots of people know here - but it is a bug, not delibrate action by Google.

Would have been better if this came out when the site was first hit - rather on the eve ( not literally going to happen tomorrow :) ) of a possible fix - as the press in the early days would have been useful in bringing it to Google attention.

afterburner




msg:1236315
 5:56 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

they don`t stand a chance in court, my2cents

Matt Probert




msg:1236316
 6:29 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Filing fee for civil action lawsuit: $250.00
Having uncle Billy Bob draft the complaint: $750.00

Promotional web marketing value: Priceless

You old cynic you! <g>

Matt

tntpower




msg:1236317
 6:46 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Good news

cabbagehead




msg:1236318
 6:46 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

> "That is an incorrect analogy"

We are operating on opposite assumptions I believe. It sounds like you are looking at Google's right to control their own quality. Which is valid. The point I'm making however is that Google has implicitly become the gatekeeper of the Internet for all intents and purposes and thus what they are controlling is not simply their own business but a resource shared by everyone.

Going back to that analogy, I thinkt he brick wall is accurate. What you are saying, is that Google own's the street and its their right to erect walls where they choose. What I'm saying is that it wouldn't be tollerated for a private entity to single-handedly contol Main Street like that. At some point its no longer in the best interest of the tenants of Main street and begins to wreak of extortion.

Just sides of the same coin I suppose - but therein is the disagreement. :)

Reno




msg:1236319
 6:50 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

2) Even if it did, antitrust laws don't trump the First Amendment. (Again, I'll draw your attention to the SearchKing v. Google case.) .

This is not a free speech issue, this is an issue about whether or not the dominant search engine on the planet earth has the power to literally destroy a business without any responsibility whatsoever in the matter.

I say that Google has every right to create their search algorithm however they see fit -- it is their crown jewel and thus they should defend it vigorously. However, it is not their right -- as the acknowledged dominant player -- to "punish" without explanation. That is autocratic in the worst possible way, as it can in fact ruin people's incomes, and by extension, ruin their lives.

One of the most closely guarded secrets in American business history has been the formula for Coca-Cola. That one recipe helped build a very rich multi-national corporation.

Is Coke required to publish it on their bottles? No.
Do they have to list the ingredients? Thankfully that's the law.

Does Google have to divulge it's algorithm? Absolutely not.
Should they have to explain why a website is in violation of their TOS? Hopefully it will become the law.

........................

Essex_boy




msg:1236320
 6:53 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Having had one business ruined by Google I wish them all the luck in the world.

Its Google behaved in a responsible manner, have you all forgotten the Florida update?

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