Google Asks Advertisers for Help Rooting out Counterfeiters

Google today called upon its AdWords clients to help it root out counterfeit advertisers online, promising to remove all ads for counterfeit companies from its Web pages within 24 hours of their discovery.

The company announced three changes to its counterfeit-reporting system that it said would improve security and cut down on the time it takes to investigate claims. First is a new help-center page that describes what qualifies as a counterfeit company and provides forms to report their activity on AdWords, AdSense, Checkout or Boutique. Second is a pledge to reduce the time it takes to resolve claims reported through its Counterfeit Good Complaints Form, first introduced in 2009, to 24 hours. Third, the company promised to “work more closely with brand partners to identify counterfeiters and, when appropriate, expel them from AdSense,” though it didn’t specify how.

Catching counterfeiters online is “a cat-and-mouse game, where we are constantly working to improve our practices and tune our systems to keep out the bad guys,” Google SVP and general counsel Kent Walker wrote in a post to the company’s public policy blog. “These steps are our way of facilitating co-operation with brand owners, which is absolutely essential in tackling the sale of counterfeits online.”

Walker didn’t explain why Google was taking these steps now, but the dangers posed by online counterfeiters – sometimes enabled by Google – have taken on a higher profile recently thanks to some striking media coverage. A Sunday New York Times article in November told the story of Vitaly Borker, a Brooklyn man who used a counterfeit retail site to rip off, then harass, customers who ordered items from his site, Many of the customers said they placed orders with Borker’s site because it ranked high on Google searches for luxury brands. Borker was arrested shortly after the article ran.

Of course, Google doesn’t just wait for its advertising partners to take action against counterfeiters, Walker said. “We use their feedback to help us tune a set of sophisticated automated tools, which analyze thousands of signals along every step of the advertising process and help prevent bad ads from ever seeing the light of day,” he said. “In fact, we invested over $60 million last year alone, and, in the last 6 months of 2010, more than 95 percent of accounts removed for counterfeits came down based on our own detection efforts.”


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