AIT Lashes Out At Click Fraud

    December 8, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

“I’ve fought a holy war within myself,” said Clarence Briggs, CEO of web-hosting company AIT. He was referring to the soul-testing decision to join and take over the lead in a class action click fraud lawsuit against Google Inc. For Briggs, the head of a multi-million dollar and one of the oldest domain hosting services, it was a decision about whether to become a click-fraud tycoon himself or take measures to combat it.

AIT Lashes Out At Click Fraud
AIT Lashes Out At Click Fraud

Editor’s Note: Click fraud is a real problem in the eyes of many who pay for the PPC ad space. While the suit has been filed, do companies who offer PPC ads really have an incentive to stop it? Tell us your thoughts in the SES:Chicago forum at WebProWorld.

Briggs had just touched down in Chicago yesterday evening for a separate business venture and spoke with me while I was covering the Search Engine Strategies Conference, where pay-per-click campaigns were a hot topic.

North Carolina-based AIT has persuaded the United States District Court for Northern District of California to allow them to substitute in as the representative plaintiff in a lawsuit against Google that accuses the search engine of breach of contract and unfair business practices.

AIT alleges that Google and other PPC engines refuse to take steps against the problem because they stand to lose a tremendous amount of revenue. The company takes it a step further by claiming to have proof of rapid fire foreign click-throughs outside of their North American ad campaign. AIT says that after presenting this evidence to Google, it was not acknowledged, no refund was issued, and Google would not provide its own records to compare against.

“Many of the fraudulent clicks come from overseas proxy servers; these RBL servers are widely known as origins of fraud and spam and Google should block them like any other responsible ISP does,” said Briggs.

“We have been watching this and documenting it for some time, not only for ourselves but for our customers from our network and several other networks,” said Briggs, “and we have the technical expertise to prove
without a doubt that it is happening and that Google could do something about it if they wanted to.”

For Briggs, this is crisis of conscience. He waxes philosophical about being in a position to set up an affiliate network to take advantage of click fraud by comparing it to the “Ring of Power” in the well-known epic The Lord of the Rings.

“You can put that ring on and it makes you invisible. If no one can see you, you can do anything. It would be very easy to set up a fraudulent affiliate network and make $5 million one month, $10 million the next, and $15 million the month after that.”

Instead, he says, he’s joined the class action suit in an effort to hold PPC engines accountable. In Briggs’ estimation, if the issue of click fraud isn’t addressed and if engines continue to ignore issue, the world of e-commerce will crash.

“This is the second time the bubble bursts for the entire Internet community,” he said.

WebProNews contacted Google about AIT’s accusations, but Google declined to comment until they had a copy of the complaint.

Those in attendance at the SES Chicago conference still seemed very enthused about PPC advertising. Many have also noted that they are still achieving a good ROI with pay-per-click.