Cracking Down on Fraudulent Reviews and Listings
Alphabet Inc.'s subsidiary, Google, initiated a lawsuit on Friday against a Los Angeles resident, Ethan QiQi Hu, and his associated companies. Google alleges Hu engineered hundreds of counterfeit business listings on Google platforms, subsequently selling them to legitimate businesses to attract unwitting customers.
The Perennial Challenge of Fake Reviews on Internet Commerce Sites
The recurrent issue of fabricated reviews continues to plague online commerce platforms. Google's official statement regarding the lawsuit asserts their intention to quash such harmful schemes through legal recourse.
The Intricate Modus Operandi of the Alleged Fraudster
Hu stands accused by Google of establishing phony businesses that surface on its search engine and Google Maps. To verify these enterprises during video calls with Google's representatives, Hu allegedly employs a sophisticated array of props.
The Ploys of Deception: Fake Businesses and False Verifications
Google's lawsuit points out that Hu uses a tool bench as a prop to falsely validate listings for garage repairs, tree cutting, and plumbing businesses. In a similar vein, essential oils are used to verify non-existent aromatherapy and reiki therapy businesses.
Fake Positive Reviews: A Tactic to Feign Legitimacy
Google accuses Hu of purchasing thousands of fraudulent positive reviews to give the illusion of legitimacy to the fake businesses. These sham profiles are then purportedly sold as "leads" to bona fide businesses in the same industries, who are then contacted by customers deceived by the fake listings.
The Scale of Deception: A Staggering Number of False Profiles
Google's lawsuit discloses that Hu is alleged to have created over 350 fake profiles, propped up by more than 14,000 illegitimate reviews.
Allegations against Hu: False Advertising, Unlawful Business Practices, and More
Google's lawsuit levels multiple charges at Hu, including false advertising, unlawful business practices, and violation of Google's terms of service. The tech giant has petitioned the court for unspecified monetary damages and an injunction to halt Hu's purportedly fraudulent activities.
The Legal Battle: Google LLC v. Hu
The ongoing case, titled Google LLC v. Hu, is registered in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, under the case number 5:23-cv-02964.