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June 23, 2023

Google Takes Legal Action Against California Businessman for Manipulating Online Reviews

Google Takes Legal Action Against California Businessman for Manipulating Online Reviews

In a bid to expose and combat fraudulent practices, tech giant Google has launched a federal lawsuit against a California businessman and his businesses. The lawsuit alleges that the individual, Ethan QiQi Hu, engaged in various schemes to manipulate Google's "industry-leading business listing services." By creating fake listings, generating fictitious reviews, and misleading small-business consumers, Hu is accused of exploiting Google's platform for personal gain.

Let's delve into the legal issues claimed in this lawsuit, shedding light on the alleged deceptive practices and their impact on both consumers and Google's reputation.

  1. Google has initiated a federal lawsuit against a California businessman, Ethan QiQi Hu, and his businesses for allegedly manipulating Google's business listing services to deceive small-business consumers and generate profits.
  2. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and seeks a permanent injunction, declared judgments, and damages against Hu, his businesses (GMBEye and Rafadigital).
  3. Google claims that Hu abused their products by creating fake online listings for non-existent businesses, supplementing these listings with fictitious reviews, and then selling the listings and consumer inquiries to entities seeking to promote their businesses on Google's popular platforms.
  4. The complaint includes a false advertising claim, highlighting Hu's business, GMBEye, and its false assurances that it can bypass Google's verification procedures, guarantee top placement in search results, and obtain "Premium Business Listing Verification."
  5. Google asserts that Hu's actions violate their contracts and the law. The alleged scheme consists of fraudulent verification of non-existent business profiles, posting fake reviews, and selling leads from unsuspecting customers seeking services from the listed businesses.
  6. In the "Fraudulent Business Profile Verification Scheme," Google contends that Hu creates fake business profiles accompanied by fabricated websites, verifies them, and subsequently sells the listings or modifies the information to make them more attractive to potential buyers.
  7. Under the "Fraudulent Business Profile Lead Generation Scheme," Google claims that while waiting to sell or transfer fraudulently verified profiles, Hu's businesses keep them active on Google to attract unaware consumers. They then sell information about these consumers as leads to real-world businesses offering the services sought by the consumers.
  8. The complaint accuses Hu of false claims and misleading statements, asserting that no entity can guarantee top placement by Google's search algorithm.
  9. As of June 16, Hu and his co-defendants had not yet appeared in the case to retain counsel.
  10. Google's lawsuit aims to obtain legal remedies including injunction and money damages, protect its business listing services, and address the alleged unlawful practices by Hu and his businesses.

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