Alphabet’s Google sued a Los Angeles man and his companies in federal court in San Jose, California, on Friday, alleging he created hundreds of bogus business listings on its platforms and sold them to real businesses to lure unsuspecting customers. .
Fake reviews have been a recurring problem on Internet commerce sites. Google said in a statement that it filed the lawsuit against Ethan QiQi Hu to “help put an end to these types of malicious schemes.”
Hu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google’s lawsuit says Hu creates fake businesses that appear on its search engine and Google Maps, using an “elaborate set of props” to verify them on video calls with the tech giant’s agents.
The lawsuit says Hu maintains a bank of tools to help verify fraudulent listings for garage repair, tree felling and plumbing, and essential oils to verify bogus aromatherapy and reiki therapy businesses.
Google said Hu buys thousands of fake positive reviews to make companies appear legitimate. He then allegedly sells the profiles as “leads” to real businesses in the same fields, who receive contacts from leads that come to the fake businesses.
Google said Hu created more than 350 fake profiles backed by more than 14,000 illegitimate reviews.
The lawsuit accused Hu of deceptive advertising, illegal business practices, and violation of Google’s terms of service. Google asked the court for an unspecified amount of money in damages and an order to block Hu’s alleged misconduct.
The case is Google LLC v. Hu, US District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:23-cv-02964.
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