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Australian Court Rules Google's Search Ads OK 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-now-a-result-from-our-sponsor dept.
daria42 writes "A long-running Australian court case debating whether Google has done enough to differentiate paid advertisements from normal organic search results has come to an end, with the search giant the victor over the country's competition regulator. The landmark case influenced how Google discloses which search results were advertisements — with the result that it now labels ads as 'Ads' rather than as 'Sponsored links.' In addition, Google now prohibits companies from advertising products or services with which they are not associated — making it much harder for competitors to artificially take valued positions in Google's rankings."
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Australian Court Rules Google's Search Ads OK

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  • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday September 23, 2011 @01:19AM (#37488168)

    What is this? A case of the system working? A government body charged with regulating corporations doing its job competently (not being lax, but not being unreasonably strict), the corporation making reasonable and beneficial changes, and the entire thing being resolved in a civil and logical manner?

    And to make things worse, it's a relevant, timely article on Slashdot with an accurate summary and non-sensationalist headline.

    Did I miss something? Was the 2011 World Peace and Utopia Act passed without me noticing? Is it opposite day?

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by SomePgmr (2021234)
      I'm sure the rest of us will find plenty to piss-and-moan about... just give us a minute.
      • Hey now wait a minute. We still send people to space on rockets. They're *Russian* rockets but don't nitpick.

        See? I found something to piss and moan about.
    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cimexus (1355033) on Friday September 23, 2011 @01:47AM (#37488284)

      Yep. The ACCC is one government body that is very well respected here in Australia and usually (though not always) fights the good fight. They are the reason that things like DVD region locking isn't permitted here (DVD players in Australia are sold region-unlocked, capable of playing any disc). They are the reason we have a pretty competitive mobile phone and internet industry compared to many places (lots of choice of ISPs and phone companies compared to the US). They are the reason why there are certain automatic levels of quality guarantees and warranties for all products purchased in Australia that cannot be avoided by vendors no matter what disclaimers they may choose to write in the fine print.

      TBH most Australian government bodies/public authorities, except the legislature itself, are run pretty competently and rank well by world standards of transparency/anti-corruption [transparency.org] (though not as well as our friends across the Tasman in New Zealand - who are consistently at the very top of that list).

      It's just the politicians (legislature) themselves that seem to be the idiots, mostly (especially at the moment with our minority-government situation and petty squabbles over relatively insignificant issues). But Australians don't have the same level of mistrust of government in general that they seem to in the US (where anything run by government is assumed to be inefficient and/or corrupt by default). Because on the whole, they do a decent job and keep this country running pretty smoothly (and importantly in the current economic climate - solvently, with low sovereign debt).

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      "Is it opposite day?"

      It's Australia. They're upside down w.r.t. the /. servers.

    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Friday September 23, 2011 @03:36AM (#37488624) Homepage

      What is this? A case of the system.

      I'm impressed by the outcome - but saddened it even occurred. You might want to have a read of the complaints, and have a chat to some of the ACCC staff who did not believe there was a case to begin with, and don't like Americans "advising" them on how to do their jobs. Telstra own Sensis - Sensis (like Telstra and Optus) continually break the law - and did again. This time using ads in Trading Post (Fairfax) to trick consumers - then tried to blame Google. Seems a few business monopolies are feeling threatened by Google, and by coincidence, an inquiry that was meant to happen a month ago was delayed till this week for some unknown reason (*cough* US Senate *cough*)

      One peppercorn does not compensate for the money that farce cost. If there's a problem with Google there's a problem with Google - no need to make shit up. That was just pathetic.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      What is this? A case of the system working?

      Did I miss something? Was the 2011 World Peace and Utopia Act passed without me noticing? Is it opposite day?

      Nah, mate, nuthin' changed... just an upside down world here.

  • Once you start letting the government regulate what words mean they'll have ultimate power over you because you've already confessed your ignorance and signaled you need help.

    The point at which google goes too far with fixing its search results is not only when people will start looking for other search engines but also a time when the competition will step up to meet demand.

    I suggest the Australian government get into the search business. There's obviously an opportunity here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by woot (70857)

      I suggest the Australian government get into the search business. There's obviously an opportunity here.

      We were, we got out:

      http://www.csiro.au/news/ps19r.html

      http://www.csiro.au/science/Panoptic.html

  • that we need the government to ensure we know the difference between organic results and "ads"... what a step backwards for the human race methinks!
    • by lucm (889690)

      > what a step backwards for the human race

      To the contrary, this is exactly how a lawful society evolves. Just look at the SEC in the USA; pretty much every rule in their book has been created to keep big companies on the straight and narrow in the interest of everybody, following abusive or at least fishy behavior - first Rockefeller & Cie, more recently Enron (which led to the Sarbox regulations).

      • Sarbox is a bit of a joke to increase white collar jobs (lawyers, auditors and programmers)... not that it's all bad, just not a step forward.
        • by lucm (889690)

          > Sarbox is a bit of a joke to increase white collar jobs [...] just not a step forward

          Sarbox prevents the people in charge from hiding behind corporations. Now people making or authorizing phony accounting (the C-level jerks) can be sent to jail.

          It's easy to become jaded and cynical when looking at the implementation of regulations, but have a look at the big picture, you will see that this is a big step forward. All the paper shuffling that you witness is a side effect of the big guys knowing that the

    • The fact that Google is the most successful Interweb company on the planet and it achieved that by being a targeted ad broker allows us to conclude that, yes, we are really that stupid.

      In a world full of distractions increasingly hard to block out, Google's job is to effectively deliver distractions. If you can't see anything wrong with regulating that, well, welcome to society - people like to make their life less hellish and that sometimes means cooperation.

      • by bgibby9 (614547)
        The moment we lose the capacity to do things ourselves is the moment we lose control of our lives. Regulation simply means people want someone else to do their thinking for them. Then they complain when it doesn't suit them.
        • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday September 23, 2011 @04:27AM (#37488816) Journal

          Unfortunately, I don't have a degree and decades of experience in all of agriculture, construction, medicine, finance, law and science, so I sometimes need other people to do my thinking for me. I commend you and envy you slightly for having the capacity to do it all yourself.

          • by bgibby9 (614547)

            Ok, this is becoming a bitch fest. My point is, regardless of the wisdom that exists outside of my capacity, I still have the ability to make a decision based on the information that I expose myself to.

            Whether that is a great decision or not, I AM the one that has to live with the consequences of that decision. Good or bad.

            When someone else makes that decision for me, I have to live with the consequences of THEIR decision.

            Hopefully I have made myself clear-er. I thought I made that point to begin wit

      • The fact that Google is the most successful Interweb company on the planet and it achieved that by being a targeted ad broker allows us to conclude that, yes, we are really that stupid.

        In a world full of distractions increasingly hard to block out, Google's job is to effectively deliver distractions. If you can't see anything wrong with regulating that, well, welcome to society - people like to make their life less hellish and that sometimes means cooperation.

        Wow - to me Google is just (one of many) a search engine I use to find things on the web. I must of missed the meeting about distractions - which church was that held at?

    • that we need the government to ensure we know the difference between organic results and "ads"... what a step backwards for the human race methinks!

      Apparently. Personally, I've NEVER ONCE clicked on a link on Google thinking it was a normal link and been directed to a sponsored ad. Evidently this is to protect those that repeatedly click on the ads and never actually learn the difference between the ads and the regular search results - you know, the ones with their fingerprints missing because they never learned not to dip your fingers in boiling water when cooking even though it hurts like hell every time they've done it.

  • by powerspike (729889) on Friday September 23, 2011 @03:29AM (#37488596)
    What this case really was, in google ads, you can put in a piece of text that will be replaced with the keyword the searcher searched for. What happened is a couple of ISP's advertised using this method for competitors business name, an example would be, we have telstra (biggest isp in australia), and optus, optus would of put in a advertisement using %KEYWORD%, and it would of shown their ad with the title of "Telstra internet", so it appeared it was telstra internet when in fact it was an ad for optus. That is what caused this case.
    • I can't speak to what optus was doing, but in general, I think it's perfectly cromulent to have one company bid on another company's name, and advertise their services (without deception).

      For example, if someone types in "lenovo" why shouldn't Samsung be able to advertise their laptops as an alternative. Being able to do so might hurt Lenovo, but so what? It helps the consumer and increases competition.

      Prior to this it was France that said you couldn't bid on the ever-so-sacred "Luis Vuitton" name and make

      • by toetagger (642315)

        There is a difference between a key word that triggers an add, and the text in the ad. It's not (and shouldn't) be admissible to use competitor's registered trade names in advertisements in order to deceive a consumer. Google provides a way to protect registered trade names in ad text. However, Google also provides a way to dynamically insert search terms into the ad text. It's this situation where a competitor's trade name was placed in an ad text by Google - and hence the lawsuit.

        Simple solution: Register

        • by Compaqt (1758360)

          OK, but even there, isn't it allowed to use competitors' names in TV or print?

          If you're sure about your product, there's no reason you shouldn't compare a Toyota Camry to a Honda Accord.

          So why should it be different for web ads?

          Granted, you shouldn't just use the competitor's name, leading the user to think that they're clicking on a link for Brand X. But something like "Looking for Brand X? Brand Y's better."

        • by temcat (873475)

          Dynamically inserting competitors' trade names and other search terms in advertisements doesn't mean deceipt per se and hence shouldn't be a problem.

    • by mr_snarf (807002)
      If I recall correctly, this was done by the Liberal party (and maybe the Labor party?) during the last federal election. You search for a candidate, and the first link is a sponsored ad directing you to a page telling you how crap they are.

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