Aaron Greenspan tells how he sued Google, and won
Think Computer got kicked off Google's AdSense while owed $721. After failing to penetrate the Great Google Stonewall of Silence, Think's CEO filed a small claims lawsuit and won
Aaron Greenspan had no problems with Google until 11am on 9 December 2008. Then, as he writes in The Huffington Post:
With a single click, a faceless Google employee decided that Think Computer Corporation's membership in the AdSense program "posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers," and the account was disabled with no warning.
He then got a run-around, where Google didn't reply to emails, and he wasn't able to contact anyone with any power:
Google's overachieving receptionists were not even permitted to transfer my phone call to AdSense customer service. There was no AdSense customer service. Even if there had been, it would not have mattered much. I also couldn't be transferred to any of the engineers who worked on AdSense. Or product managers. Or executives. It made no difference that I was also a paying AdWords customer.
When he does eventually talk to someone, it just becomes more like a Kafka novel:
After pointing out that in the United States of America, the accused are generally given the right to know both the crimes they are being accused of, and the identities of their accusers, Mr. C. responded by saying that such thinking did not apply to Google's terms of service. Effectively, Google's position was that it was above the law, and if not any law in particular, then at least the spirit of the law.
Greenspan finally paid $40 in fees and "filed a civil small claims lawsuit for $721.00 --the amount Google owed Think when it disabled the account -- using form SC-100."
Surprisingly, Google actually sent "Stephanie Milani, a Litigation Paralegal," to argue the case. However, Google hadn't told her why Think has been blocked either. Her argument is: "Google can terminate your account for any reason."
Go to The Huffington Post for the details, but the result is that the judge tells Google to pay the $721.
"But it's not fair!" Google's paralegal protested. "What if everyone whose account was canceled sued Google?"
"It's a valid question," says Greenspan. "Maybe everyone whose account was canceled, should."
I wrote about an unrelated case in 2006, after a reader wrote to Ask Jack to say his sprayonmud.com site had vanished from Google's index: could he do anything about it?
Sorry to say, the general answer is no. You're not told what you did wrong, and as I said: "Google acts as its own policeman, as prosecutor, and as judge and jury. It has absolute power. In so far as there is a court of appeal, that's also controlled by Google, and the whole operation runs in complete secrecy."
This wouldn't matter if Google was just an ordinary company. Because it has a monopoly market share of the search engine market in the UK and the USA, however, perhaps it does.
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