In the grand scheme of things, it might be a small victory, but when it means survival of a fledgling business and a victory against a tech giant, Mark Bowyer of Australia will take it. Bowyer runs a travel website called Rusty Compass that was unceremoniously booted from Google’s network in September under claims that his site “posed a risk of generating invalid activity,” a charge akin to click fraud. Efforts made by Bowyer to contact Google and get to the bottom of the issue were met with stock e-mails and stonewalling – to this day, Bowyer still doesn’t know why this happened to his site.
At the very least, he does have his website back on Google, after lodging a complaint with New South Wales Fair Trading, which in turn took the case to Google. Google finally reviewed Bowyer’s AdSense account, found nothing out of order, and reimbursed him the $131 in advertising revenue that had been withheld since September.
“There’s really only those two options when it comes to Google. It’s when you make a lot of noise that they’ll act.” - Chief executive of E-Web Marketing, Gary Ng.
It’s a happy ending, but the story has unsettling implications for the world in the future. When mega-companies like Google hold the power to kill a website or a web start-up by pulling it from their network (whether by mistake or not), it’s worth thinking about the need to have some sort of checks and balances on these corporations. When it’s put that way, $131 seems like a pretty big victory, after all.