April 29, 2006

Warren Kremer Paino v. Lance Dutson, and Google keyword matching

Warren Kremer Paino v. Lance Dutson is a lawsuit by an advertising agency against the writer of the blog Maine Web Report. (source: MBA, Boston Globe).

Some key issues of the dispute appear to revolve around actions of the Maine Office of Tourism, and its Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google advertising campaign. Lance Dutson has been criticizing this campaign on various grounds, and agency Warren Kremer Paino Advertising has sued him for "copyright infringement ... defamation and trade libel/injurious falsehood".

Here's one aspect of the case I've dug though. When a search is done for words such as [Camden Maine Bad Lawyers], the Google advertising display algorithm might match on the keywords "Camden Maine", and display the ad for that. This would not mean that the person who was buying the keywords had any particular interest in targeting "Bad Lawyers". Or the algorithm might match on the words "Bad Lawyers", which would not imply that the buyer had any interest in "Camden, Maine". There are some very broad choices as to the extent of matching which can be made by the ad-buyer. This is the background to Lance Dutson's post:

Maine Office of Tourism Corners Smut Market

Well the ads aren't down, wishful thinking on my part.

But it appears the MOT is diversifying it's target audience, maybe to make sure more good folks come to see our state. These are screenshots from Google this morning:

Then he displayed screenshots of Google searches for [camden maine child pornography], [camden maine escort], [camden maine xxx], [camden maine swingers]. These matched the "camden maine" keywords, and hence had ads for the Maine Office of Tourism ("MOT")

In a later comment (April 28) to the post, he explained:

You are completely correct, these ads were a result of broad matching. That's what I'm trying to illustrate, the folly of broad matching, because the ads end up in stupid places, like I've shown here.

However, the Maine Office of Tourism seems to have taken that post as a literal accusation that they were intentionally advertising to pedophile tourists. From the lawsuit:

11. Dutson also claimed, falsely, that WKPA expended state tourism funds for the purpose of returning internet search results for non-tourism activity, such as pornography and pedophilia.

I am not a lawyer, so I won't comment on the legal merits of such a charge. Though socially, given the relative power of the parties involved, it strikes me as an extreme overreaction.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google , mba | on April 29, 2006 09:39 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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