The New York Times has another tale of Google crowdsourcing gone awry. It seems that some people are using a “feature” on Google Places to falsely report that a competing business has closed up shop and gone away. It’s a system that’s easily abused:
In mid-August, a search consultant and blogger named Mike Blumenthal was so rankled by what he considered Google’s cavalier attitude to closings on Google that he committed an act of online disobedience: He “closed” Google’s offices in Mountain View, Calif. For a brief period, Google itself was “reportedly closed,” according to Places. “I did it to point out how annoying this is when it happens,” he said.
Excellent, Mike. Most excellent!
On Aug. 15, Mr. Blumenthal posted a screen shot of Google’s Places page “reportedly closed,” noting that it took just two people — him and a friend — to pull off this stunt. It seemed to get the company’s attention. At least one change to closings on Places has already been made. Since late August, a business that is newly tagged “permanently closed,” receives an alert via e-mail from Google, informing the business owner of the change.
The New York Times article ends, however, by noting that some frustrated business owners have been unable to get the Monster of Mountain View to remove malicious “closed” and “permanently closed” notices despite repeated emails and phone calls. Why does that not surprise us?