Rogue merchant arrested after gaming Google

Vitaly Borker, the eyeglass e-tailer who boasted his ability to boost search ranking by harassing customers so much they left tons of negative feedback, is booked on multiple charges.

After a New York Times magazine article exposed his bizarre business tactic of courting the worst customer feedback possible so that infuriated buyers would leave negative commentary online, boosting his Google search results, DecorMyEyes.com eyeglass proprietor Vitaly Borker has been arrested on charges of cyberstalking, making interstate threats, mail fraud, and wire fraud.

The original story about DecorMyEyes, published on November 26, detailed the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Borker's tactics of harassing, cheating, and bullying customers, sometimes under pseudonyms and often with threats of obscenity and violence, to the point that several of them contacted the police. He engaged in these tactics, as well as selling counterfeit and defective eyeglasses, specifically to take advantage of a loophole in Google's search algorithm that didn't differentiate between positive and negative mentions of a company in ranking sites in search results. As a results, DecorMyEyes' Google rankings were stellar.

A Twitter account claiming to belong to DecorMyEyes tweeted a link to the Times story the day after it was published and added "Have a look at this publicity stunt! WOW we are famous."

Google responded several days later on its official blog to say that it's made modifications. "In the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience," the blog post explained. "The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result."

Borker was arrested and due in federal court in New York on Monday, and according to CNBC agents found weapons and ammunition in his home at the time of arrest. The charges of making interstate threats and cyberstalking each have a maximum penalty of five years jail time, whereas if Borker is convicted of either mail fraud or wire fraud he could face 20 years in prison for each.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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