There's a new breed of bully that terrorizes people using Google.
Consider the salesman at Paramount Web Masters, a search engine marketing firm. According to several sources, he targets Web sites that he's determined violate Google policies about appropriate ways to generate an audience.
Somebody's going to report the firm to Google, he tells each company, and their site will then surely be barred from appearing in Google's search results. There is a way out of the mess, he goes on to say, that is, if they buy what he's selling.
"In no way does Dennis [the salesman] represent what happpens at this company," said Steve Parsons, a manager there. "I can send you to lots of clients that are very happy with us. We get results. Dennis was just having a bad day. I apologize for his behavior."
Google's been in touch with some of the people involved. "This is not a common situation," a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
Now, consider 16-year-old Tom Vendetta, a New Jersey high school student. A few weeks back, he showed bullies everywhere how easy it is to humiliate their victims by issuing a hoax press release and have it become 'legitimate' news via Google's spiderlike, Web-crawling automotons.
The Web's history is pockmarked by hackers, virus writers and other such black hats that have achieved the same kind of results as Vendetta and the apparently overzealous Paramount Web Masters salesman.
But the latest mayhem, threatened or otherwise, differs because it's using Google features to target individuals. Also, people with sometimes average technology expertise are the ones using Google as a weapon, not the usual coders or software engineers.
In a way, the new breed of bullies and Google tricksters resemble instant messaging bullies, who excoriate their victims using the ever-popular IM features available to anyone.