More than ten Internet service providers are redirecting search traffic on Yahoo and Bing. This according to research from the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley and reported by New Scientist. The claim is that ISPs are sending consumers who search for brand names like apple directly to the website rather than displaying standard search engine results pages.
The report says the ISPs are working with the company Paxfire for the initiative; ISPs and Paxfire allegedly have deals with affiliate marketers like ValueClick's Commission Junction, which get credit for taking users to the marketers' landing pages.
The New Scientist report says that ISPs recently stopped redirecting Google searches, but continue to redirect some searches for brand names on Bing and Yahoo. ISPs named in the report include Cavalier, Cogent, Frontier, Fuse, DirecPC, RCN and Wide Open West. Many ISPs have long returned pages populated with ad links when users type the wrong URL into the address bar; Paxfire powers that functionality for some ISPs. But the new report alleges that Paxfire and ISPs are redirecting search traffic -- even when users correctly type the names of companies into the search query box.
One lawsuit based upon these allegations was already filed on Thursday. That case, a potential class-action brought by RCN subscriber Betsy Feist, alleges that the ISP "knowingly and intentionally intercepted, monitored, marketed, and divulged" her search history to a third party.
Can you say "click fraud?" How are we to trust our search engine results if the outcome is already decided? Stay tuned. I think we will see the lawyers making out big on this one. Also, I would not buy stock in Paxfire.