It took a New York Times article to act on menacing e-tailer

US authorities scramble to arrest and charge rogue trader

US authorities have arrested rogue trader Vitaly Borker following the explosive report in the New York Times about the merchant’s customer abuse strategy to game Google search results.

The New York Times reported that agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service arrested Borker and that he was charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking.

Victim Clarabelle Rodriguez had reported the numerous threats to local police without any immediate action being taken however now charged, Borker faces the possibility of five years in jail for the threat charges brought against him.

Judge Michael H. Dolinger subsequently denied bail to Borker, saying that he was either “verging on psychotic” or had “an explosive personality.” He is now expected to appear in court on the 20th of December.

The impact of the original NYT article was widespread, not the least for highlighting the astonishing levels of complacency in payment agency Mastercard and the unhelpful nature of victim Rodriguez’s bank after Borker fraudulently posed as Ms Rodriguez and retracted her credit card dispute.

In the NYT feature, Borker freely described his appalling strategy for abusing customers in order to gain links to his web site through negative publicity and thereby boost search engine position due to the way Google’s pagerank system made no attempt to discern positive or negative link context.

News of the article forced Google to convene a team to look at how search rankings are calculated and within a matter of days Google announced that it had made changes to the firm’s secret search algorithms so as not to advantage rogue traders such as Borker.

The NYT notes dryly that Ms Rodriguez had been unable to get much response from law enforcement but following the publication of the story “there seems to be a competition to punish him,” they said.

Borker has already been charged with aggravated harassment and stalking by local police and the state attorney general’s office is also looking into Borker with the possibility of further charges.

Further appalling details of Borker’s treatment of customers also came to light with the NYT reporting that he had even sent email to the company of one of the victims, saying that the customer was gay and sold drugs.

When Google announced the overhaul of the firm’s search algorithms, the company wrote that the changes meant: “We can say with reasonable confidence that being bad to customers is bad for business on Google. And we will continue to work hard towards a better search.”

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