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Ads for Shady Stimulus Sites? Et tu Google?

 A week after Google promised to investigate suspect ads for a stimulus grant program that does not exist, it is still posting them – including to this reporter’s Gmail account.

As we noted last week, Eileen Harrington, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, warned of unscrupulous Web sites offering to help consumers get large cash grants from the recently passed stimulus bill.

The sites, she said, typically ask for credit card information to pay a few-dollar fee—and then enroll consumers in a number of pricey recurring Web site memberships, which they must opt out of to avoid paying additional hundreds of dollars per year. The practice, officially known as a "deceptive, negative option offer" is misleading and illegal, said the FTC’s Harrington.

Facebook, also at the FTC’s press conference, said it yanked the ads almost immediately, tipped off by its "thumbs up, thumbs down" feature which allows users to flag ads they consider objectionable.

Google, on the other hand, was more circumspect. As it said in an e-mail to ProPublica:

"Our AdWords Content Policy does not permit ads for sites that make false claims, and we investigate and remove any ads that violate our policies. We have discussed these issues with the Federal Trade Commission and reaffirmed our commitment to protecting users from scam ads."

Now a week after we ran our post about the misleading sites, the ads for them are still being served by Google. Just do a search for "stimulus."

Google did not answer our attempts to follow up with them. If we get a response we will let you know.

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