Top Tory linked to content-scraping software firm

Top Tory linked to content-scraping software firm

Summary: Conservative housing minister Grant Shapps set up a company that sold software to set up web pages populated with other sites' content in order to make money from Google ads — a breach of the search giant's rules.

TOPICS: Google

A top British politician is in the spotlight after being revealed as a founder of TrafficPaymaster, a website content-scraping software that helped customers breach Google's AdSense rules.

Housing minister Grant Shapps founded HowToCorp, the company that offered the software, according to a report in The Guardian. TrafficPaymaster lets users create web pages using content already published online, then get revenue from ads that Google delivers to those pages.

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps. Image credit: Department for Communities and Local Government/Flickr

However, this practice is against Google's terms and conditions for AdSense, which lets online publishers make money by displaying ads that businesses have paid Google to distribute. The search giant derives the lion's share of its profits from providing online advertising.

"Sometimes we come across sites that are using software to generate automated content. These sites might look like normal news sites, but the information is completely plagiarised. Scraping content and passing it off as one's own is not only wrong, but it also happens to be a serious violation of our policies," Google said on its AdSense blog last year.

According to his spokesman, Shapps has been involved in HowToCorp since 2000, but sold his share four years ago. Shapps's spokesman clarified his involvement with the company on Monday.

"The company is an independent corporate person and Mr Shapps is not involved in this business. He doesn't own, work in or for, or derive an income from this Limited company. He sold the firm in 2008," he said.

TrafficPaymaster comes in $297 (£186) or $497 editions, and promises to deliver traffic and content for a website in order to increase pay-per-click revenue.

As well as 'scraping' — sometimes taking excerpts of whole articles from other websites — the software provides fully-automated 'spinning' features. This means it promises to automatically rewrite reports so that they contain at least 55-percent original content.

Google had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Shapps has run into trouble over automated software before: he came in for criticism after he was suspected of using an automatic tool to follow and unfollow people on Twitter in order to gain larger follower numbers.

Topic: Google

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Leopards do not change spots

    Shapps seems to apply the same high standards in his political life as he does in his business life. You know the one where the truth is rather flexible.

    Would you trust a politician that calls himself Mr Green when he has his "business" hat on just so us stupid people do not get confused.
  • @martin23

    So what you're saying is we can't trust anyone who doesn't use their real name online - a bit like you in fact!
  • But back to the article...

    I'd no idea who Grant Shapps was until I read about the Guardian article via a piece in PCPro this morning. But given that all the articles I have read on this are basically just regurgitating what the Guardian wrote isn't there a bit of hypochrissy in the flak being directed at Mr Shapps, sorry Mr Green? His company (sorry of course I mean his wife's company :) appears to have automated what many many people are doing manually including ZDNet i.e putting there own spin on somebody else's original content in order to drive traffic to their site - is Google going to outlaw this practice as well?
    • Ummm, did you read the article.

      His company is basically stealing the content of other websites. Not re-writing them.

      HUGE difference.

      And lets not forget that this is the Tory Party that didn't bat an eyelid when a UK Citizen was whisked off to America to serve 4 years for running a website that linked to other people linking to films and movies.

      I guess it's only IP infringement if you're poor and not powerful eh.