September 27, 2001 08:59am
FTC to Crack Down On Porn 'Mousetrapping'
(WASHINGTON D.C.) -- The Federal Trade Commission [http://www.FTC.gov] is poised to take legal action against hundreds of Web site owners accused of "mousetrapping," the all-too-familiar ploy that can turn a spelling error into a protracted battle with pop-up ads for porn and gambling sites. On Monday, Oct. 1, the FTC plans to announce the beginning of a campaign against scores of Web sites that capitalize on typo variants of popular domain names in order to dupe unsuspecting Internet surfers into visiting an adult or gambling Web site.
Sources familiar with the law enforcement proceeding say the campaign could implicate "hundreds, if not thousands" of Web sites and their owners, with a particular emphasis on the impact that pagejacking and mousetrapping may have on children duped by the schemes.
The FTC also plans to target Web sites owners engaged in a practice known as "pagejacking," a scheme whereby individuals copy innocuous Web pages and submit them to the major search engines. The altered pages contain hidden code that redirects users to an entirely different site, usually one laden with explicit adult images. Most hijacked pages also lack a "back" or "close" button that might otherwise allow users to retreat from the sites, and any attempt at killing the browser window invariably spawns a hailstorm of similar pop-up ads.
The FTC generally treats pagejacking as a form of fraud, although it has brought only one formal action to date.
Dan Bohan, president of Top9 [http://Top9.com], a company that ranks the most popular Web sites by industry on a monthly basis, said even his company's Web site has been pagejacked at least a handful of times. Bohan said for while even respectable companies like Amtrak [http://Amtrak.com], Home Depot [http://HomeDepot.com] and Coca Cola [http://www.Coke.com] were guilty of mousetrapping. While that has since changed, adult and gambling Web site operators are becoming more and more brazen in their tactics, he said.
"Now it's mostly porn sites and people who are really trying to nail you with very aggressive marketing ploys that are doing this," Bohan said. "It's becoming a real pain in the neck."