The National Association of Attorneys General, led by Mississippi AG Jim Hood, is accusing Google of “profiting handsomely from illegal behavior” by doing too little to remove search results for the buying and selling of illegal prescription drugs (and other illegal products).
“On every check we have made, Google’s search engine gave us easy access to illegal goods including websites which offer dangerous drugs without a prescription, counterfeit goods of every description, and infringing copies of movies, music, software and games. This behavior means that Google is putting consumers at risk and facilitating wrongdoing, all while profiting handsomely from illegal behavior,” said Hood.
Hood, speaking for the NAAG, has sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking him to attend a meeting of the group on June 18th to address their concerns.
The NAAG allege that Google is selective with their content removal – yanking pro-Nazi results in Germany, or blocking links to child pornography. They think that this proactive moderation means that Google has the ability, but not the desire to remove content related to “purchase of prescription drugs without a prescription or the downloading of pirated movies and songs.”
The group is also targeting Google autocomplete, which allows phrases like “oxycontin without a script” to surface.
Google has responded to the allegations, saying:
We take the safety of our users very seriously and we’ve explained to Attorney General Hood how we enforce policies to combat rogue online pharmacies and counterfeit drugs. In the last two years, we’ve removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies, and we routinely remove videos that are flagged for violating YouTube’s Guidelines regarding dangerous or illegal content. We continue to work on this issue with industry partners and groups like the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.
This challenge comes nearly two years after Google was forced to forfeit $500 million, per Justice Department order, for allowing Canadian pharmacies to target U.S. consumers in ads which resulted in “unlawful importation of controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the U.S.”[Mississippi Business Journal via Search Engine Land]