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Google accused of profiting from illegal drug sales by state attorney general

Google accused of profiting from illegal drug sales by state attorney general

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Mississippi state Attorney General Jim Hood has accused Google of failing to remove search results for prescription drugs from its websites. According to USA Today, Hood, who co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General's (NAAG) Intellectual Property Committee, said on Thursday:

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 ... This behavior means that Google is putting consumers at risk and facilitating wrongdoing, all while profiting handsomely from illegal behavior.

Google was fined $500 million in 2011

The allegations will be concerning to Google, which less than two years ago paid $500 million to settle a prescription drug case with the US Justice Department. Back in 2011, a federal task force caught Google in a sting operation, working undercover to buy ads for steroids and human growth hormones on Google's US search page. Hood also noted that search results surface "counterfeit goods of every description, and infringing copies of movies, music, software and games." Google has been criticized by industry bodies for not doing enough to combat copyright infringement in the past. The company has informally responded to the NAAG's allegations, telling Search Engine Land that:

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.

The Mississippi Business Journal has a full account of of Hood's comments online. The state Attorney General points to the company's strict removal of child pornography links, as well as the surpression of pro-Nazi links in Germany as proof that Google is capable of dealing with illegal material. Paraphrasing Hood, the Journal writes that "content removal can be done, but it appears Google is unwilling to remove content related to the purchase of prescription drugs without a prescription or the downloading of pirated movies and songs."