States Threaten Action If Google Doesn’t Delist “Illegal Sites”

Google legalAccording to the Washington Post, 24 state attorneys general are trying to pressure Google to discontinue ads and the indexing of sites they argue teach or enable criminal activity.

In particular, they continue to pressure Google to eliminate advertising connected to the sale of illegal or fake prescription drugs.

The attorneys generals’ complaints were initially aired in a December 2013 letter to Google General Counsel Kent Walker and then a follow-up letter sent in February 2014. The December letter lists the following complaints and concerns:

These issues include: (1) Google’s monetization of dangerous and illegal content; (2) the prevalence of content constituting intellectual property violations and ease with which such content is shared and trafficked over Google’s systems; (3) the promotion of illegal and prescription-free drugs; and (4) the facilitation of payments to and by purveyors of all of the aforementioned content through Google’s payment services.

In 2011, Google admitted liability and turned over roughly $500 million in profits and paid fees tied to accepting ads from Canadian pharmacies targeting US residents. This was part of a deal that also prevented criminal prosecution of Google CEO Larry Page. The US Attorney in charge of the probe, Peter Neronha, said that Page was personally aware of what was going on with the Canadian ads as well as the fact that the ads were illegal.

According to the Washington Post, Google has committed to hiring 120 people to flag “rogue ads and videos.” It is also apparently eliminating more than 1,000 questionable search suggestions  (e.g., “how to get away with robbing a house,” “how to buy slaves,” “how to become a drug dealer”) that lead people to websites promoting illegal activity.

The article goes on to say that steps like these have not entirely satisfied some of the attorneys general, who want Google to do much more and de-index sites tied to potential criminal activity. If Google fails to comply they say they may take legal action against the company.

Google has countered that the attorneys general want it to get into policing or censoring content, which it has declined to do.