NEW YORK — Google has removed advertisements for websites that sell drugs without prescriptions, following a series of warning letters from a state attorney general, according to published reports.
Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood sent a letter to the internet giant last week asking the company to "substantially address" the ability of consumers to obtain illegal and counterfeit goods, including prescription drugs. Hood is co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General's intellectual property committee. He said he had made his concerns about Google known, but had not received any substantive response to date.
"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," Hood said. "This behavior means that Google is putting consumers at risk and facilitating wrongdoing, all while profiting handsomely from illegal behavior."
Hood noted that Google removes large amounts of content illegal in the United States and other countries - such as child pornography, Nazi propaganda from its German portal and content that insults religion from its Indian portal - but not content related to illegal purchase of prescription drugs.
In 2011, the company settled allegations of allowing illegal prescription drug sales with the Department of Justice and paid a $500 million fine, but Hood told USA Today that they had not proactively pursued the issue since then.
On Tuesday, the non-profit group Digital Citizen Alliance released results of an investigation of illegal online pharmacies, including a video in which a 15-year-old boy was able to order prescription drugs online even after admitting he was only 15 and using his father's credit card.
"Sadly, it's a video you have to see to believe," Digital Citizens Alliance executive director Tom Galvin said. "We were shocked at how easy it was to try to place an order. Our teen placed orders for prescription painkillers, and the operators never flinched. They didn't care about his well-being — just his money."
And on Monday, the group called on Google to better police YouTube after it found videos containing instructions on activities such as obtaining drugs without prescriptions.