JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says Google is still selling Internet ads promoting illegally sold drugs, and that the technology giant refuses to drop those websites from search results.
The Democrat demanded Thursday that Google CEO Larry Page attend a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General on June 18 in Boston to answer questions, saying earlier responses were “evasive” and “overly technical.” Hood, who is one of three co-chairs of the association’s intellectual property committee, said that if Google doesn’t cooperate, he’s going to recommend forcing the company to produce documents.
“I hope the CEO is not aware of what Google has been doing,” Hood said at a news conference.
Company spokesman Aaron Stein said Google takes safety “very seriously” and has explained to Hood how it fights illegal pharmacies.
“In the last two years, we’ve removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies,” he wrote in an email. “We continue to work on this issue with industry partners and groups like the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.”
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company also said it has responded to more than 16 million requests in the last month alone for copyrighted material to be removed.
Stein didn’t respond to further questions about whether Page would attend the meeting.
Google paid $500 million to the federal government in 2011 to settle claims over ads sold to pharmacies that were illegally shipping drugs into the United States.
Hood said it’s wrong for Google to auto-complete searches helping someone to buy drugs without a prescription or illegally download music and movies. He reiterated those points in a May 21 letter to Page, noting that Google has blocked search results for child pornography and won’t auto-complete phrases such as “free child porn.”
Hood wrote that providing search results or auto-complete for a phrase such as “buy oxycodone online no prescription” similarly promotes illegal activity and should be blocked. He also wants Google to remove content from its YouTube unit that instructs people on how to buy drugs without a prescription, saying that Google is making money from ads that appear alongside those and every other YouTube video.
Hood warned that Google could be prosecuted as an accessory before the fact for illegal drug sales. He also said state nuisance laws could apply.
“We would hold a skating rink responsible if this activity was going on around it,” he said.
Hood said officials have been able to get credit card companies to cut off payments to online retailers they consider illegal and have improved communications between law enforcement and Facebook.
“Google ought to do like other companies involved,” Hood said.
Hood said a lawsuit against Google could be difficult, but he noted that attorneys general worked together to sue tobacco companies. Mississippi was a leader in that effort, but the suit and the money it brought for plaintiffs’ attorneys brought a furious backlash from state Republicans. They continue to say that Democratic attorney generals give lucrative cases to their political allies, who in turn give campaign contributions back to the official.
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