Google searches often lead consumers to websites that sell fake drugs and other counterfeit goods, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood charged. Some of the offending sites, Hood said Thursday, are also advertising with Google.
Hood is co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Intellectual Property Committee. The AGs are concerned that Google's search algorithms too often lead consumers to known rogue sites that often top search results.
Unsatisfied with Google's April 19 response letter to the charges, Hood has now invited Google's CEO Larry Page to address them in person at a national meeting of the attorneys general on June 18 in Boston.
"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 didn't buy Google's explanations that it only removes content from search results in a narrow set of circumstances, pointing out that Google blocks child pornography and has removed content that glorifies the Nazi party. "Why will Google not remove websites or de-index known websites that purport to sell prescription drugs without a prescription or provide pirated content?" Hood asked.
In a statement, Google said over the past two years, it removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies. "We continue to work on this issue with industry partners and groups like the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies," the company said. According to Google's transparency report, the company last month responded to 16 million copyright-removal requests.
If Google does not adequately answer concerns of the attorneys general, Hood threatened to slap Google with subpoenas.
Google has been down this road before. In 2011, it paid $500 million to settle charges brought by the Department of Justice over fraudulent pharmaceutical ads.