Elephant in the Room: Google Inc. (GOOG) and the Ivory Trade

Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)one of the most popular stock plays among hedge funds we track – has become its own version of a marketplace, with its search results providing opportunities for many companies to reach out to markets that they otherwise would have had trouble reaching. And that international reach has made the world bazaar closer and more accessible.

Apparently, the same goes for business that aren’t exactly above-board. And that seems to put Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) in the middle of scrutiny in Asia. A report surfaced that a conservation group is expressing concern that Google’s advertising machine is promoting the ivory trade in Asia – where it is illegal- and that it has increased demand for ivory on the continent and has led to a record number of African elephants being killed.

Google Inc. (GOOG)A group called the Environmental Investigation Agency claimed this week that it has identified about 10,000 advertisements on Google Japan’s shopping page that promote ivory sales. It is reported that about 80 percent of the ads are for “hanko,” a wooden stamp that is inlaid with ivory lettering, used for many official transactions in Japan. The EIA said it wrote a letter to Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) CEO Larry Page to address these advertisements and remove them due to a violation of Google’s own policies. Google has not officially responded to the letter.

In an e-mail to the AP, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) responded, “Ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them.” However, the EIA claims that hasn’t happened.

“(I)t is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants,” said Allan Thorton, EIA president. Looking at Google’s policies on advertising, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) says that it “doesn’t allow the promotion of products obtained from endangered or threatened species,” which specifically mentioned elephant tucks and rhinoceros horns.

What do you think? Should Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG0 be censoring its own advertising, or should it be working with local authorities to help locate these illegal businesses? Give us your thoughts about Google’s role in commerce in the comments section below.

DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentioned.

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