Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) blinked and lost another staring contest. Late last week in this space we told you about a state attorney general who was on a crusade to eliminate advertising and websites that promote the illegal sale of prescription drugs. Many of these types of advertisements and website links appear as part of Google Search results, and challenged Google to monitor its advertising to try to minimize the impact of these ads and websites to the public.
The call came from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood last week as the co-chair of the intellectual property committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), asking Google to follow through on a 2011 settlement with the US. Department of Justice regarding the promotion of illegal drug sales, such as those seen on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) search results where advertisers and websites promoted the ability to buy prescription drugs without the need of a prescription. Hood had sent a letter to Google on behalf of NAAG threatening legal action of the offending ads were not dealt with in a timely fashion.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) apparently decided to be timely, as some recent search queries this week have already indicated that many of the sans-prescription drug sales sites have been taken down. While Hood expressed some level of satisfaction with the move by Google, he has put a “litigation hold” on Google, asking it to preserve all evidence of websites that have been removed and that he was reserving the right to pursue legal avenues should the issue not be fully addressed.
“Something’s gotten (Google’s) attention,” Hood said. “The problem is, after settling and paying a $500 million fine, they didn’t do anything for a year and a half. They don’t do anything proactive.”
In a related note, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) property YouTube was also facing some legal pressure from a group called Digital Citizens Alliance, which claimed that the video site had videos promoting similar rogue pharmaceutical sites numbered in the thousands. But the group claimed that YouTube only addressed the issue after USA TODAY published a story about the videos late last week. Since then, the group said that thousands of videos have been taken down.
“Google seemed to only act when USA TODAY ran a story,” says Tom Galvin of DCA. “Google needs to stop treating this as a PR problem and remove offensive videos when they get scrutiny and start treating this as an Internet safety issue and police YouTube more effectively.”
What do you think? Should a search engine like Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) take responsibility for these rogue sites and their existence? Do you think the steps Google is taking are appropriate? Give us your feedback in the comments section below.