Officials Want Google to Block Drug, Piracy Sites

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has been accused of not doing enough to stop a) illegal pharmacy sales, and b) Internet piracy. Mississippi's attorney general says he plans to demand Google hand over confidential documents to see if the firm has breached any laws.

The complaints come from Ken Cuccinellli, Jim Hood and David Louie, the attorneys general of Virginia, Mississippi, and Hawaii.

Together, they're alleging that Google is guilty of "assisting in the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription and intentionally ignoring reports of rogue pirate sites selling stolen music, movies, software and video games." (Source:

Auto-Complete Suggests Illegal Drug Terms

The group has three main objections. First, they believe Google isn't doing enough to prevent its auto-complete feature suggesting terms that link search users to sites that sell illegal pharmaceuticals.

(For those not familiar with the feature, auto-complete brings up a list of popular terms while the user is still typing a search phrase, something designed to save time.)

Google has previously claimed it is unable to control the terms that appear in the auto-complete feature. However, Cuccinelli, Hood, and Louie say this is untrue, as Google already blocks terms relating to child abuse.

Second, the attorneys general say they're not satisfied with Google only blocking search results where legally required to do so. They believe Google has a responsibility to remove links to sites that breach laws on Internet piracy or illegal prescription drug sales.

Finally, the group is challenging Google's claims that it punishes criminal websites by lowering their search rankings.

The attorneys general point to a filesharing website that appears as the top result when searching for a recently released movie, despite the site having been hit with more than two million claims of piracy.

Cuccinelli, Hood, and Louie also say the responses they've received from Google have only related to search results. They want to know more about what it's doing to prevent the promotion of illegal drug shipments through other methods, such as YouTube.

Google: Illegal Drug Ads Already Blocked

Google responded by saying that it already partners with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to vet prescription drug ads and has so far blocked more than three million attempts to advertise illegal pharmaceuticals. (Source:

As for auto-complete and search rankings, Google says it's not a moral arbiter. The firm, it would appear, plans to only remove links to sites when legally forced to do so.

However, Google does note that it is allowing the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies to run advertisements without charge. These ads, which link to a site with information on checking for rogue pharmacies, will often appear if a user searches for terms relating to prescription drugs.

This isn't the first time Google has been at the center of such a controversy. Two years ago the firm was fined $500 million after being found to have done too little to block ads for illegal pharmaceutical shipments from Canada to the United States.

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