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Google Expected to Settle Over Drug Ads, to the Tune of $500M

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the don't-worry-the-government-is-here dept.

Crime 138

Animats writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that 'Google Inc. is close to settling a US criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break US laws.' Google's acceptance of ads from unlicensed 'online pharmacies' is considered profiting from illegal activity. The Washington Post reports 'the inquiry could draw more attention to how vulnerable Google's automated system has been to the machinations of shady operators.'" The expected settlement's magnitude was hinted at in a recent SEC filing, which disclosed that Google has set aside a half-billion dollar fund on which to draw in this case.

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Go go Google (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116666)

Looks like this is about Google refusing to stop advertising sites in Canada selling prescription meds to people without a prescription. In other words, this is about Big Pharma vs. YOU.

Re:Go go Google (5, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116710)

If a pharmacy sells prescription meds without a prescription, they should have their license revoked and it doesn't matter where they are. If a non-pharmacy sells meds... then the laboratory that sells it to them should have its license revoked !

Re:Go go Google (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116724)

disagree on both points. mind your own business please.

Re:Go go Google (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116748)

No one cares.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117116)

kill yourself

Re:Go go Google (2)

gTsiros (205624) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116804)

drugs are controlled with prescriptions, because otherwise people would scarf down whatever they wanted. Imagine people eating antibiotics like candy? Where would this lead? or antipsychotics? Oh i think i have $whatever let me get some promadiazepam or whatsitsname

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116870)

drugs are controlled with prescriptions, because otherwise people would scarf down whatever they wanted. Imagine people eating antibiotics like candy? Where would this lead? or antipsychotics? Oh i think i have $whatever let me get some promadiazepam or whatsitsname

Who the fuck are you to tell me what drugs I can take?

Re:Go go Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116890)

Take a prozac and shut the @#$% up.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116944)

I can't I don't have a prescription, and the Govt shut down my online pharmacy.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117202)

SSRI's do not work that way.

Re:Go go Google (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116922)

Overuse of antibiotics leads to less effective antibiotics. So the effectiveness is a common resource which is not yours alone to squander.

Anything else though should be fair game.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117314)

Overuse of antibiotics leads to less effective antibiotics. So the effectiveness is a common resource which is not yours alone to squander.

Anything else though should be fair game.

Except doctors prescribe them right and left, almost before asking "what's bothering you". The problem: they can get sued for not giving a treatment, even if benefits/need for antibiotics is questionable.

Human use is trivial. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118288)

Overuse of antibiotics leads to less effective antibiotics. So the effectiveness is a common resource which is not yours alone to squander.

Human use of antibiotics is a drop in the bucket compared to low-dose use of the same drugs in animals to decrease bacterial load. The latter is apparently a far more significant factor in the evolution of drug resistant bacterial strains.

As to "common resource", drugs are INVENTED. I'd love to view a competent libertarian analysis - and criticism of it - on whether treating a drug design as the private property of the inventor might lead to conservative treatment and delay of bacterial resistance development, whether this might end up with a net increase in medical benefits to the general population (due to more disease being cured) or decrease (from treatments not done due to overly conservative use or high price), whether patent expiration leads to overuse to maximise profit before the monopoly goes away, and how other government interventions would affect the cures/resistance tradeoff.

Anything else though should be fair game.

We're agreed there.

Re:Go go Google (2, Insightful)

SilentStaid (1474575) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117040)

His point was that if you allow people to take antibiotics when they're unnecessary you'll exponentially increase the rate at which bacteria, for example. will grow resistant. Forgive me for the tired saying, but it's a very slippery slope and it's one that affects us all...

So who the fuck are you, sir, to complain about using something that you clearly don't understand?

Re:Go go Google (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117088)

His point was that if you allow people to take antibiotics when they're unnecessary you'll exponentially increase the rate at which bacteria, for example. will grow resistant. Forgive me for the tired saying, but it's a very slippery slope and it's one that affects us all...

It's a stupid argument and you are stupid to defend it when you don't understand it. It's a true statement but it has nothing to do with anything here. People are not repeat not prescribing themselves exotic antibiotics that everything and its mom is not already resistant to, but they are trying to get them cheaper from other countries because their insurance will cover only part (or none!) of the cost. These people are not any more or less likely to take the full run than someone who can afford to go buy them at the local pharmacy, or whose insurance is of sufficient quality to cover the medications they require. Remember, we already have the "death panels" that some feared would be sentencing their grandmother to death. They are simply operated by private concerns without oversight rather than government entities with insufficient oversight.

So who the fuck are you, sir, to complain about using something that you clearly don't understand?

Right back atcha, me laddo.

Re:Go go Google (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117520)

From your post I can tell that you're just a guy looking for conflict, but it's an idle Friday so I'll indulge you. First let's address this gem:

It's a stupid argument and you are stupid to defend it when you don't understand it.

Why is it a stupid argument? Have you done the research? Were you aware that 1/3rd of all antibiotics taken currently are to /wrongly/ treat viral illnesses? Do you know how much stronger antibiotics have had to get in the past 70 years since they've been discovered just to compensate against resistant strains? Call me stupid if you want, but you're just ignorant.

People are not repeat not prescribing themselves exotic antibiotics that everything and its mom is not already resistant to, but they are trying to get them cheaper from other countries because their insurance will cover only part (or none!) of the cost.

Completely ignoring the fact that I said nothing at all about the completely bullshit prices on all things medical I would postulate again that you literally have no idea how antibiotics work. Define exotic antibiotic for me. Go ahead, I'll wait. And when you finally find the one page on Google that might support your crackpot theory, then explain to me how that affects my argument.

Remember, we already have the "death panels" that some feared would be sentencing their grandmother to death. They are simply operated by private concerns without oversight rather than government entities with insufficient oversight.

What? So now you've translated my argument that we need to protect against the overuse of antibiotics into the FoxNews death panel line? Who the hell are you, Glenn Beck?

Re:Go go Google (1)

arose (644256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119822)

People are not repeat not prescribing themselves exotic antibiotics that everything and its mom is not already resistant to, but they are trying to get them cheaper from other countries because their insurance will cover only part (or none!) of the cost.

Why bother buying antibiotics that don't do anything in the first place? That's right, because you are full of it.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117044)

Who the fuck are you to tell me what drugs I can take?

I am society, and I have the right to make rules that govern the behaviour of the individual to the extent that such behaviour has a detrimental effect on the rest of society.

Re:Go go Google (1)

android.dreamer (1948792) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118314)

While this is true for serious drugs, there are quite a few drugs that require a prescription that should obviously not be, making it very difficult for people to get affordable care. Off the top of my head, one of the biggest examples of this is with small-dosed allergy meds like Zyrtec and Allegra. For the longest time, you could only buy these meds with a prescription and without insurance, it cost a ridiculous amount of money. While overdosing on allergy meds can be bad, for the most part, they are not that harmful. It is quite necessary for a large population to get quick access to allergy meds, especially if they are risk for anaphylactic shock. After many years, they are both sold over the counter and there are generics for the drugs that are significantly less.

Think of it this way: Imagine if you had to go to the doctor to get a prescription for Tylenol or a multivitamin? These are drugs that are deemed safe, used by the majority of the population, and they need quick access to. It would really suck if you had to go to pay a hefty fee to wait a while to see a doctor for a common headache.

To support your argument, you actually can easily overdose on vitamins and tylenol and it can be quite deadly. The thing is, even if you are prescribed a drug, there is still a risk that people can overdose, even with a doctor-set quantity of pills. It is really up to the population to follow the instructions and not abuse medications. It happens often, but a majority of people actually do follow the guidelines of when to take their pills.

What I propose is they do the same thing they did with pseudophedrine. You use to be able to buy Sudafed over the counter to help with nasal swelling and stuffy noses. A lot of people used it responsibility until people found they could use it to make crystal meth. They did not require a prescription for the drug. What they did was that you walk to the pharmacy counter, show your ID, and then you can get the drug. They keep a government record for the number and length of times that you bought that prescription. If you bought the drug within a certain amount of time, you could only be allowed to buy the drug with a prescription from your doctor allowing you to take more. This is basically what doctors do with prescriptions anyway. The difference is that you do not need to see the doctor to know if the drug is right for you, but you can save a small fortune on medical bills. These improvements are great for poor people that have to choose between eating and taking their pills. I do think even harder drugs should be legal, like marijuana, just sold in very small doses. The difference is, the doctor can advise you, instead of having to make decisions for you. Doctors should be able to have access to the drugs you buy, and if it hits a warning in their system that you should not take it, then you can't buy it. But you make these decisions every day about moderation. Heck, drinking too much coffee can kill you! There is no need for control of meds by the medical industry to have such a major influence over price. This is more about price gouging than it is about your health safety. Yes, the risk of overdose by people may increase, but I think the right to these drugs in a freer market is more important.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36119898)

You use to be able to buy Sudafed

That's "used to", not "use to".

HTH. HAND.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117046)

drugs are controlled with prescriptions, because otherwise people would scarf down whatever they wanted. Imagine people eating antibiotics like candy? Where would this lead? or antipsychotics? Oh i think i have $whatever let me get some promadiazepam or whatsitsname

Don't imagine, take a trip to Thailand. Actually it works pretty well.

Re:Go go Google (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117774)

Don't imagine, take a trip to Thailand. Actually it works pretty well.

Most people can't imagine a freedom they don't have being anything but disastrous. Not even when presented with an example.

Re:Go go Google (1)

arose (644256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119856)

Antibiotic-resistant strains are not an in-your-face problem. That doesn't make it any less serious. Show me research, not anecdotes.

Re:Go go Google (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117328)

It wasn't so long ago you could purchase antibiotics. A lot of first aid kits used to supply antibiotics. The problem they found, people did take antibiotics and worse, not a full regiment, which created antibiotic resistant strains of bugs. They started requiring prescriptions by doctor and that largely addressed the issue until doctors started over prescribing once big pharm starting giving rewards for pushing drugs.

Re:Go go Google (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117678)

My problem with unlicensed drug sales is there's no quality control. There's HUGE money to be made (billions of dollars) selling diluted or outright fake drugs. It's bad enough with illicit drugs like marijuana where at least people can try it and find out what happens 2 minutes later; now consider a cancer drug, where the lack of efficacy might not be evident until months later... when you're dead.

Fake drugs were the norm back in the 1900s and before. It still happens [nytimes.com] , even with the FDA in place, but at least there's a real deterrent, and the guy in that link is rotting in jail now instead of peddling overpriced water.

The overprotection of fat, spolied American pharmaceutical companies is a separate issue. We need to fix the regulation, but not drop it.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117958)

"It wasn't so long ago you could purchase antibiotics"

You can still buy them all day long over the counter. Triple-biotic ointments and more.

Re:Go go Google (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118784)

I'm talking about pills for oral consumption.

Re:Go go Google (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118622)

The point of prescriptions has always been to boost prices and drive business to doctors. As long as you are willing to spend too much money you can legally get any drug you want in any quantity. Resistant bacteria are inevitable, but the enormous suffering caused by greedily withholding medicine is not.

Re:Go go Google (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119262)

People will fail to finish the course of antibiotics whether the doctor prescribed them or they bought them themselves.

If the problem is antibiotics then the law ought to say "antibiotics" and the problem is solved.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36118052)

Cool slippery slope bro, but check out my doubles.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36118916)

EEEK! FREEDOM!

My god, we need the feds to put a stop to that.

Re:Go go Google (1)

ziriyab (549710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116882)

If a pharmacy sells prescription meds without a prescription, they should have their license revoked and it doesn't matter where they are. If a non-pharmacy sells meds... then the laboratory that sells it to them should have its license revoked !

The online pharmacies aren't licensed by the US (from the article "Google knowingly accepted ads from online pharmacies, based in Canada and elsewhere..."), so the US can't revoke their licenses. The laboratory that sells to these legitimate pharmacies, licensed in their own countries, isn't doing anything illegal. This leaves Google as the only part of this chain that the US can punish.

But why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116946)

Why is Google being punished? Google isn't selling the drugs. They're not even advertising them.

Re:But why? (0)

x*yy*x (2058140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117008)

Yes they have been advertising them, that's exactly what this story is about.

They've been carrying the advertising. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117338)

Not actually advertising.

You know all those scratchcards in your papers/magazines? They're carried by the paper but they aren't supported by them.

Same here.

Re:They've been carrying the advertising. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117970)

Do you know what the fuck Google Ads even is?

Multiple scratchcards in my magazine are for other magazines. They are quite clearly advertisements.

Yes, now do you know what advertising means? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36118756)

It means saying "Buy this product! I endorse it!".

No, they're carrying the adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117822)

No, they're carrying the adverts, not advertising them. They're unconnected with the seller and the purchaser.

Re:Go go Google (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117092)

No, the illegal part is shipping prescription drugs into the US. If these are not declared at customs, that's illegal. If they are, then the customs people should be doing their jobs and impounding them.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117126)

So I'm confused though.

Google is a worldwide company. If they run ads for a business, which is doing nothing wrong by the laws of its own country E.G. Canada (but happens to trip on the laws of the US), then why is Google liable?

It sounds like the US needs to be talking to Canada about this, rather than harassing Google.

Of course, that's not what the Big Pharma lobbyists want. They just want to shut the pharmacies down in the US and Canada, and this is one step to hurting them in both places.

Re:Go go Google (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119690)

Because Google is running the ads in the US. Most of these campaigns are probably exclusively run in the US..

Re:Go go Google (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119534)

The US does not block anything being imported unless it is identified as illegal drugs - mostly by dogs sniffing it.

There is just too much stuff coming in to bother and it would increase prices. It is illegal in the US to sell an unlicensed DVD player. It costs $5 per player for the proper license. So when you go to the store and buy one for $29.99 do actually believe the manufacturer paid $5 for the license? No way - there isn't an extra $5 in the pricing structure.

Once you understand how this system works you understand that nothing is blocked at all. OK, you cannot ship in a bale of marijuana or a kilo of cocaine. I think there are some problems with shipping heroin as well. But just about anything else is fair game.

Fake prescription drugs? Absolutely they come in, every day and it is known to both the customs folks and the FDA. But they would have inspect every single item being shipped in and that is impossible.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116940)

You're obviously not being bled dry by big pharma for something you need

Re:Go go Google (4, Informative)

bioster (2042418) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116956)

Surprisingly, the laws in different countries are different. For example, in Canada there are some drugs which are completely legal to sell without a prescription whereas in the states you would need a prescription.

FTA:

The federal investigation has examined whether Google knowingly accepted ads from online pharmacies, based in Canada and elsewhere, that violated U.S. laws, according to the people familiar with the matter.

So it looks like this is more of a cross-border shopping issue than anything else. People are going online and buying from Canadian companies things that are completely legal to buy and sell in Canada, but happen to be illegal where they are.

I'm not entirely sure why you didn't get this, since the article itself points it out, AND the comment you responded to points it out.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117010)

Laws vary widely in each country, state, or city.
What if something you do is legal where you live, but illegal in a different country?
Should you then be forced to go to that other country to be held in their jail?

Or perhaps each country should not try to insist their laws apply to everyone and every country in the whole world.

Re:Go go Google (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117558)

If a pharmacy sells prescription meds without a prescription, they should have their license revoked and it doesn't matter where they are.

Somehow, people in Europe and elsewhere around the world are able to buy drugs over-the-counter that are prescription-only here in the US. Yet they continue to survive.

Does that mean Americans are so genetically inferior that we need special protections from ourselves or that all the laws regarding "prescription drugs" are just a giveaway to big pharmaceutical corporations who give a flying fuck about consumers' health and who get this giveaway because they pump dollars into campaign funds?

And that applies especially to the optical industry in America, where you not only need a prescription to buy a pair of glasses, but it has to be a recent prescription. I need glasses and my "prescription" for glasses hasn't changed in nearly twenty years, yet if I want a new pair of glasses and haven't seen an eye-doctor in the past year I have to go pony up just to get a piece of paper. No wonder our health care is more expensive than anywhere in the world.

(Fortunately, there are places on the internet where I can get a pair of glasses, and decent ones, for under fifty bucks without a prescription). But I'm sure the optical industry is working tirelessly to put a stop to that.

It's enough to put one off of this so-called "free market capitalism" entirely.

Re:Go go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117966)

Do you know why you have to get a new prescription every time you want new glasses? Don't say profiteering. Alright, you said it. Well, that's a good guess. It's wrong, this time.

See, doctors found that people that wear glasses are extra stupid and lazy. And even though their vision has changed, they don't get their eyes checked and continue to use the old prescription. Which made their eyes get even WORSE. So, to protect you, from yourself, they require that you get your eyes checked when you buy new glasses. It's a hassle, but in the long run it saves peoples vision.

Re:Go go Google (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119624)

The problem isn't lost profits but the brand name "Canadian Pharmacy" that has been taken over by folks operating from India and Indonesia.

This got started by real, actual Canadian mail-order pharmacies selling cross-border which has been going on for 20 years or more. However, recently the "brand" has been taken over such that you are dealing with an operator in Southeast Asia rather than Canada. They do a pretty good job of disguising that fact but they will tell you that your package will be shipped discreetly from an international location.

The problem is that in many places it simply isn't illegal to package up some drain cleaner and label it Viagra. There is no enforcement of trademarks and there are no laws against labelling drain cleaner as something else. Also, since these operations are very lucrative, they can pay off any local officials that need to be greased.

So how do you stop people from buying fake drugs from supposedly "Canadian Pharmacies"? Well, one way is to shut off the advertising. Another way is to shut down the web sites hawking this stuff - which so far has been next to impossible to do.

Re:Go go Google (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119480)

Well, let's see... a lot of this stuff is now coming from places other than any sort of licensed pharamcy with the pills being made up in the back room. License? They don't need a license, they have the Internet.

Canada (well, RCMP for one) is trying to find ways to stop the folks advertising as a "Canadian pharmacy" when in reality the entire operation is being run from India or somewhere else in Southeast Asia. They aren't having much luck. I saw a single operator with around 50 different domains. Shut one down and it pops back up with a different name the next day. There are no laws outside the US and Canada that are going to control this because it simply isn't illegal to defraud Americans in most countries. In fact, it is a respected occupation.

The biggest problem isn't that people are getting pills they want without a prescription. The problem is that the pills contain nothing like what you would expect them to. Get some and have them analyzed - the Viagra may be nothing more than blue-colored salt. It could also be other substances designed to make sure you aren't going to report the seller to anyone. Ever. After all, when you buy pills that do nothing you aren't likely to be a repeat customer, now are you? So how about making sure?

Again, there are no laws about this. If a country does not have an FDA or something like it, they may not care what sorts of things people are selling. Also, they may have laws against selling within the country but no laws about exporting, just like the US - we export pesticides that are illegal to use in the US.

So this isn't at all the big pharma companies responding to losing their profits. This is about people buying stuff that isn't what it is claimed to be and there being utterly no controls at all about what you might be getting. Having talked with some FDA people about this in the US, there is literally nothing they can do about it. They can try to shut down individual web sites, but it isn't having any real effect.

So when they remove Nazi memorabilia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116668)

from the site, google will be safe because they have to obey the laws of the country they are in. All of them.

Sigh (0)

SniperJoe (1984152) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116676)

Once again it is proven that if you have enough money, you can do pretty much whatever you want.

I'm torn between being angry about the way Google thumbed their nose at the law and being angry that I don't have enough money to do it either.

Re:Sigh (2, Insightful)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116756)

Ayup. Just one more example of how corporations as people is a failed idea from the start. If an individual did this that person would be locked up in the pokey for a few years where their earning potential would be substantially more reduced.

Perhaps if we reformed the law so that coporations who so overtly break laws would be punished by, say, having to turn over ALL their profits for the next X months to the government as penalty - I bet far mroe corporations would reconsider such nose-thumbing.

Re:Sigh (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116924)

Settlement itself is also a problem here.

I can understand making a settlement with some witness, so that you can progress investigation. In this case, however, this a case where settlement actually shutdown the investigation altogether. That is not normal, that just mean that if you have enough money, you have more chance than a random dude to avoid justice. Clearly not fair.

There are also settlement because the accused cannot afford to go to justice. (BTW, that is a big failure of a justice system that you cannot defend yourself if the accusation has enough money like any big corp vs John Doe) - but well, Google has billions in his coffer and probably plenty of 1000$/hour lawyer working for it full time. So what is the point of even giving them the option to settle ?

Re:Sigh (2)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116914)

Hold the phone, here- Summary link to the Washington Post article says that it's Google's automated system, here. Google didn't look at these ads, say "Yup, that's a phony pharmacy ad", and then get rid of them- they were submitted automatically.

You'd think there'd be a DMCA-type thing where if a complaint was submitted about an ad it could be taken down. Bet there might be now.

Re:Sigh (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116964)

It still amounts to the same thing, in the same way that eBay are ostensibly against the selling of counterfeit goods but still profit from said sales. If Google had wanted to put systems in place to try and prevent illegal ads, they could have done... for a cost - and there's the rub. What company is going to nuke one of its revenue streams at personal cost if there is a belief that they can get away with it (or that any punishment will be less than the cost of the fix)? Companies are pretty much bound to bend the law to its extremes in pursuit of profit, the entire way they are set up encourages it (i.e. beyond a certain size almost consequence free actions) and requires a massive rethink. Of course, that won't happen because there's too much money at stake and politicians are ten-a-penny.

They have put such systems in place. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117072)

Now show me where an automated system has either a 100% detection rate or a 0% false alarm rate.

And, given google has been sued several times for "abuse of monopoly" by refusing to put someone's ads on the front page (never mind on any page reachable), what are they supposed to do? Take it up the jacksie from everyone?

Re:Sigh (1)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117198)

Google owns Youtube. Google stands to make lots of money by putting ads on videos of TV shows and movies. However, Youtube has software in place to detect and remove copyrighted material from videos. It's not perfect, not by a long shot, but it's there. I'm guessing that if that sort of thing wasn't up before, it is now, or will be in the coming months.

Looking at it, Google is at fault to some degree- but saying that Google knew these ads were up and allowed them is just silly, because if they had done that, they would have had to know someone would find out and blast them for it, like this.

Made Billions (1)

CSHARP123 (904951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116714)

What's the big deal with 500M when GOOG made billions out of these ads. Unless there is more severe punishment to the individuals who run these businesses, this wont stop.

Re:Made Billions (1)

rich_hudds (1360617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116780)

Did Google make billions out of these ads? Surely there isn't that much money in just this area?

What kind of ads were they out of interest? We don't really get many drug adverts in England.

Re:Made Billions (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116856)

Not that much money? I got the impression that illegal drugs was one of the most lucrative businesses in the world..

Re:Made Billions (4, Insightful)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116908)

You think advertising spending alone for illegal drugs is billions? really? think about it.

This is kind of like a pharma doing shady things posting an advertisement in the paper, then the government fining the paper for accepting the advertising when the company shown was dodgy.

Unless google has specific legal obligations as an advertiser, the company that put the ad forward should be held accountable for their actions not google.

baddies putting ads out makes it easier for cops to catch them, so why punish the advertisers?

Re:Made Billions (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116992)

Where the analogy falls down is that newspapers have editors who can preview the ads. This was a mostly automated system. Of course that's going to eventually encourage people engaged in shady activity to participate, it's obvious even from the outset, the fact that there were no gateways to prevent this is the issue. I'd expect the newspaper that just published any ad it was sent without reviewing it to be accountable for their wilful negligence, aside from scale I don't see a difference here (of course you won't catch everyone, but an automated system that looks for certain keywords and flags them for review might have been sufficient).

Re:Made Billions (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117124)

The issue is whether Google profited off of illegal drug sales which they did not since the drugs were sold in Canada where they are perfectly legal. It's not like Google was running ads for a heroine trafficker, it was running ads for online Canadian pharmacies which can sell certain drugs free of prescription for significantly less than their American counterpart are selling them for. The companies themselves violated no laws in their own countries. Why don't you google "California Dispensary" and see what you come up with. Now google is accepting advertising money for that and should they be charged with a crime? As the first comment stated, "this is about Big Pharma vs. YOU" not really about selling crack, heroine, or even opiates. It's about grandma being able to afford her liver pills on a fixed income and an ever shrinking medicare subsidy.

Re:Made Billions (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119676)

We are not talking about sales from real Canadian Pharmacies. We are talking about folks labelling themselves as a "Canadian Pharmacy" which is code for willing to sell without prescriptions and at a (supposedly) huge discount.

This banner has been taken up by companies in India, Indonesia and other Southeast Asia locations. They advertise as a Canadian Pharmacy because Americans think that they are just getting a good deal from Canada.

There is nothing legitimate about the pills they are selling. Most are fakes. If you suggest to grandma that she get her pills from a Canadian Pharmacy I strongly suggest going there to pick them up. Because anyone advertising on the Internet is going to be run from somewhere else today. The business has changed a great deal since the 1990s.

Not a surprise ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116732)

'Google Inc. is close to settling a US criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break US laws.' Google's acceptance of ads from unlicensed 'online pharmacies' is considered profiting from illegal activity.

In the last week I've seen ads for "xforex.com" which are basically foreign exchange scams promising a 500% ROI.

I've definitely seen ads for 'online pharmacies', and possibly even for 'replica watches' ... I don't think Google cares about who they sell ads to, as long as they sell them.

Re:Not a surprise ... (1)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36116930)

It's an automated system. If it passes the auto-safeguards, it gets sent out. A human never sees them, because they get tens of thousands of ads per day.

Wonder if Google might institute some sort of DMCA-like reporting system now.

Re:Not a surprise ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117024)

Haha! You see online ads. Your dumb.

Re:Not a surprise ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117482)

Haha! You see online ads. Your dumb.

Oh, the irony of being called dumb by someone who is illiterate.

So the US can dictate what can't be advertised? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116762)

Just wait till the Saudis here about Google advertising alcohol. They're going to get sued there too!

Oh and Google will probably get sued in Australia for having ads for the new Mortal Kombat. That game is restricted material in Aus.

Are there any ads for chewing gum? Singapore has a case there.

Institutional Discrimination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116938)

There's a lot of transexuals who kick-start the process with hormones bought online in the face of poor support from medical professionals and the legislature (both in the US and UK). Removing this option will put more power in the hands of an unfriendly system. What's next? Crippling Google for enabling a community that just doesn't fit with the usual hate filled knee-jerks? Maybe if politicians weren't so stupid the market (which these neo-liberals preach about on street corners when it suits them) wouldn't be driven in the direction of unregulated and unsafe practices.

This is the beginning of the thin end of the wedge. I have nothing against censorship, certification, or regulation under the right circumstances and if it's done correctly but this is beginning to look like a hidden agenda of US-UK control of the internet. Control by whom? Control for what reasons? Control for whose profit?

*world-wide* web ads must be approved by the usa?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36116970)

Why do ads from all over the world have to now be approved by the usa??
Why is the ad firm in trouble, for what a person buys from another company?
Is Google supposed to now police what licenses each company has placing ads?
Then do each ad must get approved by some usa firm or government, for an ad from another country?

Why is the buyer not responsible for what they buy?
Or the company selling the items?

Or is this the blame game, where they must blame someone or some company reachable, and extract money from them?

Re:*world-wide* web ads must be approved by the us (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117330)

Why do ads from all over the world have to now be approved by the usa??

The USA has a hard time understanding that there are other places in the World with their own sets of rules! It's a similar issue with online gambling - If there's a non-USA gambling website how can it be the website's problem if some bozo in the US-of-A visits the website and gambles! It's illegal for the gambler in the USA to gamble online, it is NOT illegal to offer online gambling! So it shouldn't be up to the website to prevent them (assuming it's not illegal where the website is hosted).

Peculiar policies (5, Interesting)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117002)

They still prohibit ads for legal products that they don't like:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=28436&guide=28435&page=guide.cs&answer=176077 [google.com]
"Google AdWords prohibits the promotion of certain weapons such as firearms, firearm components, ammunition, balisongs (switchblades), butterfly knives, and brass knuckles. This policy applies to the content of your ad and your website.
(Emphasis added.)

Re:Peculiar policies (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117100)

I guess it's because those items are illegal in enough jurisdictions (e.g. most of them are illegal in the one that I live in) that it's not worth their while taking the adverts and doing regional filtering.

Re:Peculiar policies (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117518)

Is your jurisdiction in the US? There is no jurisdiction within the US in which the ownership of any type of firearm is illegal. This was never true even in DC before they lost the recent Supreme Court case. Our constitution does not permit such laws. As I said, they are prohibiting the advertising of legal products.

Selling them is often illegal. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119212)

Owning them is legal, but selling or even giving them away is restricted in many states, and that is what they ads are for; selling them.

Interstate commerce of Switchbades and butterfly knifes is banned by the Federal SWITCHBLADE Act. Brass Knuckles of any material are not legal and therefore cannot be sold to people in the states of: MA,CA,NY,MI,RI and IL. Metallic Knuckles may not be sold to FL. And gun laws are even more varied and confusing.

I think this should all be legal, but it's not Google's fault that it isn't, and I think it is perfectly reasonable for them to not want to wade the mishmash of state laws that govern them.

Re:Peculiar policies (1)

mckorr (1274964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119356)

There is no jurisdiction within the US in which the ownership of any type of firearm is illegal. This was never true even in DC before they lost the recent Supreme Court case. Our constitution does not permit such laws.

Possession of fully automatic weapons is illegal everywhere in the United States, unless the owner has a federally issued Class 3 firearm license. They don't just hand those out to everyone who wants them. In addition, certain jurisdictions limit the the types of firearms you can own. Often these restrictions are completely illogical ("assault weapon" bans, for example, which ban some weapons based on what they look like, not on how they function,) but they do not violate the 2nd Amendment.

Re:Peculiar policies (1)

lee1 (219161) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119812)

I am guilty of some ambiguous wording. I meant to say that there is no jurisdiction in which the ownership of every type of firearm is illegal. That is to say, at least some type of firearm, if only shotguns and "normal" rifles, is legal to own in every state. In other words, no state bans all firearms, and such a ban would clearly be unconstitutional. Sorry for the sloppy construction. (I do not agree with you that illogical restrictions on weapons somehow do not violate the second amendment.)

Re:Peculiar policies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117546)

Firearms and firearm components are legal virtually everywhere in the US. 'Ease' is little consolation to mostly small businesses that could just have their sites removed from Google altogether.

Weapons are typically illegal (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117422)

Weapons aren't legal in most of the civilized world... Illegal possession of firearms gets you at least a year behind bars in my country... An illegal knife (>= 2.7 Inches) gets you a week, and that's the minimum punishment...

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117512)

True, but Google is an American company and the issue here is that they've been fined for not banning ads for products that are illegal in America but legal in the country that the advertiser is operating in.

Thus, if they're banning ads for things that are legal in their jurisdiction, why are they not also banning ads for things that are illegal in their jurisdiction?

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117600)

It's an international company with many offices around the world.

The sooner the Yanks realise they're not the centre of the universe, the sooner some progress will be made.

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (1)

mckorr (1274964) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119416)

It doesn't matter where their offices are, it matters where they are incorporated. Google is incorporated in the US, and hence is expected to follow US law, even if those laws are idiotic, or a half century out of date.

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117624)

So being a chef is illegal in your country? Or are chefs required to use pairing knives for everything?

What next ban pillows because they can be used to suffocate people?

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36117888)

Really? I've been all over Europe and I've seen guns in, I think, every country and I've shot guns in at least four countries.

Re:Weapons are typically illegal (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119340)

2.7 inches? that's crazy small. Most kitchen knives are easily that big? What about hunting knives? Seriously, a knife is a tool. Has many other users than killing things. Guns, I can see the need for a licence, because improper user can cause death, but knives, you have to actually try to kill someone, or have a freak accident. Even if you cut off your finger, you aren't going to kill yourself.

Private company. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118440)

They still prohibit ads for legal products that they don't like: [Google policy banning adds whose text or web site promotes weapons.]

They're a private company. They get to prohibit ads for anything they want to (provided they don't illegally discriminate between different sellers of similar products).

Don't like it? Use another search engine.

(I don't like their prohibition on weapons ads . But freedom means letting other people do things you don't like.)

Federal hypocrisy (1, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117170)

They let Merck off from the full punishment when one of its business units was caught systematically defrauding Medicare because the full punishment, complete blacklisting from Medicare, would have risked bankrupting Merck. This is also the same government that prosecutes some Islamic schmuck who thinks he's giving money to aid Palestinians who are going without (but the "charity" is really a Hamas front), but then gives the "Palestinian Authority" hundreds of millions in funds (much of which is to arm itself) despite the fact that most of the PA's factions are regarded as terrorist groups by the federal government.

Re:Federal hypocrisy (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117988)

There is actually some logic to this. A company is more than just the big guns at the top, and bankrupting it would put a lot of people out of work - including people who had nothing to do with the fraud.

It'd make far more sense to levy a stonking great fine against the company and allow prosecutors to lift the corporate veil in sufficiently large cases to hold directors personally liable.

Re:Federal hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36118104)

you are attempting to apply logic to goverment. Their lies madness.

Rather Disconcerting... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117254)

On the one hand, if the feds have internal emails or similar to the effect of "Sales minion: 'Hey boss, the new clients are clearly illegal scammers.' Sales Manager: 'Minion, illegal scammers pay good money for ads. You didn't see them. Also, unless I 'don't see' at least 30% more by the end of the fiscal year your ass is out the door..." then there is a good argument to be made that Google ought to be on the hook.

There are two aspects that worry me, though: Presumably, as with many high-volume electronic services, most of the bulk Adwords sales receive basically no human scrutiny, and would probably have transaction costs too high to be workable if they did. Many online services are like that, many retail services are like that, cheap cellphones, etc, etc. Creating an implied duty to vet all customers for virtually anything that might have criminal use, on pain of major lawsuits/fines should some of the customers turn out to be criminals, seems wildly dangerous. Even the largely draconian DMCA specifically avoided doing that.

Second, of course, is the concern about making the internet either a highly fragmented geolocated-to-death zone, or an "all entities bound by the union of all sets of laws" one. In this case, for instance, a nontrivial percentage of the US lies pretty close to the Canadian border. It is hardly implausible that canadian businesses might wish to advertise to american audiences certain goods and services that are only legal if they cross the border, nor is doing so obviously criminal(in a similar vein, there isn't anything illegal about running ads for Vegas vacations in states that ban gambling, or prostitution ads in Vegas, despite the fact that you have to leave the county to legally purchase the services offered.)

Obviously, a nontrivial percentage of discount canadian pharmacies do offer to assist in breaking US law, by mailing you some drugs, often with minimal documentation, and a nontrivial percentage of ads for gambling are for illegal online betting, rather than for visits to establishments in different jurisdictions; but it isn't as though a simple keyword search is necessarily going to distinguish between the two, and a crackdown on something with legitimate applications always has potential to go to unfortunate places...

Google is the *only* company that does this? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117578)

Do other search engines do the same thing? Or similar things? Why is google being singled out for doing something that other search engines were doing before google existed?

If I get email for a bogus product, is the email carrier responsible? If I use paper to print out ads for a bogus product, is the paper manufacturer responsible?

Make a match (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36117846)

Google should match every dollar in the settlement with a dollar towards getting these anti-competitive laws repealed.

Scratch that, that just rewards the incumbent scumbags. Google should put the money into backing pro-freedom candidates. Though given Google's political leanings, that's not going to happen.

"Profiting from illegal activity" of others common (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118034)

Curious when eBay is going to be requested to cough up profits from all the sales of counterfeit products over the years.

I thought "profiting from illegal activity" was part of the 21st century business model. You don't do something illegal, but you allow people doing something illegal pay you for your service. Lawyers have been collecting fees from organized crime for years, but our judicial system allows that to some extent. Other things, not so much, but rarely prosecuted.

Radio stations, too. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118558)

Curious when eBay is going to be requested to cough up profits from all the sales of counterfeit products over the years.

Ditto radio stations: I've heard so many viagra (and variants) and "make money at home" ads on radio lately that it's starting to sound like an email inbox with no spam filter.

Ban all pharma advertising (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36118112)

If this is illegal why the hell isn't it illegal for pharmaceuticals to advertise drugs that 95% of the American public don't need? It's not like someone is ever going to see a commercial for one of the countless stupidly named drugs out there and demand them from their doctor. It's insane.

adverts violated U.S. laws (1)

doperative (1958782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119268)

> The federal investigation has examined whether Google knowingly accepted ads from online pharmacies, based in Canada and elsewhere, that violated U.S. laws, according to the people familiar with the matter ..

What specific laws are they violating and who is lobbying on Capitol that Google keeps geting into litigation with the US gov?

Re:adverts violated U.S. laws (1)

doperative (1958782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119290)

And why aren't the US gov going after the advertisers ?

Google is not a cop (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119432)

From TFA:

The federal investigation has examined whether Google knowingly accepted ads from online pharmacies, based in Canada and elsewhere, that violated U.S. laws, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Google's system, if I understand it correctly, is largely automated. To what degree should Google (or any other site like Craigslist) be expected to make an extra effort to police certain advertisers for compliance with local laws? Law enforcement needs to put the donuts down and do their jobs.

Billboards? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#36119808)

So if an illegal online pharmacy wants to buy a billboard ad on route I-95, does the advertising company verify that the pharmacy is breaking no US laws before allowing the ad? If they do not, are they liable because they profited? How about newspapers? Is every advertisement in the classifieds section operating 100% within the law?

Where is the line drawn here?

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