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Google Reaches $500 Million Settlement With Feds

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the my-coumadin-tastes-funny dept.

Advertising 172

bonch writes "As expected, Google will pay the government $500 million to settle a criminal probe into whether or not they profited from the display of ads from illegal online pharmacies. Google had vaguely referenced its settlement plans in a quarterly filing last May after charges that ads from rogue pharmacies were still appearing on Google despite a change in advertising policy. Drug advertising generates lucrative profits of about $1 billion, leading critics to charge that companies like Google aren't vigilant enough in policing their advertisers."

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How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193536)

How does google know that they are illegal?

What makes one online pharmacy legal or illegal (maybe non-trivial for them to tell, since they aren't authorities), or are they all illegal (should be easy to check, makes them lazy/irresponsible for not checking)

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1, Informative)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193690)

Google claimed to only accept ads from pharmacies verified with PharmacyChecker.com, but ads from unverified pharmacies continued to appear [nytimes.com] .

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194570)

Well I can certainly see why they would settle, then. If you agree with the government to vet advertisers, you'd better do what you promise.

It's unfortunate that you didn't include that information in the summary.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

logjon (1411219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194592)

I'm not sure that bonch can edit the summary.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194958)

"Submission" then, sorry for the terminology fail.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194678)

Is this a surprise? Ads are one way for malware/viruses to get installed. Vulnerabilities and redirections built into the ad suppliers ad make it the fastest way to get distributed.

Google may have been busted, but they arent the worst.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (3, Insightful)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193814)

Isn't it sort of the government's responsibility to crack down on illegal activity, and not the search engines'? Is Google now the police? Should they be expected to recognize every crime online and somehow thwart it? If they index a security camera, which happens to record a crime, and Google could have reasonably logged in and watched it happen, should they be accountable for not stopping it?

For fuck's sake...

Sometimes I think Google would do a better job running this country than the fucktards we elect. Do your fucking job for once, government.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (3, Interesting)

ge7 (2194648) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193902)

It's not about Google indexing them, it's about Google advertising them (to clarify, within the advertised results). You aren't really allowed to carry illegal advertisements in newspapers either.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (3, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194314)

However, operating a pharmacy and advertising it are not illegal. I could see that argument if the ad was "Come buy cocaine to help soothe your toothe ache". However, its not.... if I put up an ad saying "Apartment for rent" but... the apartment is an illegal basement or has no fire escape.... would they be liable for advertising something illegal?

Why is the onus on an IT company to perform the job of a licensing board? They are not even in the healthcare industry! What part of their business, which is very very broad, is supposed to make them experts in the legalities of every industry that they interact with?

I think this is a ridiculously high standard.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194566)

Google is not an IT company, they are an advertising company. If you are an advertising company, it is your responsibility to know and obey the laws regarding advertising.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194862)

Google is not an IT company

This is the funniest comment I've read today :D

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194942)

What you are suggesting is that Google - an *advertising* company, who makes 95+% of its revenues and profits from advertising - should be exempted from knowing the rules and regulations of the industries in which they operate because "they have computers."

I work in IT for a financial company - all of our revenues & profits are from financial services - funds, trading, planning, etc, but anybody who knows anything about the financial services industry knows that it's a very broad and diverse industry, and we have our fingers in many many pies. Should my company be allowed to claim an exemption from SEC and other financial regulations, and immunity from government penalties because we have lots of computer systems, making us an "IT company," by your bizarro-world defintion?

If you sell ads, it is incumbent upon you to do so in a legal fashion, especially when you have already previously agreed to abide by rules which you are demonstrably continuing to violate (see: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2395960&cid=37193690 [slashdot.org] ).

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194002)

the government is cracking down, I cant take out an ad stating "murder for hire" and the dipshit that puts it on TV not expect it to come back on them as well

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194360)

Yes but murder for hire is clearly illegal. What if you advertised for pest extermination (insect murder for hire), which is legal.. should google know that your area requires such businesses to have special licenses? Should they be experts on the requirements in every state (US and foreign) and its requirements for the business at hand? Should they be in charge of policing whether YOU may legally perform a task vs anyone else? In how many industries is it feasible or should it be required, for them to retain experts in to make these determinations?

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194748)

Interstate commerce is under federal, not local jurisdiction, which is why the law says websites are responsible for advertisements breaking federal laws. Somehow TV networks, radio networks, and print media manage to not advertise illegal pharmacies, but Google can't handle it? Maybe they ought to tighten up their business practices a bit, instead of just having a "we'll take anyone's money" attitude.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194006)

Did you hurt yourself with all that twisting? Google did not 'happen to index' illegal pharmacies, they sold ads for them, directly profiting off an illegal activity. And yes, it is the governments responsibility to crack down on illegal activity (such as selling ads for unlicensed pharmacies), which they did quite successfully by suing Google (the perpetrators of said illegal activity).

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194220)

Remember this is Google...they truly can do no wrong.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194052)

RTFA and you would not look so foolish. to sun up:

Google was warned about fake ads.
Google was supposed to use pharmacychecker to determine iof they where legit.
Ads for phamacy not verified by pharmacychecker continues to appeers.

to sum up the sum up:
they were told they were to stop, and didn't.

The government is doing it's job, and it did it reasonably.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194236)

The problem is it is unreasonable Google so have to check every ad for illegal activity. Carrying an ad in a newspaper is a totally different thing. Someone is physically involved. Google should not be able to knowingly be involved. Anything that happens without intent should not be. They banned the illegal pharmacies and failed to remove them. Two different things. The fact they banned them shows intentions. Failing to enforce it though shouldn't be relevant if Google's employees are simply failing to identify them as illegal. You might say how hard is it to verify legal for illegal... given that site exists. I'd say it is still very difficult and without a financial incentive Google has no obligation to attempt to verify.Google is a for-profit company and not verifying is not an egregious act.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (2)

ge7 (2194648) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194340)

No, it's not unreasonable because they are profiting from it. Google has a wide range of keywords and other security measurements in place to ensure someone isn't frauding them. Hell, it's their core business - they need to secure it, and they have. Google does manual reviews for advertisements already, especially if it's from certain category or triggered by the keyword advertiser wants to advertise for. But Google made so much money (billions) from such advertisements that they tried to avoid that responsibility and go with "but we are trying!" line. It's not that hard to do. Google has all that info and algorithms already - they just decided to take a risk. I guess it payed off too, since they made billions in profit but only had to pay $500 million.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37195070)

How is it unreasonable? Here's the complex decision making process they'd have to follow:

if ( Pharmacy is Registered with PharmacyChecker ) {
          Accept Advertisement;
} else {
          Deny Advertisement;
}

Nobody's asking them to inspect the operations of every individual pharmacy, they're simply being asked to check that the pharmacy is registered & legal via an existing online service. Stop making excuses for them, they screwed up, and got caught doing so, and now they pay the price for it. This is government regulation and oversight working as intended - even if you don't like the particular regulations in this case, it's clear that Google was in violation.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194210)

Google sold them advertising space. They didn't accidentally index their ads.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (1)

deathlyslow (514135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194872)

I look at is similar to a convenience store. They have to check IDs for certain items, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Are they the police? No but they have to vet that they only sell to legal persons.

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193980)

How does google know that they are illegal?

I don't know. Maybe they could just, *ahem*, Google it?

Re:How does google know that they are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194700)

As far as the USGOV is concerned, ANY pharmacy located in Canada is an illegal pharmacy. Having purchased prescription drugs from Canada due to the much lower costs than here in the US I am now considered a criminal. Thank the US Pharmcos for that.

Question (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193546)

So Google makes a billion dollars in profit doing something they later get fined half a billion dollars for. What exactly is the incentive to not do something like this again in the future? Seems like paying a fine is a cost of doing business that is well worth it in these cases!

Re:Question (1)

rnaiguy (1304181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193620)

from TFA:

"Drug and health care advertising generated about $1 billion in Internet spending last year and is expected to grow to nearly $1.9 billion by 2015, according to the research firm eMarketer Inc."

That's $1 billion total spending, not profit, and not only Google. I don't think Google generated anywhere near $500 million from it.

Re:Question (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193718)

Just to be clear, the $1 billion in spending is on the part of companies paying to advertise, not consumers.

Re:Question (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193774)

Where did the companies get the billion dollars?

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193952)

people buying generic v-one-four-gra on the internet?

i assume the company keeps the costs down by using cheap shipping, selling sugar pills, etc.

Re:Question (1)

rnaiguy (1304181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193986)

If that is the case, then i retract my statement. With google's domination of the industry, it could easily have gotten $500 mil. However, the statement in the article is quite vague now that I read it again. Did you see a better explanation elsewhere?

Re:Question (2)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194048)

Another article [oregonlive.com] said that the money represents the gross revenues in ad buys from the Canadian pharmacies, plus the earnings generated from illegal sales of drugs to American consumers.

Re:Question (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194244)

The data comes from eMarketer and is cited in this New York Times article [nytimes.com] :

Health care and pharmaceutical companies spent $1 billion on Internet ads in the United States last year, up 14 percent from the year before, according to eMarketer.

Re:Question (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194312)

So, basically, we have no idea if that number means anything more than the numbers put out by the RIAA.

Re:Question (1)

PcItalian (1835114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193654)

So Google makes a billion dollars in profit doing something they later get fined half a billion dollars for. What exactly is the incentive to not do something like this again in the future? Seems like paying a fine is a cost of doing business that is well worth it in these cases!

If they repeat Google will be fined for a larger sum since its the second offense, cutting into their "illegal" profiting.

Re:Question (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194182)

This is the most "correct" answer to the question, even though the question was poorly shaped.

Judges tend to escalate the penalties for repeat offenders. Get your first DWI, the judge is going to slap your fingers, and let you grovel and plead your way out of serious penalties. The second time, he'll allow you to grovel, then whap your peepee. (Cheech and Chong reference, for you youngsters) Third offense, he's going to lock your ass up, give you a hefty fine, take your license, and give you some community service, as a minimum. And, he'll warn you NOT to come back and see him again, because he WILL rape you!

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194330)

Third offense, he's going to lock your ass up, give you a hefty fine, take your license, and give you some community service, as a minimum.

1 day in jail, several thousand dollars in various fees and fines, lose your license for 30-60 days minimum, and 40 hours of community service. Sounds about right... for a first offense.

Re:Question (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37195046)

That would work for a first offense if DWI truly represented drunk driving. However, the threshold has been lowered to the point that most people can get a DWI without being "drunk".

Check or Charge? (1)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193592)

So, did Google write a check or just put it on their Amex?

Re:Check or Charge? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193664)

They paid in V14gra

Re:Check or Charge? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194218)

Uhhhh - what good would Viagra do government? I can't tell that anyone in Washington actually has any balls, so they are likely lacking the other parts of the male reproductive tool . . .

Re:Check or Charge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194852)

...other parts of the male reproductive tool . . .

I thought that's what they were :)

Re:Check or Charge? (1)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193682)

So, did Google write a check or just put it on their Amex?

I don't know, but for some unknown reason they decided to pay $618,033,989 instead of an even $500M.

Re:Check or Charge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194448)

They put it on Sergey's Amex, of course. He gets frequent flier miles for it.

And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193610)

First of all, TFA makes it sound like a straightforward case of "don't advertise illegal crap". Google didn't outright take ads for vendors of illegal drugs, they took ads for entirely legal Canadian pharmacies. The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits (even when the drugs come from those very same US companies).

Second, if merely accepting ads from unkosher sources commits a crime, then why the hell haven't the major broadcast networks gotten the smack-down for showing a non-stop string of crapvertisements from the likes of such blatant frauds as Enzyte and Head On?

Oh. Right. "Online", the magic word that makes everything old new and illegal again.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (2)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193790)

Google didn't outright take ads for vendors of illegal drugs, they took ads for entirely legal Canadian pharmacies.

Wrong, they were taking ads from unlicensed Canadian pharmacies as well which is why once the investigation found this out that Google put in a requirement that all Canadian pharmacies had to be certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.

The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits (even when the drugs come from those very same US companies).

You might have a case for this if not for the fact that Google was already blocking Canadian pharmacies from US users some time before the investigation even happened. No, what they were not happy with was the fact that many of these unlicensed pharmacies were claiming to sell brand-name drugs but in fact were selling counterfeits. Which is *gasp* fraud and is illegal.

Second, if merely accepting ads from unkosher sources commits a crime, then why the hell haven't the major broadcast networks gotten the smack-down for showing a non-stop string of crapvertisements from the likes of such blatant frauds as Enzyte and Head On?

Oh. Right. "Online", the magic word that makes everything old new and illegal again.

The FTC has gone after people for this before. But, hey, don't do the two seconds of Google searching to find this out.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193830)

The ads were from unverified pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs or prescription meds without prescriptions. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 85% percent of online pharmacies sell controlled drugs without prescriptions. The law says that web companies are liable if they advertise criminal activities, such as online gambling.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193856)

Head-On works...if the desired result is a fleeting cool sensation on your forehead. Enzyte does nothing. Nor does Stacker, nor does Worx, or any of those get-rich-quick drug attempts.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193870)

Well do we really have to ask? Hasn't the Federal Gov of the United States proven time after time to be extortionists acting as lackeys for corporations? Heaven forbid we get medicine from some place other than the Health Nazis of America. Sweet Jesus, someone save us from these fuckers.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194016)

" The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits (even when the drugs come from those very same US companies)."

You're an idiot. You do realize many Canadian drugs come from the USA, right?

Dumb ass.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194286)

I'd say that you're the one who's a dumb ass with the reading comprehension of a rock. The idea here being that Canadian pharmacies are selling the drugs for cheaper than American pharmacies, which hurts the profit margin of the companies producing said pharmaceuticals. Thus, the premise being that the FDA has to protect the pharmaceutical companies' profits by forcing Americans to pay higher prices for their medication, rather than saving some money getting them from Canada. All of this is rather moot since the issue is that Google actually did do something illegal, except for the fact that your reading comp. skills are still bottom of the barrel.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194888)

Right, which is why they only go after pharmacies selling drugs made by US manufacturers, right? Oh wait, that's not the case? You mean the FDA is properly doing it's job of protecting the American public by making sure prescription drugs are only dispensed when ordered by a licensed medical doctor, by a pharmacy that is similarly licensed, employing pharmacists who are licensed? No, that can't be the case, it just HAS to be some sort of corruption and consipracy.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194308)

You do realize many Canadian drugs come from the USA, right?

Of course, a lot of countries receive drugs from the U.S.. However, they are priced according to the markets and regulations of the country they're sold in. Hence the existence of the trade in the first place. They get them from other countries because they're cheaper. It's a pharmaceutical version of a regional lock-out.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194614)

You're an idiot. You do realize many Canadian drugs come from the USA, right? Dumb ass.

Okay, let's go over what you quoted back to me, shall we dear grasshopper?

"The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits" - If we stop reading here, then yes indeed, I deserve the "dumbass" label. But wait! I didn't stop writing there. Let's continue...

"(even when the drugs come from those very same US companies)." - Even when the drugs come from those very same US companies. Funny, that sounds strangely familiar... Now where have I heard that recently? Oh! Right! "many Canadian drugs come from the USA". Huh, imagine that! You said the same thing I did!

Dumbass.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194864)

Which does cut into US drug company profits as the US citizens pay way more for drugs. Granted the drug companies still make money but it is only truck loads instead of cargo ship loads so it is cutting into their profits. The GP even point out that the drugs come from the same US companies even if they are sold by Canadian pharmacies. The Canadian pharmacies pay less for the exact same drug than the US pharmacies do.

Some Facts to Counter Your Argument (3, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194024)

First of all, TFA makes it sound like a straightforward case of "don't advertise illegal crap". Google didn't outright take ads for vendors of illegal drugs, they took ads for entirely legal Canadian pharmacies.

Er, citation needed. There's a bit of a history here indicating that Google was taking ads from just about anybody [wsj.com] ... People have been selling prescription medicine on the internet forever [washingtonpost.com] . How real it is or where it comes from, what does it matter? The fact is that you need a prescription for it for a reason and those people get it without one.

The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits (even when the drugs come from those very same US companies).

That or they are attempting to do their job to regulate medicine.

Second, if merely accepting ads from unkosher sources commits a crime, then why the hell haven't the major broadcast networks gotten the smack-down for showing a non-stop string of crapvertisements from the likes of such blatant frauds as Enzyte and Head On?

Because Head On and Enzyte don't contain prescription drugs? They're largely over the counter drugs? It's when you get into scheduled drugs that the federal government gets upset. Here's an example of Adderall and Vicodin [nbcnewyork.com] .

Oh. Right. "Online", the magic word that makes everything old new and illegal again.

No, but it makes it easier for you to appear legitimate, make quick semi-anonymous transactions of money and do it across a border so it's harder for law enforcement to track. "Online" increases our ability to communicate, it increases our commerce and it greatly improves our quality of life but it also amplifies the potential of illicit and illegal activities (for the same reasons I just listed). It's a double edged sword.

Google set aside $500 million for this a while ago. I'm not saying that that act alone implies guilt but it certainly indicates that they were preparing for this. If they thought these claims were bogus, I bet they would have put that money to better use. They have a history, I see news articles about these illegal prescription-less pharmacies and I'm guessing that you're just blindly defending Google for god only knows why.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194042)

The difference is that "drugs" like Enzyte don't break federal criminal laws, mainly because they are "natural herbal supplements" (not drugs) whose claims "haven't been endorsed or evaluated by the FDA." Some of the companies advertising over Google (apparently) did, probably by claiming that they were FDA approved or whatever, or more likely, the equivalent of an approved drug (which they aren't). The first may be deceptive, but isn't criminal. The second is, unfortunately for Google.

The difference may looks subtle, but consider that herbal supplements like Enzyte aren't likely to kill you, although they won't work. Taking fake drugs instead of real ones? That can kill you. Hence, it's a criminal offense to sell them, as is advertising them.

Re:And NBC et al paid how much for Enzyte? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194054)

THE PHARMACIES WERE NOT LEGAL CANADIAN PHARMACIES. Can't believe you got modded up to +5.

Google was already blocking Canadian pharmacies before the probe. If you'd RTFA, these pharmacies sell controlled meds without prescriptions as well as counterfeit brand drugs. The whole point of a prescription is that the drugs can have dangerous, often addictive side effects if the user takes them incorrectly or in the wrong amounts. These rogue pharmacies bypass the medical controls put in place by doctors who authorize prescription meds.

Again, it has nothing to do with some stupid "big pharma" conspiracy.

Completely wrong post at +5 Insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194130)

Look at how your comment is modded +5 Insightful even though it's completely wrong, while almost every single reply has been correcting you with cited evidence, and they are ignored. Even worse, people using filters will only see high-rated comments like yours that are totally inaccurate but not the replies correcting you.

Head-On intentionally doesn't make any factual health claims in their ads. That's why their commercials simply repeat the phrase "Apply directly to forehead."

Slashdot moderation sucks.

Re:Completely wrong post at +5 Insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194162)

There needs to be a -1 for "wrong."

The FDA actually DID THEIR JOB. (3, Informative)

jamrock (863246) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194526)

First of all, TFA makes it sound like a straightforward case of "don't advertise illegal crap". Google didn't outright take ads for vendors of illegal drugs, they took ads for entirely legal Canadian pharmacies. The FDA just doesn't like anyone cutting in on US pharmaceutical industry profits (even when the drugs come from those very same US companies).

I suggest that you go to the source. Here's the release from the Department of Justice [justice.gov] outlining the settlement, and here's the relevant passage:

The importation of prescription drugs to consumers in the United States is almost always unlawful because the FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of foreign prescription drugs that are not FDA-approved because the drugs may not meet FDA’s labeling requirements; may not have been manufactured, stored and distributed under proper conditions; and may not have been dispensed in accordance with a valid prescription. While Canada has its own regulatory rules for prescription drugs, Canadian pharmacies that ship prescription drugs to U.S. residents are not subject to Canadian regulatory authority, and many sell drugs obtained from countries other than Canada which lack adequate pharmacy regulations. ... “This investigation is about the patently unsafe, unlawful, importation of prescription drugs by Canadian on-line pharmacies, with Google’s knowledge and assistance, into the United States, directly to U.S. consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Neronha. [Emphasis mine]

It's not a matter of "advertising illegal crap", as you put it, and the fact that the Canadian pharmacies are "entirely legal" is irrelevant. As the statement in the DOJ release makes clear, these pharmacies aren't subject to the Canadian food and drug regulations, and are basically allowed to sell drugs to Americans from any source they see fit, however questionable. The FDA is in fact fulfilling it's basic mandate in this case, namely protecting the American public from drugs and medication whose standards they cannot ensure.

And for the consumption of idiots who think that Google is somehow the victim, here's another passage from the statement:

An investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island and the FDA/OCI Rhode Island Task Force revealed that as early as 2003, Google was on notice that online Canadian pharmacies were advertising prescription drugs to Google users in the United States through Google’s AdWords advertising program. Although Google took steps to block pharmacies in countries other than Canada from advertising in the U.S. through AdWords, they continued to allow Canadian pharmacy advertisers to target consumers in the United States . Google was aware that U.S. consumers were making online purchases of prescription drugs from these Canadian online pharmacies, and that many of the pharmacies distributed prescription drugs, including controlled prescription drugs, based on an online consultation rather than a valid prescription from a treating medical practitioner. Google was also on notice that many pharmacies accepting an online consultation rather than a prescription charged a premium for doing so because individuals seeking to obtain prescription drugs without a valid prescription were willing to pay higher prices for the drugs. Further, from 2003 through 2009, Google provided customer support to some of these Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to assist them in placing and optimizing their AdWords advertisements, and in improving the effectiveness of their websites.

Google blocked foreign online pharmacies after being notified by the FDA in 2003 — except those from Canada. The statement also makes clear that customers were willing to pay online pharmacies a premium if they didn't have a valid prescription, and that not only did Google not block these Canadian online pharmacies, they offered them customer support in improving their ad effectiveness for six years after being notified by the FDA .

In one sentence, Google blocked all but Canadian pharmacies, whom they continued to assist for six years, because they were profitable, while knowing full well they were complicit in perhaps exposing American consumers to unsafe medications.

Anyone here still believe the "Don't Be Evil" motto is anything more than cynical marketing hypocrisy?

Massive Fraud Settlement? (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193626)

It's more common than you think. Ask your doctor to be sure.

Big Pharma (2)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193662)

This more has to do with the re-importation of the very same drugs that the Big Pharma companies want to sell to us at extremely high markups. This is not about safety it is about protecting profits for those companies. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

Re:Big Pharma (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193836)

Sure except for the fact that your conspiracy theory is squashed by:

“We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,” Google said in a statement Wednesday.

From here [nytimes.com] . So, no, that really wasn't the issue.

This is not about safety it is about protecting profits for those companies. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

Yeah, it must be. I mean it's not like it's fraudulent that many of these pharmacies were claiming to sell name-brand drugs but were instead selling people fakes. Oh wait, it is.

Re:Big Pharma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194142)

Selling counterfeit name-brand drugs is not the same thing as selling fake drugs. It's just pretending to be a name-brand when you're not. Does this mean the drugs may or may not be safe? Sure, but it doesn't prove their unsafe or not the same drug.

Follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193930)

Everything government does is motivated by money, the exact same motivation that everyone loves to demonize with regards to the private sector: "if only government would step in, this obsession with profit will end".

No way in hell.

Government is motivated as much by profit as any private firm. The key difference is government's special right to employ physical force (or threat thereof) as a business model. The less obvious differences are in the back-handed ways the government elite use to take their profits. Hint: You won't find it in their salaries.

fallen gargoyles in dc, ny peak tourists interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193720)

why were they there in the first place? didn't they supervise unspeakable 'alterations' performed on us by their minions, back a few years ago? the hymenology councils' counsel is preparing to release the unedited papers of challenge proffered by the whore of babylon, who remains under the safe guard of the council. could uncork some of the demon vs. morality shenanigans/pulp fiction that's been forced upon us for centuries, according to the native bringers of the well supported teepeeleaks etchings. see you there.

disarming & truth telling are the only mathematically & spiritually correct options in all cases.

Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (-1, Flamebait)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193722)

Good job, Google.

  • Illegal ads for online pharmacies: CHECK
  • Patent infringement from Android: CHECK
  • Extreme Android fragmentation: CHECK
  • Worthless failures like Wave and Google TV: CHECK

It's clear why consumers continue to flock to real companies like Microsoft.

Say NO to inferior products. Say NO to Google.

Re:Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (-1, Offtopic)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193918)

Good job, Microsoft.

      Disassembled from antitrust and patent settlements: CHECK
      Donated millions to chief competitor: CHECK
      Extreme DRM on Windows and Software: CHECK
      Worthless failures like the Zune and Win7 phone: CHECK
It's clear why consumers continue to flock to real companies like Google.

Say NO to inferior products. Say NO to Microsoft.

Re:Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193972)

Stephen Elop? It's you?

Re:Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (1)

unixfan (571579) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193974)

Or simply say no to parent's trolling. (No infringement vaguely proven, fragmentation, failures!?! Pleeze!)

Re:Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194216)

I'll say this much for Google. When they screw up they tend to own it. They don't tend not to hide from responsibility - which is more than you can say for most high-profile companies. And when they screw up they are big enough that it can impact a LOT of people.

Still, if you want to shill for MS, you might look to products like, Kin, Zune, Bob, Windows ME, etc. before you blast another company for its failed products while claiming MS is superior.

And I'm not actually anti-MS. I use their products every day to make a living. I defend them when appropriate. My favorite thing to say to a bunch of Apple felators when they give me crap for running MS: "Why do I use MS? I like to make a living with my computer not make it my life."

Re:Illegal ads? CHECK. Patent infringment? CHECK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194238)

Google's impending doom was obvious when they chose Lunix as their basis for Android. No consumer will buy a phone if they can't sue if it goes wrong, and I doubt "Call Linus" is going to satisfy them. Also, using Java was a terrible idea. I tried to use a Java application eight years ago and it was incredibly slow.

See no evil, do no evil... (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193868)

Sounds like Google has the "if I don't get caught have I done anything wrong" attitude and now are getting called out on it, makes me wonder just how many other instances of "see no evil, do no evil" the public and competitors don't know about.

Criminally liable? (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193882)

From one of TFAs: "Web sites are liable for ads on their sites from advertisers that break federal criminal law."

Um, just how is one supposed to know - guarantee - that an advertiser is not breaking the law? This potentially affects anyone accepting advertising, all the way from Google down to the lowliest blog. It essentially requires the site accepting advertising to be legally expert in every possible realm of business. What is legal for pharmacies to do? How about alcohol sales? How about car rentals? How about chinese medicine? Unlicensed electricians? Farms that sell unpasteurized milk?

Idiocy - and it's a shame that Google settled.

Re:Criminally liable? (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193946)

The very article you are referencing says that Google claimed to only accept ads from pharmacies verified with PharmacyChecker but that ads from unverified pharmacies continued to appear. As for your question, use common sense. You obviously can't advertise, say, illegal gambling sites or local heroin dealers. If you're running an online advertising platform, you should know what to avoid and how to verify that your advertisers are legitimate.

Re:Criminally liable? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194010)

What is legal for pharmacies to do?

I'm not sure exactly, but don't they have to be licensed?

How about alcohol sales?

I believe they have to be licensed as well?

How about car rentals?

Not sure, but the unlicensed car rental business does not appear to be booming.

How about chinese medicine?

Pharmaceuticals or just herbs? Most herbal stuff carries warnings that it hasn't been tested by the FDA or that claims have not been verified, etc. It's required.

Unlicensed electricians?

Depends what you want to do with the electrician. Some things require permits and licensed contractors.

Farms that sell unpasteurized milk?

Are there regulations that it has to be pasteurized?

Unlicensed pharmacies, when it's clear they must be licensed and regulated by the FDA, is a lot different from a handyman who does electric work.

Re:Criminally liable? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194332)

About unlicensed electricians, in some places it is required that electricians belong to the local IBEW chapter. Non-union electricians are not allowed.

A lot of such licenses are done at the state level, rather than federally, so it can be difficult to figure out if a store is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages because it may be handled at the municipality, township, county or state level. I do not believe there is any federal licensing.

Pharmaceutical sales have the issues of being regulated at the state level and also federally. The content of what they are selling is also regulated. Of course many people are sure this is simply to reinforce the hold that big pharmaceutical companies have on the market and prevent smaller startups from entering into their territory. Or to prevent the importation of stuff made in India that is much cheaper. They seem to have missed when it was legal for anyone, anywhere to sell medications previously. The creation of the FDA was intended to stop such practices and prevent the sales of things that had not been tested and proven to be effective.

Also, as far as I know, any agency that has ordered cheap Viagra or other drugs that was shipped from India have found it not to be what was being advertised at all. Various substances were in the pills, some good and some bad. Also, most of these sorts of places are advertising themselves as a "Canadian Pharmacy" because everyone knows that drugs are cheaper in Canada. The RCMP and other agencies in Canada just love that.

Re:Criminally liable? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#37195008)

Farms that sell unpasteurized milk?

Are there regulations that it has to be pasteurized?

In Minnesota you cannot advertise that you sell unpasteurized milk or offer it for commercial sale. You can purchase small quantities directly from the farmer for personal use and need to provide your own container. Here is an excerpt from the University of MN on the subject citing the law:

to settle a criminal probe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37193886)

1. Why does google not operate ethically? Why does not google disclose that it did nothing wrong?
2. There was no verdict, no proof. Just a 'Probe' They just settled to hush things up. Nothing will get better.
3. Crime does pay.
4. More money to lawyers equals more lawyers into the game
5. Sure are a lot of people picking on google lately. Lotta sour grapes it seems. Big Cashflow == Big Lawsuits.
6. ISP's responsible for Content meme gets another piece of contrived ammo
7. More lawyers in Game means smaller startups can't play. More barriers to entry.
8. Lawyers not Engineers. Courtrooms not Cleanrooms. Why Johnny does not want to be an Engineer or Programmer
9. Who decides what gets 'probed'. Who decides to stop the 'probe' How are the payout amounts decided.
10. There is not a dam thing I can do about the direction the Powers That Be are pushing this.
11. Somebody is going to whine about why jobs are leaving America. And get paid for a speaking gig.
12. Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Why does an ad company (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37193950)

get in trouble for what the company in the ad is doing?

Re:Why does an ad company (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194050)

because without the company displaying it, and hold on this is a shocker, you cant fucking see them.

Lots of "secondary" crimes are on the books (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194138)

little things like if you are a taxi driver and were found out to provide services for a Serial Killer you are on the hook for all of his victims (just like you were the "wheelman" for a gang of thieves).

Depending on how miffed the authorities are when they catch somebody a lot of folks can be on the hook for crimes even though what they actually did is strictly Legal.

So yes i can see Google being on the hook for illegal pharmacy sites since they basically got a "cut" of the pharmacies take.

Re:Why does an ad company (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194190)

Because advertising and therefore profiting from an illegal activity is being complicit in the activity.

Sigh (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194014)

Another health related issue being treated as if it were criminal.

The Government as a collection agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194032)

for Big Pharma

Observation (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194038)

I would think that the Feds would want the criminals to advertise on Google. A criminal enterprise that advertises itself is much easier to catch than a more shadowy one that advertises through spam.

There are ads on the Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194196)

Interesting. I was unaware.

be careful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194228)

not to lose it all here, this article contains everything you people love, evil profiting companies and the evil US! Go for it...

Ads for Drugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194240)

Does anyone else think that ads for drugs as just ridiculous? If I needed to be put on meds, wouldn't my doctor prescribe them to me without me making my own uneducated suggestions?

Re:Ads for Drugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194428)

It's something I find odd in US TV. In the European TV I've seen it's comparatively rare for pharmaceutical companies to market prescription drugs directly to consumers. Viagra is the only big case that comes to mind. It reminds me of the Intel adverts. They were clever in that they didn't really get in to the technical side of things. What they did do was to brand themselves so well that the average consumer expects that a proper computer will contain an Intel doohickey - regardless of its actual features.

Re:Ads for Drugs? (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194480)

No, your buddy's doc prescribed them to him. You scanned it when he wasn't looking and "improved" the address on it before forwarding to a less-than-fussy Nigerian e-pharmacy with a Canadian website. They filled it with facimile products and dropshipped it via Hong Kong by courier to avoid US Postal police. You sell it to anonymous clients on the streetcorner. Everyone profits!
Advertising works, or nobody would pay for it, and you wouldn't have google to use.

Re:Ads for Drugs? (1)

adeft (1805910) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194606)

There are generic variants of prescription medicine. Asking for something by a name they recognize can make them feel like it is a superior product.

Re:Ads for Drugs? (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194732)

Not me. Ads for drugs work. Who's going to tell his doctor about his limp virile member if he doesn't know that a treatment exists? Also, not all doctors are aware of all potential therapies, and some doctors are offered luxurious gifts by pharmaceutical companies in order to prescribe or recommend a particular drug over its alternatives. Patient education can overcome this conflict of interest, which is just advertising that you don't see. Sometimes you must ask for treatment in order to receive it. You can't always assume that your doctor knows or cares what's best for you.

Money to settle a CRIMINAL probe ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37194386)

Since when do you settle a CRIMINAL probe with money ?

Re:Money to settle a CRIMINAL probe ? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194552)

Ever try imprisoning a corporate person? How about imagining it?

Re:Money to settle a CRIMINAL probe ? (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194806)

Since the invention of money?

More details tomorrow (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194466)

Tomorrow there will be a press release from the prosecutor. Some previous stories indicate that the drug ad business went beyond accidentally running such ads.

Affirmation of my position on Google (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37194542)

Google is many things. Google is awesome in it's interesting and fun methods and people. Google is a terrific contributor to the internet, technologies, F/OSS, and lots, lots more. Google is a huge game changer and a threat to many which the Slashdot crowd dislike and in many respects, a hero.

But Google is a marketing/advertisement company. They should always be regarded as such despite the fact that they are also many great things.

Let's just say that Google was caught "not being careful enough" which was technically their responsibility.

Simple, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37195080)

Google broke the law, now Google has to pay the price. It is rather simple, really, unless you are blinded by love for Google.

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