State AGs say Google profits from harmful YouTube videos

Attorneys General have also raised concerns about the prominent position of objectionable websites in Google search results

Google is benefiting in terms of advertisement revenue from YouTube videos that depict and even promote dangerous or illegal activities, two state attorneys general in the U.S. have stated in a letter to the company.

The move follows concerns raised by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood who asked Google last month to address issues on its search site that are allowing consumers to obtain illegal and counterfeit goods, including the online sale of dangerous drugs without a prescription.

"We understand that YouTube is an open platform and that not all content can or should be policed," Jon Bruning, Nebraska attorney general, and Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, wrote in the letter Tuesday.

The officials said they found it "troubling" that Google actively seeks to profit from the posting of the objectionable videos, and asked Google for information on measures, if any, it has taken to avoid hosting paid advertising on videos containing illegal or objectionable content, and to remove such advertising once such videos are discovered.

The attorneys general also want information on how much revenue Google has received from advertising associated with the videos.

The attorneys general were particularly concerned about videos promoting the sale of prescription painkiller drugs without a prescription, providing guides for forging passports and driving licenses and promoting the sale of counterfeit merchandise.

"It is our understanding that Google and the video poster share in the profits from this advertising revenue," according to the letter.

Google could not be immediately reached for comment.

At a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Boston last month, the role of Google search and its other services to facilitate access to illegal pharmacies, counterfeit products, and human trafficking was in sharp focus.

Google's search algorithm including its auto-complete feature often leads to sites known to sell counterfeit goods being at the top of Google search results, Hood said last month. Attorneys general are concerned that some of the sites selling counterfeit goods are advertising with Google, he added. The attorney general, who is co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Intellectual Property Committee, warned that officials would have to issue subpoenas to Google because of its "lack of response."

Google wrote in a blog post in June that it does not remove content from search results except in certain circumstances such as child sexual abuse imagery, and certain links to copyrighted material, spam or malware, as it is for courts and lawmakers and not Google to determine what content should be censored.

The company, however, claims to have extremely stringent ad policies, and uses sophisticated automated systems, along with some human review, "to identify, block and remove ads suspected of linking to rogue pharmacies." In the last two years alone, Google blocked or removed from its systems over 3 million ads by suspected rogue pharmacies, it wrote in the blog post.

Digital Citizens Alliance in a report released in June highlighted that videos on YouTube promote the sale of prescription painkiller drugs. The report by the consumer group also said that YouTube was being used to promote the sale of forged passports and drivers licenses, escort services, prostitution and content theft.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGoogleregulationgovernmentinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?