States tackling Google on human trafficking, drugs

Attorneys General from multiple states want the search engine giant to engage in dialog to deal with illegal activity

The attorneys general of several states are turning up the heat on Google, concerned that the search engine giant makes it easier for criminals to sell illegal drugs online, engage in human trafficking and peddle pirated intellectual property.

At the summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Boston Tuesday, Mississippi's Attorney General Jim Hood said that he is ramping up the pressure on the Internet behemoth, to which he had earlier this month sent litigation hold letters that should compel the company to preserve emails and other possible evidence in case of a lawsuit. He is now sending a civil investigative demand, or subpoena, for records relevant to how the company's search business may facilitate the sale of pharmaceuticals without prescriptions. He said Google had "lawyered up" after failing to respond to a number of written queries.

At the same time, Hood said, he does not want a legal battle with Google. "I don't want to have a fight, we want to work together," he said. He also expressed his hope that "conscientious investors" as well as advertisers would put pressure on the company to disengage from those using the search engine to conduct illicit business.

Several of his colleagues echoed Hood's concerns as well as his desire to come to an agreement with Google about its business practices.

Nevada just fought to pass a human trafficking bill making the activity illegal in the state, but Google is facilitating the sale of minors into prostitution, said Catherine Cortez Masto, attorney general of Nevada. "It's so important that Google comes to the table," she said.

Substance abuse is a priority for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, with prescription pills a leading cause of accidental death in the state, he said. "I would say to Google, it's high time to meet the AGs and work with us on the issue."

"Google's model was 'do no evil'," said Hawaii Attorney General David Louie. Like his colleagues, he wants to work with the search giant to root out the illegal activity that they charge it has facilitated.

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Elizabeth Heichler

IDG News Service
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