Illegal Pharmaceuticals: Part of Google’s New Clampdown

Almost everyone depends on Google’s search engine for finding information about products, services, and everything in-between. While most people’s intentions are true and good, criminals and illegal companies have been using Google’s tools to buy and sell illegal drugs. Until recent years, Google has been lenient on such practices and has faced much scrutiny because of it. The tech giant has admitted to selling ad space to rogue online pharmacies, which led to the company being fined $500 million a few years ago. While Google has changed some of its policies, many attorney generals are still not satisfied.

Changes Google Has Made

Executives from Google have conducted meetings with approximately two dozen state prosecutors as an attempt to resolve the issue. In 2013, Google reported that it disabled 4.6 million ads that were placed by rogue pharmaceutical and health companies. In addition, since 2010, the tech giant reports that nearly all illegal pharmacies have stopped placing ads. In addition, Google has agreed to hire over 100 new workers to crawl ads and videos in search for rogue and potentially dangerous sites. Google has even tweaked its auto-complete suggestions by removing over 1000 suspect phrases. With all this success and change, state leaders still want more.

What Lawmakers Are Demanding

State leaders applaud Google for its efforts, but they still believe more can be done. Attorney generals argue that the changes have removed ads and have removed auto-complete phrases, but users can still find illegal content if they explicitly searched for it. Attorney general Jim Hood of Mississippi believes that the restrictions should extend to copyright infringement and all other illegal activities as well. As of now, Google has not agreed to make changes on that level, and many question whether such changes are even practical.

What This Means for Users

The average user is mainly affected by the auto-complete feature. The auto-complete feature analyzes what millions of people have already searched for and gives you suggestions based upon what you are typing. These suggestions could lead you down an unintentional, yet educational, path you would not have considered otherwise. With the new changes, if you are not searching for anything illegal, you will be virtually unaffected. However, if you are looking for a new career and search for “How to be a…” “How to be a drug dealer” will not be suggested unless you explicitly search for it.

Sources:
http://www.geek.com/apps/google-cracks-down-on-legal-searches-about-illegal-things-1591496/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/google-faces-new-pressure-from-states-to-crack-down-on-illegal-online-drug-sales/2014/04/15/6dfc61fa-be6d-11e3-b195-dd0c1174052c_story.html
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/08/words_banned_from_bing_and_google_s_autocomplete_algorithms.html