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Google in the dock over elephant ivory ads

Environmentalists stampede as Chocolate Factory breaks own AdWords policy

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Google has been accused of inadvertently promoting the slaughter of endangered whale and elephant species after environmentalists found tens of thousands of ads for ivory and other products on its Japanese shopping site.

Non-profit campaigning group the Environmental Investigation Agency said that despite Google’s own “laudable” policies banning such items from its pages, it had found around 10,000 ads for elephant ivory-related products and around 1,400 for whale products on the Google Japan Shopping site.

It added that despite writing to CEO Larry Page on 22 February requesting immediate removal of the ads, they are still on the site. A cursory search for “ivory” reveals such items are still being advertised for sale on the e-commerce portal.

EIA said that the popularity of name seals made of ivory, known as hanko, in Japan had driven a resumption in widespread elephant poaching in Africa which sees around 35,000 beasts killed illegally every year on the continent.

“Google has laudable policies that prohibit the promotion of endangered wildlife products including whale, dolphin and elephant ivory, but sadly these are not being enforced and that’s devastating for whales and elephants,” said EIA President Allan Thornton in a canned statement.

“While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants and whales.”

The Reg couldn’t get hold of Google at the time of writing but the Chocolate Factory did send the BBC the following statement admitting that the ads contravened its own T&Cs:

Ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them.

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