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US states: Google making ad money on illegal YouTube vids

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Oklahoma and Nebraska have joined Mississippi in calling on Google to crack down on internet ads for powerful drugs sold without prescription.

The states' attorneys-general have written to the Chocolate Factory about ads that pop up on YouTube videos for pharmacies willing to sell painkillers like percocet and oxycontin without a prescription. Both drugs are common on the black market.

The letter accused Google of making money from ads placed on videos that were marketing illegal or dangerous activities. On the pharmacy videos, ads for "MacKeeper" appeared, while viewers of how-to videos on creating forged driver's licences and passports were favoured with sidebar ads for immigrant lawyers. Videos promoting the sale of counterfeit goods also had ads on them, for weight loss strategies.

"Not only are the activities depicted or promoted in the above-described videos illegal in and of themselves, but in the case of document forgery, the how-to guide could be instrumental in the commission of other crimes ranging from under-age drinking to acts of terrorism," the letter warned, a touch hysterically.

"We understand that YouTube is an open platform and that not all content can or should be policed. Nevertheless, the fact that Google actively seeks to profit from the posting of these types of videos on YouTube - a website known to be particularly popular among children and teens - is very troubling."

Two years ago, Google paid $500m to settle a US criminal investigation into allegations that it had made hundreds of millions of dollars from ads purchased by illegal web pharmacies in Canada and other countries.

Google said back in June that it had been trying to limit adverts to legitimate companies and to combat "rogue online pharmacies" after Mississippi AG Jim Hood said he was prepared to subpoena the firm as part of a probe into claims that it had facilitated the sale of drugs without prescription and other illegal products.

Nebraska's AG Jon Bruning said in a canned statement yesterday that the firm had to answer for profiting from the videos.

"Google stands to make money from ads running in conjunction with instructional videos on everything from illegally purchasing prescription drugs and making fraudulent passports to promoting human trafficking and terrorist propaganda,” he said.

“I’m deeply disappointed with Google’s lackadaisical attitude toward Internet safety and consumer protection. The company should be held accountable for profiting from a platform that perpetuates criminal activity.” ®

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