back to article US states: Google making ad money on illegal YouTube vids

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 …

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First amendment?

It's probably legal to show these videos, otherwise they would get taken down… Are they suggesting that Google should show "moral leadership" and censor these videos?

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Re: First amendment?

Yes.

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Devil

Re: First amendment?

Actually they may not have first amendment rights. Its going to depend on the video's content.

The issue isn't the video, but the ads that Google shows with the video which is at issue.

The interesting thing is that these ads are for illegal pharmacies which Google has already said that they were cracking down on them. What makes that interesting is that these ads tended to be shown during videos of questionable legal topics.

If you don't see the irony, take some time and let it sink in. ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Ads for illegal pharmacies?

Google already got fined heftily for doing this; I'm pretty sure nobody would be complaining about what's in the videos (which are legal to show) if they could complain about such ads (which are illegal to show)…

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Childcatcher

Re: First amendment?

Because terrorism! Be afraid, be very afraid!

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Headmaster

Re: Ads for illegal pharmacies?

Google already got fined heftily for doing this;

Pedant-o-clock: No they didn't. They paid a half a billion dollars in bribe money to make people stop investigating.

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Re: First amendment?

And no one appears to be asking Google to take the videos down.

Where Google could very well come undone is their ad matching technology under proceeds of crime legislation.

Only have to prove that someone used a YouTube video to commit a crime they could not have committed without knowledge gained from the video and Google could be screwed.

Hit them for the $3.64 raised by the ad and hand off to civil litigation by the victim(s).

Moral leadership is neither here nor there. Google regularly censors YouTube content. It's certainly fast enough to take down any bare titties which might appear. What this really boils down to is that wowsers have enough clout to scare Google into taking down content which they disapprove of, but without Gawd to whip folk into a frenzy, instructional videos for committing actual criminal acts just aren't the same threat to their revenue stream.

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Black Helicopters

@AC... Re: Ads for illegal pharmacies?

Again not all of the videos are protected under the first amendment. And again, its not the videos.

Its the ads.

So here's the thing. If Google is showing certain types of ads which are illegal only during questionable content, how is it that they know which ads to show?

I mean if you post a legal video on how to cook crystal meth, where as the only illegal thing is actually cooking meth... ; How would Google know to put up ads for Canadian online pharmacies which sell prescription meds over the net?

Hint: They know the content of the video based on key words.

They also know the content of the ad based on key words.

They also know their targeted audience.

So if they know where and when to show it, then they should know how to filter it and flag the contract in the first place.

Hmmm. I wonder if they know that John Doe, the viewer is in Law Enforcement, would they then not show the potentially illegal ad? ;-)

Just something to think about.

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What they SHOULD be doing??

Is getting the Chocolate Factory to give them the names of the users that are accessing/sponsoring the ads and shut them down that way.

Free speech does (should) have some responsibility!

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Mushroom

Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

"Is getting the Chocolate Factory to give them the names of the users that are accessing/sponsoring the ads and shut them down that way."

What if those users are in a country that actually does allow free speech - or the right to anonymity? Not going to be much the USA can do about it.

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Facepalm

Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

"Is getting the Chocolate Factory to give them the names of the users that..."

PAPIER! SCHNELL!

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Silver badge

Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

"Free speech does (should) have some responsibility!"

Free speech has nothing to do with it.

Youtube gets something ridiculous like 100 hours of footage a minute uploaded. The staff required to check this footage for legality would be mind blowing. Currently the ads are based on the entered text which may or may not have anything to do with the footage and all videos gets ads because that's how Google makes it money.

Google would need to hire 20,000+ staff to do nothing but watch videos just to try and keep up with the inflow

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Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

They already do.

If you can't work out for yourself why this is bad then you kind of deserve the regime you live under (UK or US, dunno bout the Aussies)

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Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

Getting paid to watch videos... I could live with that...

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Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

For every funny or arousing one, there are a dozen paint-drying or disgusting ones.

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Facepalm

Re: What they SHOULD be doing??

Youtube gets something ridiculous like 100 hours of footage a minute uploaded. The staff required to check this footage for legality would be mind blowing.

Google's profits are mind-blowing. It's much easier to say "it's too expensive!", coin it in and pay off whomever comes to investigate.

Why is it when a kid from up north makes a website with dodgy user contributed links to content that has ads it is piracy, but when google do it it is safe harbour?

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Death by Chocolate

I think the point here is that Youtube being an open medium has to receive complaints about illegal postings before they are taken down,I know for a fact that is the case for copyright breaches, or at least was last year.

The wonder is that Google is able to place ads on these postings right from the start before anyone has had a chance to complain so they are by implication 'in on it'.

The fact that a couple of AGs think the videos are illegal probably means they are.

Tax avoiding , profiteering corporations on the internet?........ Noooo not likely!

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FAIL

Re: Death by Chocolate

Really, Chris? Taking the word of the AGs of OK, NE and MS as gospel (pun partially intended)? Yeah, none of these guys would evah have any political angle in making these bellicose grandiose pronouncements, now would they? No, of course they wouldn't....

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Thumb Down

Faking drivers' licenses? Illegal.

Snooping, Killing, Maiming, Lying, Economy Destroyin'? Legal if the Prez does it.

Frack off, Nanny Statists. I think people can decide by themselves if they want your "illegal" drugs or dodge an unconsttutional "surprise overwatch road checkpoint" by faked id.

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Happy

Don't most people use AdBlock?

I find this s**t pretty annoying.

Forging a drivers license is tricky and I need to concentrate when I'm watching.*

*Purely for educational purposes. I might find myself working in a bar and need to spot one.

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Big Brother

Re: Don't most people use AdBlock?

"I find this s**t pretty annoying. Forging a drivers license is tricky and I need to concentrate when I'm watching.* *Purely for educational purposes. I might find myself working in a bar and need to spot one."

Thankfully we have PRISM! Now don't be alarmed if someone comes knocking on your door. We just want to make sure you're telling the truth.

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Silver badge

Re: Don't most people use AdBlock?

"I find this s**t pretty annoying. Forging a drivers license is tricky and I need to concentrate when I'm watching.* *Purely for educational purposes. I might find myself working in a bar and need to spot one."

...or, if the situation in the US finally deteriorates to the point where properly forging a driver's license or other identity documents might be a really useful talent to have.

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Silver badge

Re: Don't most people use AdBlock?

The minimum age to purchase alcohol in the US is 21, with most states setting the same limit for possession. The forged identity document is a rite of passage there - no-one wants to wait until 21 to sip their first beer.

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Anonymous Coward

What exactly do they want?

It sounds like they're just saying "we don't like this", but aren't specifically accusing Google of breaking any particular law or offering any suggestions about what they should do differently.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What exactly do they want?

"suggestions about what they should do differently."

Would "don't do evil" do for starters?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What exactly do they want?

lots of money

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Silver badge

Re: What exactly do they want?

In the case of illegal prescription drugs, they want the doctors to get their cut.

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Stop

Re: What exactly do they want?

@AC 3rd July 2013 18:32 GMT:

just because some knowledge can be used to cause harm, doesn't make the knowledge intrinsically bad or evil

or do you suggest that people that perform security analysis and penetration testing of software/networks be denied access to actual ways of cracking them? by making it illegal only criminals will have access to it and the whole situation will get only worse

like someone mentioned above, some people need to know how to spot a counterfeit one - you're much more likely to do that if you know how to make one

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Childcatcher

Someone think of the children!

could be instrumental in the commission of other crimes ranging from under-age drinking to acts of terrorism

Something's missing here, isn't it? Ah yes, they didn't mention kiddy fiddlers - I'm pretty sure some of those prescription drugs or, god forbid, underage drinking can and will lead to this.

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Trollface

Re: Someone think of the children!

Identity documents that "prove" that someone is older than they actually are does have a high likelyhood of producing more pedo's if you think about it...

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Anonymous Coward

Note that the Nebraska A.G. has overseen the purchase of such illegal drugs for use in executions:

http://cnsnews.com/neb-ag-defends-purchase-lethal-injection-drug-1

http://blog.amnestyusa.org/us/fda-slammed-for-allowing-illegal-execution-drugs/

Perhaps he should clean his own house before ordering Google about.

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Illegal... WHERE?

Now, I agree that some things are illegal just about everywhere but what's on prescription here might not be legal on prescription in the US and vice versa.

So Google now have to target and vet their ads to state/county/nation level too, and check every local bylaw OR we all end up with a Google that has to censor anything that any tiny little state deems inappropriate. I don't see either side as a win.

I don't defend Google here - they shouldn't have those ads up in the first place as they are just a legal nightmare, but 'where do we stop? An advert for an abortion clinic deemed illegal in a state that has legalised abortion? An advert for cigarettes in a country where it's illegal to smoke them? An advert for Cuban cigars because they are illegal to import to the USA?

It's a much bigger problem than just "get them off, Google!". For Google, and for everyone else.

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Mushroom

"So Google now have to target and vet their ads to state/county/nation level too, and check every local bylaw OR we all end up with a Google that has to censor anything that any tiny little state deems inappropriate."

So, basically, the argument is - and it has been for a long time - that Internet companies don't have to act like normal companies (or pay tax like normal companies) because that would cost them money. Well, cry me a river.

If I publish a magazine, or run a TV channel, I have to obey the laws and I have to show a genuine effort to police the content of the adverts which I am publishing. Similarly, it is YouTube (ie, Google) which chooses to allow content to be posted with being vetted by an editor, whether it is an interesting IT lecture or a film of three men raping a child, or some dickhead selling cancer cures to the scared and vulnerable.

No one has ever made the slightest move to force Google or Yahoo! to have zero editorial control over their content. That was their choice freely made because it was cheaper to not be responsible in the way that other companies have always had to be. They didn't like the rules, so they ignored them. Same with the tax laws, same with copyright laws. If it costs money, then to hell with it.

If that all still sounds like too much hard work for Google, they could try writing a program to automate it or, alternatively, they could fuck off and die and leave the market open for a company that can be bothered to obey the law.

The bottom line here is that Google (and Amazon, and YouTube) are of almost no economic or social importance whatsoever. There are other search engines, there are other book sellers, there are other sites with videos of cats chasing laser pointers. There would be about three days' of fuss and then we'd forget about them as relics of a strange period when governments acted as if these big hollow companies mattered more than the population that elected them. And good riddance.

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Not quite.

Imagine running a TV channel in say, the UK. And then getting legal complaints that what it shows is illegal in Iran. Google might have a legal presence in SOME places, or even most places, but that doesn't mean all. As such, in those places, it's effectively an outlaw unless it blocks off access to its services from that country (and even GeoIP as such a measure is worthless nowadays).

Google might be able to handle it, in this instance, but what law does it come under? Would a TV broadcaster in California be bound by the laws in New York just because you "could" receive it's service? Or does it have to make its signal explicitly blocked in any other state? And where would a little guy stand in all this if even Google would have to have a legal representative in every state and every country it's available from?

The alternative really is a wishy-washy lowest common denominator of what's "allowed" in every country, available to everyone. Sorry, but if I want to Google that is perfectly legal where I am but might be offensive in another country, that's my business.

The fact is that Google can't block off users in a certain country. We've seen how well that works with GeoIP blocks on iPlayer, or even things like shutting down PirateBay. Thus, that service is available to them WHETHER OR NOT GOOGLE ALLOWS IT. As such, are they then bound by the laws of the country those people are in, even if they have no legal or technical presence in them? Is my website bound by the laws of the US despite being solely in the UK, just because a US person looking could find it?

The question is NOT as simple as "they have to abide by the law of where the viewer is". Even in broadcast TV, it's not that simple. Because the law in place (which law? whose law? where?) only says they have to abide by the law where they have a commercial presence or offer a service. Does having a website, by definition, mean you have a commercial presence in every country in the world? No.

As much as you'd like to wash your hands after "solving" the problem for us all, every single path out of the current situation has major, detrimental consequences. Either my website falls under US law when Americans view it, and we can't possibly have anything anywhere that might offend anyone or break any law anywhere in the world, or it doesn't, and what I put on it is determined solely by it's presence or even just my intended audience (and, thus, adverts like this aren't quite as simple as being "illegal"), or we have to come up with a new law for the Internet that everyone agrees on (and be similarly watered down).

We don't have local, national or international laws that really clarify this situation at all. So saying there's a simple answer is wrong. And *all* the answers have unintended consequences.

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Stop

@Robert Long 1:

with physical publications you can be sure that the content is not published in state/country where it's illegal (as you probably even won't get the ads)

with Internet content you have no way of knowing for sure if the content will be shown to a German or a Pole

sure with IP geolocation you can have a high degree of certainity, unless you hit someone that uses a proxy server (either willingly or because of the way ISP works or his company network is configured this way), or uses mobile network that routes the packets through half the continent before putting them on the Internet backbone, or you have an international ISP that assigns IPs dynamically for all clients, and so on and so on

in the end you can be only sure which *NIC did assign the IPs, so your granularity is not even on the continental level...

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Anonymous Coward

I think you'll find

That internationally sold magazines have country specific editions to comply with local ad laws, and some global broadcast events have people who hit the "blank screen" buttons for certain ads deemed illegal in certain countries.

problem for all globalmegacorp.com is the US, as one country has so many small states akin to "dictatorships" with laws that cut across some counrty applied laws

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Anonymous Coward

"with Internet content you have no way of knowing for sure if the content will be shown to a German or a Pole"

Yeah, but you can also make a cursory effort to find out. IP addresses are fairly reliably geo located, this is how the BBC stops iPlayer TV being accessible outside of the UK. I'm also fairly sure, not 100% mind, that Google don't advertise prescription drugs in the UK, where it is illegal to do so.

It seems like they are happy to obey the law when their shareholders would want them to, but if it requires a finger to be lifted otherwise, they just don't care.

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I would have thought

that Google generally have a fair idea of where their users are (unless said users are making an effort to mask their location data). That being the case, it surely wouldn't be beyond Google's means to only show ads appropriate to the location (their whole business runs around targetting advertising, anyway - the ads I see from Google are generally UK-centric, so the must be doing this already), with a defult to no ads if your location is one of which they are ignorant the local laws (ok, Google showing no ads is probably pretty unlikely).

This sounds like it would fit their "don't be evil" mantra.

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Facepalm

MacKeeper! Gah!

That piece of crap is actually scamware and shouldn't be installed anywhere! Didn't know that Google was peddling that garbage!

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Holmes

Re: MacKeeper! Gah!

Hell, I'm not surprised. You name it, and it seems that Google will run your ad for the shit, if you've got the cash.

And this doesn't even take into accounts all the videos posted there from doorknobs pushing time-share condos and skanky MMF schemes.

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Meh

Re: MacKeeper! Gah!

Heh, I saw a MacKeeper ad just an hour ago. Despite having less than 2 weeks experience on a Mac (well, since System7 anyway) I still looked at it and immediately thought 'Well, they do that PC scam for Macs too.'

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Boffin

Re: MacKeeper! Gah! @LaeMing

Ah, so I see I'm not the only one returning to the Mac. Been 7 months since I switched back, but indeed my previous experience with Macs was precisely System 7. Well, 7.5 to be precise. And indeed, MacKeeper is the same kind of PC scam, except it is the one you will find mostly anywhere whenever you browse with a Mac!

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Shocked, shocked, to hear there is gambling going on here!

Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

If the google was serious about stopping the scammers and spammers and assorting copyright thieves then they would provide wholesale reporting tools for the wholesale crimes. Instead, the google makes it quite difficult to report abuse and criminal activities. Quite obvious they are willing to support the criminals with free advertising as long as they get a share of the eyeballs. Profit!

I used to think the google wasn't especially guilty, but was just being forced to become EVIL by the way the American laws are written. In other words, the system in America is for the most cheaply bribed politicians to write the worst laws for the greediest and least ethical businessmen, and of course they want laws that make the game more and more crooked. However, since the google is now a major, probably the leading, lobbyist among high tech companies, I'm no longer buying the innocent plea.

Guilty, guilty, guilty. EVIL, too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shocked, shocked, to hear there is gambling going on here!

c/assorting/assorted/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shocked, shocked, to hear there is gambling going on here!

+1 for the Casablanca quote :)

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Joke

A cunning plan

Maybe this is Google's way of fighting back against these peddlers of illegal wares.

Presumably every eyeball on the advert costs the advertiser money, so Google is taking that money away from the bad guys!

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Holmes

Google makes lots of money...

but through a large number of penny transactions. They're quit willing to address issues, but only if someone else bring them up first. And rightly so.

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Why just Google?

Take a look ar Scribd.com - the world's largest repository of copyright violating texts. Users put other people's material online and Scribd get a cut of every stolen text sold. I've seen hundred dollar textbooks copied and sold for $5.

You can either have unmonitored uploads, or you can profit from the material. Doing both encourages unethical behavior.

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What is this 'chocolate factory' nonsense?

Are we talking about Google or not?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Yes. So named hereabouts because that's what Google would have you believe they're doing, making sweet sweet goodness for the masses and in no way flogging your personal data to world+dog, hiving it off to the NSA, flogging it to MI6, etc.

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