Is Google A Drug Dealer?
Google's having another difficult month. A recent Wall Street Journal article dishes up new details about a government sting operation that compelled Google to fork over $500 million in a settlement offer. Big "G" acknowledged that it allowed, and even helped, Canadian pharmacies to sell drugs in the U.S. in violation of federal law.
Google's not one for playing by the rules. It's even been caught red-handed buying links in violation of its own TOS. However, by breaking federal drug laws, Google may have goofed up on a scale much larger than "best practice violations." Even if you think drug laws are irrational, and immoral, and you think the government shouldn't have the right to make drugs illegal, the point of fact is that the government forces everyone to comply with its drug laws.
The Department of Justice investigation and the resulting settlement with Google is over. There's nothing new happening there. However, the WSJ article does highlight some new issues not yet covered. The U.S. government used a con man (who is currently a convicted felon) in a sting against Google.
It's hard not to feel sorry for poor "G" this time. The government has resorted to using con-men to catch otherwise honest businesses. The WSJ article reports that Google co-founder Larry Page knew about the illegal activity the whole time and looked the other way. Google claims that it has strict policies in place to prevent people from using its ad services for illegal purposes.
What's most astonishing is that, according the WSJ, the government used "money, aliases and fake companies—tactics often used against drug cartels and other crime syndicates" in order to catch Google. This seems a little backwards doesn't it? I mean, using a convicted criminal - a con-man no less - to catch an honest company trying to make money offering advertising services.
The sting involved setting up a fake website to sell drugs. Initially, the Google ad team in Mexico rejected the site, but worked with the undercover agents and the con-man (David Whitaker) to get the site approved. Once approved, there was reportedly a flood of traffic to the site with visitors wanting to buy HGH and steroids.
The website stated that these were being sold without a prescription and the drugs were advertised as being shipped from Mexico. By the end of 2009, the undercover agents were buying Google ads for sites allegedly selling prescription-only narcotics like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Eventually, government agents felt bad for the people buying drugs online, and took additional measures to curb purchases for drugs that people would never see. The agents feared that people wouldn't get the medication that they needed. How awful, considering that it is the government who was setting up a sting to catch Google, while actually tricking innocent people who may need those pain-killers.
It's important to note that Google wasn't even engaged in selling the drugs. The company was selling advertising. To add salt in the wounds of every honest and law-abiding citizen, the government is letting the con-man, Whitaker, go in two years for his cooperation in the sting.