[Here’s a reblog from September 2012–the CDA safe harbor was finally cut back today.]
Remember Google’s human trafficking problem? Let’s check in and see how successfully the company is hiding…I mean solving…that problem. (There will be screen shots that are easier to read at 200% so you may want to adjust your browsers.)
Google users are just one click away from human trafficking, which has to be on the all-time top 5 lists of the most vile things that humans do to each other. This isn’t just because users are looking for “russian brides”. Google delivers human trafficking links much more easily than actually searching for the salacious. As the screenshot above demonstrates, users (including children) need only search for the word “women”.
Let’s say a user actually searched for trafficking related search terms like “Nashville Mail Order Brides”, what might they find?
Not just links that Google might crawl as they “organize the world’s information”, but paid advertisting.
Remember that Goldman Sachs got in trouble for its ownership in the company that sells human trafficking ads on backpages.com, thanks to a campaign led by the New York Times’ Nick Kristof. Not to be outdone, it appears that Google placed its own ads on Backpages seeking to attract business to their own little corner of the rat’s nest, for example:
So let’s be clear–this has never been a situation where Google can blame somebody else, say they weren’t notified, claim ignorance. Just like the drug ads they almost got indicted for, they know these ads are there if for no other reason than because a Google employee sells them.
Google’s human trafficking problem was pointed out to Larry Page by Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Marsha Blackburn in a recent letter asking for Mr. Page to clarify Google’s position on human trafficking. You would have thought that would have provoked immediate cooperation–but apparently not if making Utoopi available in the Android Market is any guide:
Maloney and Blackburn asked Page the following:
Larry Page Chief Executive Officer Google, Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043
Dear Mr. Page:
As Members of Congress committed to combating all forms of human trafficking, we write to you with concerns about reports of Google’s advertising practices. Recently, dozens of human rights groups called on the National Association of Attorneys General to investigate Google’s advertising practices that these groups believe contribute to the problem of human trafficking in America and globally.
Whatever Google is doing or is not doing to prevent these sorts of advertisements from appearing on their properties, Google has not satisfied a significant number of human rights organizations who have a specialized understanding of how these ads contribute to the human trafficking of women and girls. We are particularly concerned that these human rights groups may have identified yet another area where Google profits from illicit activities such as Google’s advertising of controlled substances for which your company paid a $500,000,000 forfeiture to the United States last year.
Accordingly, we request that you provide us with answers to the following initial questions we have regarding these developments:
1. Apart from Google’s donations to large human rights organizations, what is your company doing internally to ensure that sexually exploitative advertisements do not appear?
2. What is Google’s stated internal policy regarding exploitative advertising? What evidence do you have that those policies are being complied with by both Google’s internal and external advertising sales teams?
3. What steps does Google take to instruct its advertising sales managers, consultants, and other employees regarding the evaluation of advertisers of such exploitative marketing?
4. If Google were to determine that it profits from such advertising, what steps would you take to ensure those profits were publicly disclosed and then disgorged? Would that process require restating Google’s earnings for past securities filings?
Online markets provide traffickers with the ability to reach untold customers across all political jurisdictions. As a global leader and innovator in internet technologies, Google is in a unique position to do its part to fight human exploitation and trafficking, and we would encourage the company to proactively address these concerns.
We look forward to your reply and to engaging with Google cooperatively to stop human trafficking in America and around the world.
Marsha Blackburn Carolyn Maloney
Members of Congress
And Google’s answer? Utoopi, you know, kind of like Utopia but different.
Well, let’s see what the Android app says it’s all about:
“All the paid sex of your city geolocated and always available on your mobile, iPad and computer. JOIN THE SEX CLUB.”
Google dealing in the Utoopi app appears to be indicative of the mentality of arrogance and illusion of invincibility that millions in lobbying dollars will get you. We don’t know, but would you be surprised if Google was serving in-app ads to Utoopi users?
For comparison, I searched for “Utoopi” in the Apple iPhone App Store and determined that Utoopi is exclusive to Android. It doesn’t look like Utoopi made it through the App Store screening–oh, sorry. Censors.
But Siri did ask a question in response to the “Utoopi” search term.
“Did you mean stoopid?”
Siri gets it right again.