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Posts Tagged ‘Google nonprosecution agreement’

Sheryl Sandberg is shocked, shocked that there is bad behavior on Facebook

September 24, 2017 Comments off

This has been a bad few weeks for two out of the four members of the FANG cartel–Facebook and Google.  Their problems can all be summed up in a post by former Googler and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg–yes, that Sheryl Sandberg, who is a leading contender for beatification by the Congregation for the Causes of the Commercial Saints and former defendant in the Google shareholder derivative suit over Google’s violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

According to Ms. Sandberg:

Last week we temporarily disabled some of our ads tools following news reports that slurs or other offensive language could be used as targeting criteria for advertising. If someone self-identified as a ‘Jew-hater’ or said they studied ‘how to burn Jews’ in their profile, those terms showed up as potential targeting options for advertisers.

Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this.

Could the problem be that Facebook’s “systems” are designed to “allow this”?  Just like Google’s “systems” were designed and optimized to allow selling advertising keywords for pirated recordings derived from artist names?

Luke Sample

And as was demonstrated by the FBI and Department of Justice sting operation, Google perfected selling search terms for illegal drugs?  As Wired reported in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg is no stranger to the issue of state of the art “systems” mysteriously allowing bad acts:

At one point during a meeting with [then inmate and former online illegal drug impresario David] Whitaker and his lawyer, the Feds asked him how he had grown his online enterprise. Whitaker’s answer was immediate: He had used Google AdWords. In fact, he claimed, Google employees had actively helped him advertise his business, even though he had made no attempt to hide its illegal nature. It was reasonable to assume, Whitaker said, that Google was helping other rogue Internet pharmacies too.

If true, this would be a bombshell. This was Google, after all. Since its founding, the search giant had prided itself on being a different kind of corporation, the “don’t be evil” company. And for almost as long, its open-to-all-comers ad policy had come under scrutiny. Online pharmacies were a particular sticking point; in 2003, three separate congressional committees initiated inquiries into the matter.

On July 22, 2004, a month before Google went public [and she cashed out big time], Sheryl Sandberg—at the time Google vice president of global online sales and operations—testified before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Legislators had proposed two bills that would regulate online pharmaceutical sales, but Sandberg argued that the measures would be unduly burdensome. [Kind of like stopping child sex trafficking–too much trouble for elites in the Internet Associations membership.] She said that Google employed a third-party verification service to vet online pharmacies. She also described Google’s own automated monitoring system and the creation of a team of Google employees dedicated to enforcing all of the company’s pharmaceutical ad policies. “Google has taken strong voluntarily [sic] measures—going beyond existing legal requirements—to ensure that our advertising services protect our users by providing access to safe and reliable information,” she testified. Neither bill made it out of committee. (Sandberg, now Facebook’s chief operating officer, declined to comment or be interviewed for this story.) [I bet.]

However–at the same time that Ms. Sandberg’s people were crowing about their verification service, other Googlers were selling advertising keywords to criminals selling illegal drugs into the United States.  Google subsequently negotiated a non-prosecution agreement (kind of like a plea bargain) pursuant to which Google paid a $500,000,000 fine, evidently with the approval of Eric Holder, then Attorney General of the United States.  Google was represented in that deal by one Jamie Gorelick (Amazon board member and former Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, replaced by…Eric Holder.  Ms. Gorelick is employed by Washington DC swamp powerhouse law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale (former employer of Senator Elizabeth Warren).).

As Google (referred to as “the Company”) expressly acknowledged in the non prosecution agreement (which you can read here):

Non Prosecution Excerpt

So–Sheryl Sandberg has a very great deal of experience going back well over a decade with big rich Silicon Valley companies profiting from debased behavior.  Some might argue profits that she enjoyed herself in the form of stock awards, salaries and cash bonuses.

This is no doubt one reason why she was sued as a defendant in the stockholder derivative suit against Google (read the complaint here) that arose out of the $500,000,000 payment of the stockholders money to keep Google executives like her from being prosecuted criminally and potentially going to prison for facilitating the sale of illegal drugs to kids among other people.  (See also The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007, legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein and then-Senator now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)

Remember–there’s no public evidence that I can find (and I’ve looked) that any of this bad behavior ever cost her a penny of her own money.

Shareholder Suite

Whether it’s drugs, hate groups, human trafficking or the Russians, Sheryl Sandberg has made lots of money exploiting human misery if you ask me.  I don’t quite see how she couldn’t have.

Given her carefully sanitized checkered past, should we accept the wringing of hands, wailing and mourning and rending of garments by an unimaginably rich power player like Ms. Sandberg?

I think not.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a different law for the Silicon Valley elites than there is for the hoi polloi.  Trust me, Sheryl Sandberg will never be held to account and will be able to buy her way out of prosecution yet again probably using the stockholders’ money yet again.

Google Facilitates the Sale of the Drug that Killed Prince

June 5, 2016 Comments off

We’ve all read the shocking news of Prince and the drug fentanyl.  Fentanyl is a drug so powerful you have to wonder how easily it could be obtained outside of a hospital setting.  The answer to that is quite straightforward:  Just one click away in a Google search or a YouTube video.

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And a quick Google search for “fentanyl no prescription” brings many links:

fentanyl Google Search

 

If you click on the top search result, here’s what you get taken to:

fentanyl Google Search 2

 

It is an obvious fact that Google the data scraper profits from this traffic and permits countless “how to” videos for all kinds of illegal drugs on YouTube, a site clearly directed to children and teens, as well as Google search.  In fact it is so well known in some law enforcement circles that Google was the subject of a multi-year sting operation by the FBI, IRS, FDA and the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, not to mention a grand jury.

Google paid a $500,000,000 fine for doing exactly what they are doing with fentanyl–facilitating the sale of illegal prescription drugs to whoever wanted to buy without a prescription.

Not only did Google pay this whopping fine with the shareholders’ money, Google also was sued by its shareholders and settled that case with a commitment to spend big bucks on getting cleaned up.

Google has entered into a proposed settlement agreement with a group of Google shareholders that sued Google’s top executives and board members for breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control, corporate waste and unjust enrichment.  Google agreed to spend $250,000,000 over the next five years to improve its controls over selling advertising for illegal drug sites (this is in addition to the $500,000,000 fine that Google paid to the government that started the shareholder suit).

According to Reuters:

Google Inc has agreed to create a $250 million internal program to disrupt rogue online pharmacies as part of a deal to end shareholder litigation over accusations the search company improperly allowed ads from non-U.S. drug sellers.

Google said it would make content about prescription drug abuse more visible and work with legitimate pharmacies to countermarketing by rogue sellers, documents filed in an Oakland, California federal court on Thursday showed.

Google will allocate and spend at least $50 million a year to the internal effort for at least five years under the settlement. The company has also agreed to pay $9.9 million in fees and expenses to plaintiff attorneys.

During the course of the Google Drugs grand jury, Google’s lawyer in the matter, Jamie Gorelick, was able to negotiate a “non prosecution agreement” with the U.S. Department of Justice.  A non prosecution agreement is a kind of plea bargain, although it isn’t really a plea bargain because the defendant has not been charged yet.  It’s the kind of thing rich people or big corporations get so they can keep from being charged with a crime.  You know–getting away with it.  It usually involves the payment of money.  And Google’s case was no different.  Except that they retained Jamie Gorelick who was Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration and was replaced by the Attorney General who approved the Google non-prosecution agreement–Eric Holder.

And as Thomas Catan tells us in the Wall Street Journal, lawyers for Google told a Delaware court that Attorney General Eric Holder apologized to Google for the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island’s comments about the case that gave rise to the shareholder lawsuit against Google.

See how that works?  Here’s a pretty picture from the Google Transparency Project:

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So both the nonprosecution agreement and the shareholder settlement required Google to clean up its act.  And then along came Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to see if they had.

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We know that despite Google’s many protestations to the contrary to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King and a twenty-one other state attorneys general, there’s $250,000,000 worth of improvements they promised to make in how they handle drugs. (See Bloomberg, “Google Targeted in State Crackdown on Illicit Drug Ads” and Kent Walker’s letter to six state attorneys general.)

And we know that Google committed to their stockholders that they’ll do better.  That would include Mississippi stockholders who elected their Attorney General to protect their interests and their families.

Jim Hood served Google with a request for information about Google’s compliance with the nonprosecution agreement (the “NPA”) and YouTube’s policies and practices.  That request had questions like these:

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Rather than answer Hood’s request, Google sued Hood to keep from coming clean.  In that litigation, which Hood ultimately won, Google was joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a “friend of the court”–the same people who hounded Prince in the “dancing baby” case.

EFF was arguing that Google should not have to respond to Hood’s request at all, or the criminal investigations of any other state attorney general, and maybe not to the Obama Justice Department.  Do you think the Obama DOJ will do anything to Google?

Google White House Meetings

Will Google ever clean up its act or will it keep facilitating the sale of illegal drugs?  That answer is pretty obvious.

Daddy’s Home for Google Drugs: “Once they know you had the money to spend, they let you advertise”

July 1, 2012 Comments off

An eye popping Associated Press interview with the Man Who Got Google, David Whitaker.  This is a must read, as is his further accounts on his website.  Here’s a couple examples from the AP article:

Whitaker credits AdWords with helping the business take off. He recalls talking with a Google representative in Buenos Aires, Argentina, about the anti-aging, bodybuilding and weight-loss products the site was selling.

“She did not hesitate at all and wanted to start advertising it right away,” said Whitaker, reading from a written account of his time in Mexico. He said he deposited $30,000 to start.

“Once they know you had the money to spend, they let you advertise,” Whitaker said.

This will all sound familiar to anyone who read the Wall Street Journal coverage of the EasyDownloadCenterer case.  Here’s another:

Whitaker said the first site looked like the handiwork of a Mexican drug lord trading in HGH and steroids. But after a few rejections by Google and some advice from a U.S.-based representative on what revisions to make, Whitaker said the ads went live.

Compare to Eric Schmidt’s recent “I am not a crook” speech at Davos.

Whitaker’s “Google Undercover” site is quite the shocker (but only if you think public companies have a duty to citizens of the country that made them rich):

I  told of Google allowing rogue internet pharmacies to advertise on their AdWords  platform. When living in Mexico, fleeing from my indictment on a multi-million  dollar fraud case, I sold pharmaceutical products over the internet. I learned  how easy it was to advertise these products on Google’s AdWords platform and  how eager their staff was to assist me in doing so.    When policy was an issue, their staff was  quick to find a work around to continue to allow me to spend my advertising  monies, often helping me redesign my own website to conform to their policy.

Rut-ro, I think that was the sound of Daddy coming home.

Rogue Sites Legislation: Enter the Amendments for the 1% (Part 1)

December 3, 2011 Comments off

We are now entering the amendment phase of the rogue sites legislation–which means that those who oppose protecting the public health and American artists and the jobs they create have finally decided they can’t just say no.  Now they will try to amend to death that which they can’t othewise kill.  See also Part 2: If Google is For It, You Know Artists are Getting Robbed and Part 3, Would You Rather Just Be Waterboarded Now?

Rogue Sites—what’s the problem?

There has been quite a bit of discussion about “rogue sites” legislation in the Congress.  Thanks to Chairmen Leahy and Smith, the Congress is trying to address the rogue sites problem, but what is it?  If you are encountering it for the first time, you may not know what rogue sites are all about.

It is actually quite simple in scope:  Foreign website operators–rogue sites–who sell all manner of illegal goods (including counterfeit drugs) into the United States using the Internet, while the rogue operator is safely outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.

The rogue site uses U.S. based credit card companies to fulfill the sales and U.S. based adserving companies (like Google Adsense) serve advertising to the rogue site and pay the operator a share of the profits.

U.S. based search companies (like Google) drive traffic to these rogue sites through search.

What’s the problem, you say?  Why don’t these U.S. companies just stop doing these bad things?  Some, like Godaddy and Mastercard, AT&T and many others are policing their networks voluntarily and would like to do more.

The others?  Well, they would be happy to, once you get a final nonappealable judgment from the highest court on a case by case basis for each pill, movie, song or book.

Because, you see, that’s the only way they would know if there were a problem.  And now…back to counting their money for their next all-cash acquisition.  Or perhaps a Ferrari or a pair of (real) Christian Louboutin shoes.

Winning the Web and the Rogue Sites Legislation

There has quite a bit of coverage about lobbying against the rogue sites legislation in the Congress.  The alliance of anti-copyright groups we have long dealt with are on display once again.

The tactics of the anti-copyright crowd are best demonstrated in Winning the Web, an organizers manual for the anti-copyright movement sponsored by the Open Society Institute and written by an organizer of the UK group ORG, the UK based second cousin to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (see Stop 43).  A telling admission in that book is the following (at page 11):

“If [staying on message] means centring messaging on the IP mechanism itself, then is it easier, or harder, to find messaging that is suitably emotional as to appeal to the grassroots? Not all countries have a cultural history like Brazil’s which can easily accommodate the “remix” message. And as the ORG campaign suggests, campaigners are often faced with simple, instinctually appealing messages from the other side (“artists need to get paid”) that are difficult to beat with a focus on the IP mechanism.”

You will notice that opponents of rogue sites legislation in the US are fully aware of the need to shift the attention away from artist rights and onto something else that “is suitably emotional as to appeal to the grassroots”.  What might that be?

Again from Winning the Web, page 11 (emphasis added):

“Should IP reformists [sic] accept that the consumer rights agenda is the most appropriate home for their concerns, or is there room for IP-centred messaging that calls for action from citizens, and not consumers, that finds its home in the civil rights movement?”

So these “campaigners” and “reformists” are suggesting that their anti-copyright campaign should try to capture the “meme” of a noble campaign for fundamental rights to avoid having to deal honestly with the destruction they bring down on professional artists and members of the creative guilds and unions supporting the U.S. rogue sites legislation such as the Directors Guild of America, .AFTRA, AFM, SAG, IA, and the AFL-CIO.

It should come as no surprise then, that we have seen this turn toward the absurd argument that rogue sites legislation is about “censorship” and the “Great Firewall of America”.  These messages are straight out of the Winning the Web playbook.

What is surprising, though, is how the anti-copyright crowd has managed to completely ignore the most palpable example of the need for rogue sites legislation as a matter of public health.  Because in the case of the rogue sites legislation, it’s not just the artists and workers in the creative community whose jobs are at stake, it is the public health that is at stake.

And guess who has the most to gain by deflecting attention away from that problem and onto “Hollywood”?

Google’s Drug Sales Sting Operations and How Eric Schmidt and Larry Page Avoided Being Indicted

Winning the Web (the OSI anti-copyright organizing manual) advises readers to get close to corporate government relations executives:  “government relations officers of major corporations [are] good sources of information.”  Now which corporations do you think that might be?

Google has been widely identified as being at the forefront of opposition to rogue sites legislation. This is, no doubt, because “rogue sites” would allow the government to stop the sale of advertising on the many varieties of rogue sites—not just sites like Megavideo that sit in Hong Kong and pay users to upload and distribute illegal copies of thousands of movies.

Rogue sites include sites that sell counterfeit drugs to unknowing consumers and also sell authentic drugs with no prescription (or a very flimsy prescription).  In short, sites that profit from desperation or addiction—human misery.

A far as I can tell, Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (former Health and Human Services Secretary in the Carter Administration and currently Chairman and President of CASA, the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) coined the term “rogue sites”.  In a letter to Eric Schmidt in 2008, Secretary Califano implored Google to do something about the indiscriminate sale of drugs on the Internet promoted through the sale of advertising by Google (among others):

“ This year, CASA found that 85 percent of Web sites selling these drugs do not require a legitimate prescription, and there are no controls blocking the sale of these drugs to children….CASA was able to find prominent displays of ads for rogue Internet pharmacies in a Google search for controlled drugs included in our analysis. This suggests that Google is profiting from advertisements for illegal sales of controlled prescription drugs online.”

Google ignored this letter.

Earlier this year–three years later–Google entered into a nonprosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid being indicted for charges arising out of seven different sting operations conducted over eight years by the government’s prosecutors.  The conclusions of the multiple criminal investigations (and one assumes a grand jury investigation) was that Google was doing exactly what Secretary Califano suggested.

“Profiting from advertisements for illegal sale of controlled prescription drugs online.”

Google apparently thought so, too, because the company’s board authorized the payment of $500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money to keep the senior management of the company from being indicted.  So much so that on the advice of counsel, Eric Schmidt refused to answer certain questions on the matter under oath while testifying in front of the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee–although he did curiously admit that the drug advertising sales were made with his knowledge.

$500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money.  Half a billion.  And you can still go to Google right now and search for “buy oxycontin online no prescription” and Google’s Autocomplete will suggest you also might be interested in “buy oxycontin online no prescription cheap”.

So let’s be clear about what’s going on here—Google wants to keep selling advertising on rogue sites, Google probably knows that they only get to buy their way out of a felony drug prosecution once, and they are making untold billions of dollars from doing all of the above.

It’s not about civil rights, as the OSI manual suggests.  It’s not about censorship, it’s not about due process.

It’s about money.

As usual.

Next in Part 2: If Google is For It, You Know Professional Artists Are Being Robbed

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