Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’

Google Meltdown Continues With Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Subpoenas

November 15, 2017 Comments off

One of Google’s worst policy nightmares is that state attorneys general will wake up to their obligation under state laws to protect both consumers and advertisers from Google’s overreach.  This would potentially force Google to answer for its actions in 51 jurisdictions–some state laws that are essentially common to all 50 states plus the federal government.  These state laws include consumer protection statutes and unfair competition or state antitrust rules that are not overriden (or “preempted”) by simultaneous federal jurisdiction.

In case you missed it, this kind of action is unlikely to happen in the typical states where that you would expect to see on the side of the little guy–California and New York, for example–due to Google’s outsized lobbying footprint.  And of course Google famously got a free pass from the federal government during the Obama Administration where it enjoyed extraordinary access, reminiscent of Standard Oil, United Fruit and ITT.

Google White House Meetings

However–it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost, at least in Missouri.  According to the Kansas City Star:

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office on Monday issued a subpoena to Google as part of an investigation into whether the tech giant is violating Missouri’s consumer protection and anti-trust laws.

The investigation delves into Google’s collection of data on users and whether Google, the world’s most popular search engine, has manipulated search results at the expense of competitors, according to a release from Hawley’s office.

“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately,” said Hawley, a Republican who is mounting a campaign for U.S. Senate. “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants”…

Hawley’s investigation also will look at whether Google has misappropriated content from competitors. Yelp wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in September contending that Google has violated a 2012 settlement by allegedly scraping photos from Yelp reviews for its own search results.

Although the Missouri AG seems focused on the privacy aspects of consumer protection, it is also possible that consumer protection statutes may protect advertisers against Google’s sale of advertising against ISIS recruitment videos or sites selling illegal drugs or pirated content.  (Remember that Google paid a $500,000,000 fine under a 2011 non prosecution agreement–even though the then-U.S. Attorney General apologized to the company for the prosecution.)

As General Hawley noted in his press release:

On the state level, Attorney General Hawley is leading the way, holding tech companies such as Google accountable for their actions. However, this is not the first-time Google’s business practices have come into question. In June, the European Union issued Google a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine. Then, in July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a Google program that tracks consumer behavior.

He’s right about that.  In fact, Google’s many, many collisions with the law were recently cited in the first civil RICO complaint filed against the company, an avenue that may also be open to Missourians.

How will Google react?  We should all remember the full-court press that Google and the Shills put on Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood who also served a subpoena on Google for comparable issues that could have led to a violation of Mississippi’s consumer protection statutes.  In that case, Google heavily leveraged support Hood allegedly received from lobbyists that was disclosed in the “North Korea hack” of Sony Pictures–which resulted in disclosure of many thousands of emails from Sony by Wikileaks (but, if memory serves, fewer than five to or from Sony and Google).


Google sued Hood to avoid responding to the subpoena, a case that attracted an amicus brief signed by forty–count ’em–state attorneys general supporting an attorney general’s duty to protect their citizens.  Although Google was able to dodge General Hood, it was only a matter of time before another AG took on the Leviathan of Mountain View.

Even so, General Hawley needs to buckle his chin strap.


That’s miss-iss-ippi…

The Free Speech Rights of Advertisers (h/t to @LaurieSegallCNN)

March 26, 2015 Comments off

As we have seen in Google’s attempt to stop being investigated by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and other members of law enforcement, Google are quick to cast themselves as the defenders of free speech under attack from law enforcement–as they serve ads on YouTube against ISIS recruitment videos as reported by CNN, NBC an a host of others.

The latest example is the aspirational video posted by Jund al-Aqsa promoting the group’s most recent suicide bombing attack (YouTube Distributes Jund al-Aqsa Video Glorifying Jihadi Suicide Bombers).

One group whose free speech rights were not discussed: Advertisers.  But thanks to courageous reporting by CNN’s Laurie Segall, the truth is starting to emerge on just how bad Google’s adserving platforms really are.  (See These Ads Ran Before ISIS Videos).

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NBC covered the story, but this time the reporters unfortunately succumbed to the Google Spin (Ads Shown Before YouTube ISIS Videos Catch Companies Off-Guard):

With more than 300 hours of footage uploaded every minute, and with ISIS-related videos cropping up from a variety of accounts, YouTube relies heavily on its users to flag content that violates its community guidelines. YouTube also has a “promotes terrorism” flag as an option underneath every video, and it reviews content that anyone flags.

In other words, Google’s defense is that in an environment that is 100% within Google’s control, Google is unwilling to spend the money to properly filter videos that violate laws against giving material assistance to terrorists before YouTube distributes them widely around the world through ISIS’s much vaunted social media campaigns.

And serve advertising against them, thus forcing their advertisers to subsidize terror.

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There are several steps the Congress could take that would  go a long way toward fixing Google’s unwillingness to treat advertisers fairly and honestly.  These are best summarized by Professor Ben Edelman of the Harvard Business School in his “bill of rights for advertisers” which offers a robust multi-tiered approach easily adopted in regulation and against which one can imagine little principled objection.  Consider right #1:  The advertiser’s right to say no.

Ask Advertisers Where They Want Their Ads to be Placed

It usually comes as a surprise to the casual observer of YouTube’s distribution and monetization of terror that advertisers—the true source of the revenue for Google—are kept in the dark about the ultimate destination of their ads.  As Professor Edelman says,

“It is nonsense to pay for ad space without knowing where an ad will appear; sites vary too much in user quality and context.”

Refusing to tell advertisers where their ads appear is a common practice, in fact is the industry standard.

Why might that be the case?  Is it that the adserving company doesn’t want to bear the cost of producing the information for its clients, or is it that the adserving company doesn’t want to get the advertisers’ approval.  Or take a chance that the advertiser might leave the service or worse yet—refuse to pay for advertising against YouTube videos that it had instructed Google were not to have the advertising.

Yet by producing this piece of information—no law enforcement costs to the government involved—advertisers speech rights are protected and Congress helps the market to correct for many of these anomalies.

Clearly, providing decent accounting information and true choice to advertisers is not a panacea.  But it is certainly something that Google could do tomorrow as an undeniable benefit for truth in advertising.

It is the FTC’s long held view that

“cyberspace is not without boundaries, and fraud and deception are unlawful no matter what the medium. The FTC has enforced and will continue enforcing its consumer protection laws online to ensure that products and services are described truthfully in online ads….These activities benefit consumers as well as sellers, who expect and deserve a fair marketplace.” (emphasis mine)

Requiring the FTC or other government agency to enforce such a law as part of the FTC’s “truth in advertising” regulations is a vital part of aiding law enforcement —particularly if the Congress retained oversight over the law to make sure that powerful commercial interests were not able to take advantage of special treatment by industry insiders who come through the revolving door into the agency.

It would also go a long way toward stopping adserving companies from free-riding on the brands of unsuspecting advertisers as well as the life’s work of artists.

As a never ending flood of stories are released almost daily about Google’s influence over the US. government in general and the Federal Trade Commission in particular, it may just be that the U.S. government is so far in the tank with Google that we can not expect the federal government to do its job.

That’s why it is important for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to succeed in at least being able to investigate Google’s seedy business practices.  While the big advertisers have enough of a relationship with Google to get the attention of the Leviathan of Mountain View, the little advertisers in Mississippi represented by the populist Hood will never get a human on the phone at Google to discuss the problem, much less the time of day.

The “little guy” can only turn to their State Attorney General when confronted with Google, a company that averages one meeting a week with the White House.  Crony capitalism and the special interests can only be defeated by sunlight brought by crusaders like Attorney General Hood.

Only Jim Hood and AGs like him can force Google to stop defrauding advertisers and to stop YouTube from pumping jihad into our homes–jihad that Google monetizes.

“ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube…”

March 3, 2015 3 comments

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid it down today in his speech to a joint meeting of Congress:

“ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube…”

This will come as no surprise to MTP readers as we have been hammering this issue for a long, long time.  And of course YouTube has gotten away with it so far, just like Google has with so many of its bad acts. Thanks to sharp reporting by Laurie Segall at CNN Money this story got on their air:

Jennifer Aniston lauds the benefits of Aveeno, Bud Light shows off beer at a concert, and Secret sells its freshly scented deodorant.

Pretty standard commercials, but what’s different is the content that comes after. In this case, they’re all followed by ISIS and jihadi videos.

Terrorism analyst Mubin Shaikh said one video is part of an ongoing propaganda series that ISIS produces and another is a jihadi-themed video.

Video sites like YouTube sell ad time to companies, and the ads get automatically inserted before the videos play. Advertisers don’t directly control where their ads are placed although they can specify the demographics they’d like to target.

“From a contract perspective, these corporations that are paying lots of money to get YouTube clicks may not be that pleased when they find out that their video is placed right before an ISIS recruitment video,” legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

Though some videos may not violate YouTube’s policy against inciting violence, they might not be appropriate for advertising.

It’s almost impossible to know how many companies’ ads have run before videos like this, but at least two companies were unhappy with the content pairing.

“We were unaware that one of our ads ran in conjunction with this video,” a vice president of consumer connections at Anheuser-Busch (AHBIF) told CNNMoney after reviewing one of the videos that played one of its ads. “We have strict guidelines with our media partners that govern when and how our ads appear. We are working with YouTube and our media buying agency, Mediacom, to understand and rectify the matter.”

“Our ads should not have appeared and we’re working with YouTube to understand how it happened and to avoid it happening again,” said Paul Fox, director of corporate communications at Procter & Gamble (PG).

Really.  “Avoid it happening again”?  Exactly how does P&G intend to do that?  Not letting the advertiser control where their ad shows up is YouTube’s business model.  It’s not a design defect, it’s a feature.

This is what you call a duped advertiser–you know–someone like this:


But aren’t duped advertisers exactly the kind of person that is protected by most states’ unfair business practices and consumer protection laws.  Oh right–Google is suing a state attorney general to stop exactly this kind of investigation.  Why?

Because they’re on the Internet.  They’re special.

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