Google to sue rogue online pharmacies

22 Sep 2010

Echoing moves it took last year against money scammers, internet search firm Google has launched an offensive against rogue online pharmacies who try to illegally sell drugs over the web.

“We work very hard to make sure that ads shown on Google provide useful information for our users,” Michael Zwibelman, litigation counsel at Google, explained.

“But sometimes we need to take action against ads that violate our policies, as when we block malware ads, or when we filed suit last year against “’Google Money‘ scammers.

“This is especially true when it comes to advertising for products such as pharmaceuticals, which can be dangerous without the right prescription.”

A cat and mouse game

Zwibelman said Google has struggled with the problem of rogue online pharmacies for years, describing it as an “escalating cat and mouse game.”

He said: “As we and others build new safeguards and guidelines, rogue online pharmacies always try new tactics to get around those protections and illegally sell drugs on the web.

“In recent years, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of rogue pharmacies, as well an increasing sophistication in their methods. This has meant that despite our best efforts — from extensive verification procedures, to automated keyword blocking, to changing our ads policies — a small percentage of pharma ads from these rogue companies are still appearing on Google.”

To counter this, Google has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against advertisers it believes has broken its rules.

“Litigation of this kind should act as a serious deterrent to anyone thinking about circumventing our policies to advertise illegally on Google. As we identify additional bad actors, we will add them to the lawsuit.

“Rogue pharmacies are bad for our users, for legitimate online pharmacies and for the entire e-commerce industry — so we are going to keep investing time and money to stop these kinds of harmful practices,” Zwibelman said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years