June 12, 2013 10:35:38 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says Google appears to be removing online videos that give instructions on how to buy drugs without a prescription.
Hood threatened legal action against Google last week, saying the Internet giant wasn't doing enough to stop sales without prescriptions and was even profiting by selling ads next to the YouTube videos. Google owns YouTube.
Digital Citizens Alliance, a Washington, D.C., group that has aligned with Hood on this issue, says that when it searches on YouTube for "buy tramadol without a prescription," the number of hits for that painkiller have fallen from about 900 to about 460 in roughly the past week.
Hood, a Democrat, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Google is taking down content.
"We think they're reacting to the publicity on it," Hood said.
Google declined to say if had removed material because of Hood's call. The company says it has talked to Hood about when and why it removes content.
"We routinely remove videos that are flagged for violating YouTube's Guidelines regarding dangerous or illegal content," Google spokesman Aaron Stein said.
Google paid $500 million to the federal government in 2011 to settle claims over ads sold to pharmacies that were illegally shipping drugs into the United States.
Tom Galvin, the executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance, said Google's response is not yet sufficient.
"I wish it was, but it's not," Galvin said. "Google is treating this a little bit like a PR problem and scrubbing the results."
Galvin said his group believes Google could monitor any video that mentions how to buy drugs without a prescription.
"We're not talking about hundreds of thousands of videos a day," he said. "We're talking about hundreds of videos a day."
Galvin said Digital Citizens Alliance isn't ready to reveal its own financial backers. The group's website says it's supported by private citizens, health care companies, drug companies, "creative industries" and Internet safety groups. Galvin is also identified as a senior partner at a public relations firm called 463 Communications.
Hood said he still plans a panel presentation at a meeting of attorneys general next week in Boston focusing on Google's behavior. He also said he has sent a letter instructing the Mountain View, Calif., company to preserve evidence of videos or search results that it removes.
Hood had demanded that Google CEO Larry Page attend that meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, but Google has told the association Page won't attend. Hood said he's had no direct contact with Google since a news conference last week. Galvin said he had been in contact with Google, but wouldn't disclose what he and the company discussed.