Google, that witty, funny, and unwaveringly supportive search engine that has continued to bring us novel ideas and products, has, quite frankly let their greed overtake them. If you heard that Google employees were actively helping a man advertise illegal drugs online you’d be shocked right? Well what if you heard that Google executives were in on it as well? Appalled? You should be because it is true, according to wsj.
Back in 2009 a federal prisoner by the name of David Whitaker was the lead actor in an investigation of Google’s advertising operations. The United States government took action against the internet giant and had David Whitaker (an experienced con artist) pose as an agent for online drug dealers. Mr. Whitaker then spent over four months contacting Google (and being contacted in return) about advertising narcotics, steroids, and other illegal and controlled substances.
Along with having David pose as an agent, the government meticulously created aliases, false companies, and even used around $200,000 in their operation. David then contacted employees and executives regarding advertising the illegal substances and made it clear on several occasions that the operations were illegal – despite everything, both Google employees and executives continued working with David as their eyes were only on his money.
David Whitaker stated that he felt bad about the whole operation especially since he had grown to like several of the people he was dealing with but “I took ease in knowing they…knew it was wrong.”
Despite actively assisting someone advertise illegal products Google only got a slap on the hand and had to pay a mere $500 million dollar fine (nothing compared to their 40+billion dollars in cash). However this isn’t the only time Google’s had problems with advertising illegal products.
The lead prosecutor against Google in this case is Peter Neronha who stated that the settlement was incredibly important and “signals that, where evidence can be developed that a search engine knowingly and actively assisted advertisers to promote improper conduct, the search engine can be held accountable as an accomplice.”
On top of the evidence gained from David Whitaker the government also had some highly embarrassing allegations against some of Google’s top executives including Larry Page. Page is Google’s co-founder and apparently these executives were notified about the issues surrounding drug ads but that nothing was done about it.
The case against Google was held in a secret Grand Jury and not much else is known about it nor will the head prosecutor reveal more information regarding the evidence gained against Google. Unfortunately no Google executives agreed to comment on the situation either.
After the operation was ceased by the government and the evidence gained from Google Mr. Whitaker, who faced a hefty prison term of max 65 years, was sentenced to only six years however now he is due to release in just two. Google, on the other hand, has six private shareholder lawsuits against their executives and will hopefully change their advertising policies so that illegal actions are prohibited rather than encouranged.