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Prosecutor blasts Google over drug ads

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prosecutor: Google should crack down on ads touting unlawful prescription drugs
  • "Google is aiding and abetting criminal activity," state prosecutor says
  • Google says it's cracking down but results "reflect the web and what's online"
  • The search giant paid a $500 million civil fine over the issue in 2012

(CNN) -- Mississippi's top prosecutor Wednesday threatened to subpoena the search giant Google over what he called its failure to crack down on ads touting unlawful sales of prescription drugs and pirated entertainment.

Attorney General Jim Hood said that he and several other state prosecutors have called for Google to tighten its restrictions on advertising those products and that the company hasn't responded.

"Google's lack of response leaves us no choice except to issue subpoenas to Google for possible violations of state consumer protection acts and other state and federal civil and criminal laws," Hood said in a written statement. "We attorneys general are duty-bound to enforce our consumer protection laws and other civil and criminal statutes. Google is aiding and abetting criminal activity and putting consumers at risk."

The company paid a $500 million civil fine in 2012 over what federal regulators said were unlawful sales of prescription drugs over the Internet. The Justice Department said Google was on notice as early as 2003 that online pharmacies were advertising prescription drugs online to users in the United States but failed to prevent the practice.

The Mountain View, California-based company said Wednesday it has made things "increasingly difficult" for illegal pharmacies to hawk their products using its search engine.

"A variety of websites and web services are refusing ads from suspected rogue pharmacies," it said. "Domain name registrars are removing suspect rogue pharmacies from their networks. Payment processors are blocking payments to these operators, and social networking sites are removing them from their systems too."

But it added that its results "reflect the web and what's online -- the good and the bad."

"Filtering a website from search results won't remove it from the web, or block other websites that link to that website," it said in a statement posted on its public policy blog. "It's not Google's place to determine what content should be censored -- that responsibility belongs with the courts and the lawmakers."

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