Google’s Human Trafficking Ad Policy Questioned

human-trafficking-google-protestTwo lawmakers are concerned about human trafficking advertisements appearing on Google. In a letter to CEO Larry Page, they are requesting Google share its policy for sexually exploitative advertisements and how it ensures those policies are followed.

The letter seeking more clarification on behalf of “dozens” of human rights groups was written by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and sent to Page last week, The Hill reported.

“Online markets provide traffickers with the ability to reach untold customers across all political jurisdictions,” reads their letter. “As a global leader and innovator in internet technologies, Google is in a unique position to do its part to fight human exploitation and trafficking, and we would encourage the company to proactively address these concerns.”

Their concerns include what Google does internally to ensure sexually exploitative ads don’t appear; Google’s stated internal policy on these as and if ad sales teams are complying with these policies; how Google instructs its employees to evaluate these ads; and how Google would disclose and relinquish profits from exploitative ads.

A National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates letter accuses Google of allowing ads for “online dating” and “sex tourism” because they are “fronts for prostitution and human trafficking.” They say the results for such searches as [adult fun] and [buy foreign women] speak for themselves (of course, these ads will go away if you use strict Google SafeSearch filtering).

Without a doubt, human trafficking is a big problem that needs to be solved. In a separate statement, Maloney called sex trafficking the “slavery of the 21st century” and said that 100,000 children are exploited every year. Google already bans any ads for:

  • Sex trafficking,
  • Child pornography
  • Underage-themed pornography
  • Non-consensual or illegal sex acts
  • Escort services
  • Prostitution
  • Other adult sexual services.

Additionally, Google bans ads for illegal products and services, which likely covers human trafficking. Legal and consensual pornography advertisments are allowed, but with limitations.

Advertising accounted for 96 percent of Google’s $37.9 billion revenue. That’s a lot of ads. So what is Google doing to spot ads that promote illegal actions and what actions are in place to deal with them?

“We have invested millions of dollars in monitoring and enforcing this ban — using the latest technology as well as manual review by teams who are specially trained to get bad ads, and bad advertisers, off Google,” a Google spokeswoman said. “We also work closely with law enforcement and other government authorities. But it’s a constant battle against these bad actors so we are always looking at ways to improve our systems and practices – including by working with leading anti-trafficking organizations.”

While I’ve seen terrible ads on the other larger networks, this has never been the case on Google. Perhaps she should read Google’s Advertising Policies, which should answer some of her questions about what types of ads are acceptable.

However, Google has brought some of this scrutiny on itself by approving some bad ads. Google was caught showing ads for illegal pharmacies and had to forfeit $500 million.

Blackburn was the co-sponsor of SOPA, and one of its biggest online supporters. Is this perhaps a way of getting back at Google’s role in helping to stop SOPA, or is this a legit attempt to prevent online human trafficking?

Image Credit: NAHTVA

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