Lawmakers question Google on efforts to prevent online human trafficking

Two lawmakers sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Tuesday, asking what his company is doing to ensure that it does not carry advertisements for human trafficking groups.


Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Page to explain Google's policy for sexually exploitative advertisements and how it ensures that its policies are followed.

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"Online markets provide traffickers with the ability to reach untold customers across all political jurisdictions. 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," the lawmakers wrote.

They said they are "particularly concerned" because Google has acknowledged that it has advertised illegal products in the past. Last year, Google paid $500 million to settle charges that it placed ads for illegal pharmacies.

In a statement, Maloney said 100,000 children are exploited by the commercial sex industry in the United States every year. She warned that online advertising opens up new markets for human traffickers.

"These are our daughters, their schoolmates, and their friends; everyone — every company — must understand the reality: that sex trafficking is the slavery of the 21st century," she said.

A Google spokeswoman said the company bans ads for sex trafficking, child pornography and prostitution.

"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," the 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."