Reps. Blackburn and Maloney Call on Google to Stop Profiting from Human Trafficking Advertising
According to The Hill and Politico, Representatives Marsha Blackburn and Carolyn Maloney authored a bi-partisan letter to Google CEO Larry Page calling on Google to do a number of things voluntarily regarding human trafficking advertising that Google may be selling. Dealing with Google selling ads for human trafficing sites is an appropriate bookend to the work that Nicholas Kristof has done in exposing Goldman Sachs’ connection to the same type of advertising sold by Village Voice Media for its lucrative “Backpage” advertising service, a so-called “Craig’s List” problem. Goldman Sachs is selling its interest in Village Voice Media to distance itself from sex-trafficking profits. So what will Google do?
Chief Executive Officer
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
Dear Mr. Page:
As Members of Congress committed to combating all forms of human trafficking, we write to you with concerns about reports of Google’s advertising practices. Recently, dozens of human rights groups called on the National Association of Attorneys General to investigate Google’s advertising practices that these groups believe contribute to the problem of human trafficking in America and globally.
Whatever Google is doing or is not doing to prevent these sorts of advertisements from appearing on their properties, Google has not satisfied a significant number of human rights organizations who have a specialized understanding of how these ads contribute to the human trafficking of women and girls. We are particularly concerned that these human rights groups may have identified yet another area where Google profits from illicit activities such as Google’s advertising of controlled substances for which your company paid a $500,000,000 forfeiture to the United States last year.
Accordingly, we request that you provide us with answers to the following initial questions we have regarding these developments:
1. Apart from Google’s donations to large human rights organizations, what is your company doing internally to ensure that sexually exploitative advertisements do not appear?
2. What is Google’s stated internal policy regarding exploitative advertising? What evidence do you have that those policies are being complied with by both Google’s internal and external advertising sales teams?
3. What steps does Google take to instruct its advertising sales managers, consultants, and other employees regarding the evaluation of advertisers of such exploitative marketing?
4. If Google were to determine that it profits from such advertising, what steps would you take to ensure those profits were publicly disclosed and then disgorged? Would that process require restating Google’s earnings for past securities filings?
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.
We look forward to your reply and to engaging with Google cooperatively to stop human trafficking in America and around the world.
Marsha Blackburn Carolyn Maloney
Members of Congress