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Google Slammed by Mississippi Attorney General for “Inaction” on Piracy

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is pressing Google to take greater measures to tackle online piracy and other illegal Web activity, saying that the company’s “inaction” is “not merely a failure to do the right thing” but “raises serious questions as to whether Google is engaged in unlawful conduct itself.”

Hood, chairman of the intellectual property committee of the National Assn. of Attorneys General, wrote the comments in an 11-page Nov. 27 letter to Google general counsel Kent Walker. In the letter, Hood expresses frustration that the company was not sending a representative to a meeting of the association, which was held last week.

Hood accused Google of being “unwilling to take basic actions to make the Internet safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and it has refused to modify its own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.” His letter cites not just piracy of movies, TV shows and music but the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and sex trafficking.

He also pointed out several instances in which Google has screened out criminal content, like child pornography. Nazi-related content, he noted, was removed from search results in Germany, and spam and malware are blocked because they can be damaging to users.

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“Google can and does take action against unlawful or offensive conduct — when Google determines it is in its business interests to do so,” Hood wrote.

A spokesman for Google said that “our users care deeply about their safety and security — and so does Google. It’s why we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars in cutting edge technology to fight bad actors online.”

Hood called for the company to take a series of steps, including creating an icon on search results to direct users to authorized sites and making more changes to its algorithm to deprioritize so-called rogue sites that are devoted to infringing material. He also said the Google should “de-index” rogue sites, with copyright holders or a third party providing criteria to establish if a site is dedicated to infringement.

Last year Google announced a policy under which sites with a large number of takedown notices would earn lower search rankings. In September, Google unveiled a report on how it fights piracy, noting YouTube’s Content ID system as well as a method for copyright holders to monetize user-generated content. It also said that it removed more than 57 million Web pages in 2012 and disabled ad serving to more than 46,000 sites for violating their copyright policies.

Hood’s letter was in response to one sent to him by attorney Jamie Gorelick of WilmerHale, one of Google’s outside counsels.

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