Wired has an excellent piece on the con man who helped the DoJ extract $500 million (.04 Motorolas) from Google’s coffers. From the look of it, they got off pretty cheap. The Feds used David Whitaker, a man faced with the prospect of otherwise dying in prison, to construct an elaborate sting to implicate Google’s AdWords salespeople as facilitators for illegal drug company advertising. Under supervision from the Feds, Whitaker was able to repeatedly get Google representatives to not only tweak websites for obviously illegal drugs to get them to pass Google’s automated verification process, but worked with Whitaker to make his sites more explicit once the verification was received. Some of the companies that were allowed to advertise through Google:
- SportsDrugs.net, a company that Whitaker confided to the AdWords rep “I want to be the largest steroids dealer in the US.”
- A company selling RU-486, the abortion pill, that didn’t even get blocked by Google’s automated policy review.
- TaoTeWellness.com, which sold psychotropic drugs. The Google China AdWords rep was so helpful that he added the names of over 100 illegal drugs as search keywords. This may be the single most customer-focused act in Google’s history.
- PharmacyValueDirect.com, a legitimate front site that linked to 3 decidedly seedier sites, a fact that was explicitly discussed with an AdWords rep.
And these are just the sites that made it into the article. Obviously, when the DoJ presented its case to Google, they did what any obviously guilty party with money does: shit its pants and pay off the government.
This article illustrates numerous differences between Google and Apple. First, Google’s level of flagrantly illegal activity is nothing short of epic. I mean – just fucking wow. The answer to “What if this were Apple?” would be the internet rage equivalent of 100 nuclear devices being detonated simultaneously, but then again Apple would never be involved in anything like this. Apple knows how to make shit people like and doesn’t have to troll the cisterns of the internet to fund its business model. And the response to government indictment? Google rolls over on its back and immediately pisses itself while Apple tells the DoJ, as they have (repeatedly) with their ebook “prix fixing” allegations, to bring it on.
How high up did this illegal activity at Google go? I’ll let the US Attorney for Rhode Island tell you:
“We simply know from the documents we reviewed and witnesses we interviewed that Larry Page knew what was going on,” Neronha said.
I’m sure there’s a joke in there about Page’s current medical problems being related to his clicking through on some of the ads for illegal drugs his company hosted, but this is a far classier blog.