General Gansler Announces Successful Effort with Google
to Expand Protection Against Misleading Ads for Viral “Cures”
MD ( April 1, 2010) - Attorney General Douglas F.
Gansler announced today the successful outcome of a cooperative
effort between the Office of the Attorney General and Google,
Inc. to curb the prevalence of false or misleading advertisements
touting cures for viral sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
on Google’s search result pages. Because of this effort,
Google has greatly improved its mechanisms for screening out
these ads, thereby reducing Maryland consumers’ exposure
to financial and health risks.
When a person uses Google’s search engine, text ads that
relate to the words or topic being searched may appear in the “Sponsored
Links” sections on the top or right hand side of the page.
These text ads are delivered through Google’s online advertising
program called AdWords, and appear alongside the search results
if they are relevant to the user’s query.
Previously, a Google search for cures for STDs like Hepatitis
B, herpes, or mononucleosis – viral STDs for which there
is no cure – generated several AdWords advertisements for
products that claimed “guaranteed” or “proven” cures.
Concerned about the threat posed to Maryland consumers by these
misleading ads and the products they advertised, Attorney General
Gansler contacted Google, informed the company of the problem,
and recommended that strong action be taken to reduce the threat.
Google already has a policy in place that prohibits the advertisement
of “miracle cures” through its AdWords program. Google
responded to Attorney General Gansler’s concerns by agreeing
to add herpes, hepatitis B, and mononucleosis to its list of health
conditions for which AdWords ads for “miracle cures” are
prohibited. It also agreed to examine its existing methods of screening
out such dubious ads and to make improvements where possible.
Google has now made modifications in several areas, with the result
being that far fewer of these misleading ads are reaching Maryland
consumers through Google’s search engine. Google has also
pledged to continue to expand its protections against such ads
as it learns of new and better ways to do so. Finally, as a result
of Attorney General Gansler’s inquiry, Google has renewed
its commitment to work proactively to ensure that health-related
advertisements appearing on its web site via AdWords do not expose
consumers to undue health risks.