Recently the issue of sex trafficking came to light in the cities hosting the RNC and DNC, as large gatherings typically exacerbate what has become the second largest illegal industry in the world. However, traffickers don’t have to wait for conventions to come around, the internet provides them with unlimited opportunities to commit their crimes. In the case of Google, who had a large presence at both conventions, one need only search for the vaguest of terms to come up with paid advertisements for human trafficking. As reported by Chris Castle at MusicTechPolicy, searching for the term, “women” yields advertisements for single Ukrainian women and girls. In April, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) responded to Google’s profiting from sex trafficking by writing a letter to Google CEO Larry Page.
In response, Google pointed to it’s ban that explicitly prohibits “the promotion of escort services, prostitution, or other adult sexual services.” A spokeswoman also stated:
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.
However, Google’s actions do not come close to matching their words. Instead of siding with the 19 Senators who signed a letter to Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin urging him to remove the adult services section from Backpage.com, Google capitalized on the section’s popularity with their own advertisement. Coincidentally, they offered $100 AdWords credit to advertisers on Backpage.com the day before the RNC began in Tampa.
In addition to trying to convince advertisers who post on Backpage.com to post to Google, they continue to allow an app for the Android that literally describes itself as a “sex club.” The app, Utoopi, matches users with local escorts and offers “all the sex you want.”
Despite having almost 50% of the smartphone market and over 15 billion app downloads, Google has no app approval process. Based on their political contributions, it would appear Google spends more time and money on achieving power with politicians than they do helping to fight sex-trafficking.
Google’s political action committee, NetPAC, has given a little over a half a million dollars in campaign contributions this year. Google Inc. has given $1,229,355 to candidates, of which $360,067 has gone to Barack Obama. The company has also spent $9.79 million this year on lobbying. Why politicians are accepting contributions from a company that profits from sex-trafficking is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Google has no intentions of helping the 1.2 million children who are victims of a $12 billion insidious industry.