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Two members of Congress urge Google to stop ads for online human trafficking

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Auveen Woods
WVoN co-editor

In a show of biartisan unity two members of Congress wrote to Google CEO Larry Page last month challenging the company to examine its policies in an effort to stem the growing tide of online human trafficking networks.

In the letter Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York expressed concern regarding Google AdWords which may be allowing human trafficking rings to exploit women and girls online.

They have yet to receive a reply.

They said they are “particularly concerned” because Google has acknowledged that it has advertised illegal products in the past and ask what percentage of Google profits might be coming from global advertisements tied to human traffickers?

Last year, Google paid $500 million to settle charges that it placed ads for illegal pharmacies and in January was accused of advertising illegal London Olympic tickets sellers.

The multinational also recently lost a case in an Australian court about being “engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct” in relation to AdWords.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are at  least 2.4 million trafficked persons at any given time and that the annual profits of trafficking human beings could be as high as US$32 billion.

Over one million victims of human trafficking are minors. ILO estimates indicate, however, that 32% of all victims were trafficked for labour exploitation, while 43% were trafficked for sexual exploitation and 25% for a mixture of both.

Women and girls make up the overwhelming majority of those trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation (98%).

A report published by the UK Home Affairs Committee in May 2009 highlighted the lack of accurate statistical information, but estimated that there were at least 5,000 trafficking victims in the UK.

In August 2010, the Association of Chief Police Officers published a report which suggested that 17,000 of the estimated 30,000 women involved in off-street prostitution in the UK were migrants.

Nearly 12,000 of these women are understood to have been trafficked or are vulnerable to human trafficking.

Between 14,500 and 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the US annually.

Google employes 31,353 people, has more than 70 offices in more than 40 countries and made $36.5 billion in advertising revenues in 2011.

Google Adwords is a self-instructional, user friendly program, designed to make it easy for users whatever the size of their budget.

Earlier this year, Google Adwords announced that one person could now have 10,000 advertising campaigns, using a combination of  three million keywords per ad.

Google would not be the first internet company to accidentally facilitate human trafficking. Two years ago it emerged that Craigslist was being used for the same purpose.

Women News Network has set up a petition page “STOP Google Adwords from Internet Sex-trafficking of Women and Girls” to lobby the multinational to review its internal policies with regard to AdWord users.

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