Troubling Drug Ads Running On YouTube

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– The Digital Citizens Alliance today called on Google to crack down on bad actors that increasingly exploit YouTube to promote dangerous and unsafe activities such as illegal prescription drug sales, counterfeits, and tutorials on forging documents such as passports. Digital Citizens questioned why Google not only allows these videos, but also appears to profit off them through its ad network.

“In effect, we’re asking Google to take more responsibility for the way it manages YouTube, one of the most popular websites in the world for teens and pre-teens,” said Tom Galvin, Executive Director of Digital Citizens. “YouTube has become a haven for evil doers who want to promote the availability of dangerous prescription drugs and even illegal narcotics as well as other nefarious activities. What makes it even more alarming is it appears that Google is profiting from these videos.”

When Google sells ads on YouTube videos promoting drugs, prostitution and forged documents, it has effectively become advertising partners with bad actors that make the Internet unsafe.  When YouTube users click those ads, Google’s business model is to split the ad revenue with those video producers.

The Digital Citizens’ report regarding YouTube will go live at 1pm EDT today.  To read the report, visit: http://www.digitalcitizensalliance.org/youtube/

In its report, “Google, YouTube and Evildoers: Too Close for Comfort” released today, Digital Citizens laid out numerous examples – with screenshots from YouTube – of bad actors exploiting the popular video website to promote dangerous and potentially illegal actions:

  • YouTube and Drugs: As YouTube became widely popular, so have the number of advertisements to purchase drugs. When a YouTube search is conducted for “buy drugs without a prescription” it returns 38,200 results. Digging a little deeper for specific drugs yields the following results:

*“buy percocet without a prescription”        531 results

*“buy tramadol without a prescription”        924 results

*“buy oxycontin without a prescription”       958 results

(Results from May 8, 2013 search)

Many videos were created by online pharmacies promoting the potentially ilegal sale of drugs. In many videos, Google allows an ad to run during or around the video. In doing so, the    video producer is poised to potentially profit from the video, as is Google.

  • YouTube and Forged Documents: Online pharmacies aren’t the only ones who have recognized how effective YouTube can be. There is a huge market on YouTube marketing their forged documents, including drivers’ licenses and even passports from all over the world. For example, a seven-minute video entitled “Fake Passport USA Step by Step” that describes the video as a “step by step how to fake a passport usa. If you want to buy this file PSD please visit” with a link to a website that offers to provide templates for drivers licenses and other official documents from around the world.

To the right of the video is a Google ad for “Immigration Appeal Lawyer.”

  • YouTube and Prostitution: The world’s oldest profession has a foothold on one of the newest social platforms. Type in “find a prostitute” and YouTube’s search results turn up a video promoting AdultSearch.com – a leading online provider of escorts. The title of the video, added by video producer BeginnerEscortGuide1, is “AdultSearch.com: How to Find An Escort/Prostitute/Hooker.” And a Google ad is visible to the right of it entitled “Ways to get a Green Card.”

Sometimes, Google appears poised to profit simply from the search itself. In one case, a search of “find underage prostitute” yields an ad for the large U.S. corporation Target.

It appears Google’s current policy is to delete videos upon complaint, but Digital Citizens contends that Google should take greater responsibility.

“Google is one of the smartest and most technologically savvy companies in the world. It surely has the capability to identify dangerous videos by itself,” said Galvin. “Surely the brilliant minds who can invent a driver-less car and Google Glass have the capability to ferret out dangerous videos. Google should implement greater safeguards to block these videos on YouTube and certainly should not be placing ads and potentially profiting from these videos.”

About the Digital Citizens Alliance

The Digital Citizens Alliance is a consumer-oriented coalition focused on educating the public and policy makers on the threats that consumers face on the Internet and the importance for Internet stakeholders – individuals, government and industry – to make the Web a safer place. Based in Washington, DC, the Digital Citizens Alliance counts among its supporters: private citizens, the health, pharmaceutical and creative industries as well as online safety experts and other communities focused on Internet safety. For more information, please visit digitalcitizensalliance.org.

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