Friday, 6 February 2015

Google - can a large global corporation shut down a state investigation before it even starts?

In a case that will determine whether a large global corporation can shut down a state investigation before it even starts, a group of victims and consumer groups have filed an amicus brief in federal court urging the judge to allow Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's fact-finding investigation of Google to proceed.

Attorney General Hood is investigating whether Google actively assisted criminals who used its platforms for illegal means, as the company did in a 2011 case in which Google ultimately paid $500 million to avoid prosecution for assisting overseas pharmacies illegally market prescription drugs into the United States.

Stop Online Predators, the Digital Citizens Alliance, the Taylor Hooton Foundation, and Ryan United, said in the filing that it's premature for Google to seek to shut down Attorney General Hood's investigation until it can be determined whether Google assisted criminals who used its platforms.

In its filing, the groups wrote that they have a "strong interest in ensuring that state attorneys general and other law enforcement officials have the tools they need to prevent child predation, illegal sales of steroids and other drugs and countless other crimes that may be committed using the Internet."

While Google has claimed that federal law protects it from prosecution when others use its platform for illegal activities, the company isn't legally protected if Google employees actively help others break the law – as was the case in the 2011 prescription investigation.

Given that, the groups wrote in the amicus brief, "It is thus highly premature and inappropriate at this point for Google to attempt to use the First Amendment and Section 230 of the CDA [Communications Decency Act] as swords to shut down the attorney general's investigation."

The principle of whether an attorney general can conduct such fact-finding investigations is at the heart of the federal court proceedings. In another amicus brief filed in the case, attorneys general from eleven states said the authority to conduct such investigations, including scrutinizing conduct on the Internet, was essential to their duties as law enforcement officials and protection of their citizens.

The amicus brief can be viewed in its entirety here.

About the Groups Who Filed the Amicus Brief:

Stop Child Predators is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America's children from sexual predators and preventing the distribution of online content that exploits children. It has launched federal and state-by-state campaigns to enhance public safety on the ground and on the web. Stop Child Predators thus has a significant interest in ensuring that the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act are not construed in a manner that will hinder critical law enforcement functions.

The Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization, focuses its efforts on Internet safety issues. It is a coalition of consumers, businesses, and Internet experts. It has an important interest in this case because it is focused on educating the public and policy makers on Internet threats. Digital Citizens Alliance also works to make the Internet a safer place by engaging key Internet stakeholders: individuals, Internet companies, and civic leaders.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation (THF) is widely recognized as the national leader and expert on the subject of Appearance and Performing Enhancing Drug (APED) abuse by the youth of America. The foundation was formed in memory of Taylor E. Hooton, a 17-year-old high school athlete from Plano, Texas. Taylor took his own life on July 15, 2003, after using anabolic steroids. Taylor's parents, family, and friends founded the organization after learning of the growing number of middle school, high school, and college students illegally using and abusing anabolic steroids, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), unregulated dietary supplements, and other APEDs. It has a significant interest in this case given its mission to stop the abuse of anabolic steroids, HGH, unregulated dietary supplements, and APEDs.

Ryan United was formed in memory of Ryan VanLuchene, who at 8 years old was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered by a repeat sex offender. Ryan United works across the country with key stakeholders to promote better, more sensible laws aimed at making communities safer. It has an important interest in this case because a key component of its mission is promoting online safety for children and their families.

SOURCE Digital Citizens Alliance

Do you have a story to tell? Contact 'Let's Hear You!' and let us know!