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Google fined £300m over drug-dealing adverts

Google's been hit with a massive fine after displaying Canadian drug adverts in the US, where the drugs in question are illegal.

Google's been hit with a massive £306m fine after displaying Canadian pharmacies' drug adverts to Internet users in the US, where the pharmaceuticals in question are illegal.

Google has already stopped carrying the AdWord advertisements, but was slapped on the wrist over those ads that had already run. By accepting the fine, Google has avoided criminal prosecution in the US for making money from the adverts. It's all in the game, yo.

The case provides a good example of how legal and regulatory matters have become more complicated in an online world.

In this particular instance, the pharmaceuticals in question weren't covered by Canadian drug regulation because they were being sold outside of Canuck borders. The US Department of Justice alleged that the drugs were coming from less-than-reputable sources, and being sold in the States deliberately to avoid regulation. Some of the drugs also bypassed the need for a doctor's prescription.

Google AdWords is an automated system for inserting adverts for goods and services into search results concerning similar subjects. Being automated, companies can fiddle the system by, for example, slightly misspelling the name of the drugs they're peddling.

To put the fine in context, AdWords makes Google £18bn per year.