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Oklahoma, Nebraska press Google to stop ads for illegal products

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nebraska and Oklahoma on Tuesday joined Mississippi in pressuring Google Inc to crack down on Internet advertisements for drugs, including powerful painkillers, that are sold without a prescription, and other counterfeit products.

In a letter sent to Google, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt complained about Google's practice of placing before some YouTube videos advertisements for pharmacies willing to sell percocet and oxycontin without a prescription.

Oxycontin and percocet are powerful painkillers that are hot sellers on the black market.

The videos also advertise guides on how to forge passports and drivers licenses in addition to offering counterfeit merchandise, the letter said.

"Not only are the activities depicted or promoted in the above-described videos illegal in and of themselves, but in the case of document forgery, the how-to guide could be instrumental in the commission of other crimes ranging from under-age drinking to acts of terrorism," they wrote.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement on Tuesday that it has stringent advertising guidelines.

"(We) work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners," the statement said.

Google said in a blog post in mid-June that it had been vigorous in working to limit drug advertisements to legitimate companies that comply with the law and to combat what it called "rogue online pharmacies."

That blog post followed a move by Mississippi's attorney general, Jim Hood, who had said that he was prepared to subpoena Google as part of a probe into allegations the Web search company facilitated the sale of drugs without a prescription and other illegal products.

Hood, who heads an intellectual property section of the National Association of Attorneys General, said that Mississippi was investigating Google's role in helping consumers find counterfeit products and illegal copies of movies, games and music.

In 2011, Google forfeited $500 million for allowing Canadian pharmacies to place advertisements to illegally sell prescription drugs to U.S. customers.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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