Google takes effort to block Mississippi attorney general's inquiry before federal judge

Economic Indicators Associated Press

An Internet giant was scheduled to face off with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood on Friday.

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Google will ask U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate to block an investigation by Hood into the company.

Hood has been pushing Google since 2013 to prevent use of the company's search engine to find illegal drugs and pirated music, video games and movies.

Hood is looking into whether Google was facilitating illegal activity through its auto complete service, which automatically fills in words for the user, such as "how to buy oxycodone" and whether the search engine was purposefully selling related ads against YouTube videos that allegedly promoted illegal behavior.

The closely-watched case has Google and computer industry groups telling the judge a 1996 federal law protects Internet companies from being held accountable for what third parties say.

The Democratic attorney general says he's investigating actions taken by Google itself, and says the Mountain View, California, company could be liable under Mississippi consumer protection laws. Hood says Google has jumped the gun on its objections because he doesn't know what his inquiry will find.

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Google sued Hood in December, asking a judge to prevent him from pursuing criminal charges or suing the company after the attorney general subpoenaed information about some of Google's operations. However, Hood agreed not to pursue that information until March 6.

Google argues it's immune from much or all of Hood's inquiries under a 1996 federal law, the Communications Decency Act. That law says Internet companies can't be held liable for what third parties say.

Hood has argued that the time to claim immunity would be after his investigation turns up some facts.

A group backed by the movie industry and Google competitors, along with 11 other state attorneys general, are backing Hood.

Computer industry groups have joined Google's effort to block the investigation.