Search engines settle with U.S. DOJ

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According to a story carried by the Associated Press and numerous other wire services, Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have all come to settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations they took ads from illegal online gambling operators.

All three companies also agreed to stop accepting ads for sports wagering and other online gambling. It's considered to be a landmark case for Internet companies.

"I do think it will have a major impact," U.S. attorney Catherine Hanaway said in the AP story. "Obviously these are three of the largest online organizations in the world."

Each company said it had stopped taking the ads years ago but negotiations have been ongoing for the last 12 to 18 months.

Although there is a separate deal in place for each company the combined total of the settlements is $31.5 million.

Of the $31.5 million, Microsoft will pay $21 million which includes a $4.5 million forfeit, $7.5 million to be paid to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and $9 million in public service ads over the next three years. The ads are intended to educate readers, particularly young ones, on the dangers of gambling.

Yahoo will pay $7.5 million which includes a $3 million forfeiture and $4.5 million in public service ads over three years.

Meanwhile Google had to pay the least of the big three - only $3 million. Google spokesman Jon Murchinson said the ads appeared in sponsored links at and other Web sites that belonged to their ad network.

Last October the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed as Title VIII of the SAFE Port Act. The bill effectively banned online poker in the U.S. and companies like PartyPoker were forced to pull out of the market.

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