“Don’t be evil.” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But “Don’t be evil” is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can.”

Many treatment centers in the addiction treatment field are owned by companies that make millions defrauding addicts, their families, and insurance companies. To do so, they have to get as many people as possible. Therefore the majority of their investment is dedicated to getting people through their doors. Their driving principle is getting “heads in beds.”

To attract the largest number of people, they invest in luxurious places, amenities, and invest millions of dollars buying pay per click keywords and advertising. By the sheer force of money, they dominate web searches and prevent people from even knowing about small treatment centers that do not have budgets of millions of dollars to buy ads. As a result, people looking for addiction treatment are denied a true choice and are led to affluent treatment centers.

Google eventually became aware that big addiction treatment companies had hijacked the searches that addicts and their families were conducting when trying to find addiction treatment. They also became aware that eliminating choice of treatment for millions of addicts, and allowing them to be channeled to big treatment centers that were ineffective in treating them could result in death, as evidenced by the number of addicts that have died from opiate addiction. This is indeed evil.

So, following their motto “don’t be evil” Google responded to the hijacking of their web searches by implementing a ban on all advertising by addiction treatment centers. This was an extreme move, considering that Google’s revenue comes from advertising. But the corruption of treatment centers that dominated web searches for addiction treatment grew so harmful and abusive that Google had to move to stop it, or else be complicit in the corruption and harm that these treatment centers are engaging in. For a company that was founded on the principle of “don’t be evil” to facilitate corruption and death would be the ultimate expression of hypocrisy. To their credit, they chose to stand by their motto.

After having implemented a total ban, on all advertising by addiction treatment centers, Google began to move towards a system to regain revenue from advertising, but limit the abuses committed by corrupt treatment centers. Google charged a company called LegitScript with screening treatment centers in order to try to separate the real and the good from the mediocre and corrupt centers, regardless of their spending power.

“We are thrilled that Google lived up to their principles” “Thrilled that, even with our modest budget, we can now reach more suffering addicts and their families, and let them know that in the middle of the most maligned and scrutinized area of addiction treatment centers, we have been evaluated and accredited by the most demanding agencies and companies in the world.”

LegitScript became the gatekeeper for addiction treatment advertising on Google. Addiction treatment centers that want to advertise on Google have to go through a process of investigation and certification to prove their worth. This new screening process resulted in a number of treatment centers shutting down within months. On the other hand, a small treatment center that had always invested in excellence in treatment first, saw their struggle rewarded. “We are thrilled that Google lived up to their principles” said Juan Lesende, the CEO of Adaptive Center, a small addiction treatment center in Miami; “Thrilled that, even with our modest budget, we can now reach more suffering addicts and their families, and let them know that in the middle of the most maligned and scrutinized area of addiction treatment centers, we have been evaluated and accredited by the most demanding agencies and companies in the world.” “We are very proud that we were accredited by LegitScript, as soon as they looked at the way we do treatment.” “The ban and consequent investigation has given us even more validation as an excellent treatment center.” “Now more people will know it.”

It’s difficult to know if the evil players in the addiction field will find a way to hijack the system again. The addiction field continues to be taken over by big companies that create luxurious accommodations, invest millions to get people through their doors. But for now, Google has opened up the web to small and private operators that can offer personal, local, addiction treatment to people that never had the choice of finding them. For now, Google enforced not being evil.


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