Google Bans Ads--Censorship, Liberal Bias Or Just Confused?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by AAAintheBeltway, Oct 11, 2007.

  1. I have to say I find this troubling on a couple of levels. If Google is manipulating its ad policy to favor the far left, it raises questions about how objective it is in its core search business. Could that also be manipulated to push a far left viewpoint on selected topics? This kind of bias is also stupid because it invites further regulation of internet advertising. While Democrats are not likely to go after Google, they may not be in power forever. Google could find itself subject to the same rules that govern broadcast advertisers. No odubt they will also have to deal with a Federal Elections Commission complaint over this incident. By favoring Collins' opponent, they are arguably making a corporate in-kind contribution, which would be illegal.

    Google banned ads placed by a firm working for Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election campaign.

    Internet giant Google has banned advertisements critical of, the far-left advocacy group that caused a national uproar last month when it received preferential treatment from The New York Times for its “General Betray Us” message.

    The ads banned by Google were placed by a firm working for Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election campaign. Collins is seeking her third term.

    Earlier this week, Google told Lance Dutson, president of Maine Coast Designs, that the ads he placed for Collins had been removed and would not be allowed to resume because they violated Google’s trademark policy.

    Google’s Web site states, “Google takes allegations of trademark infringement very seriously and, as a courtesy, we’re happy to investigate matters raised by trademark owners.” That suggests Google acted in response to a complaint by

    The banned advertisements said, “Susan Collins is MoveOn’s primary target. Learn how you can help” and “Help Susan Collins stand up to the money machine.” The ads linked to Collins’ campaign Web site with a headline reading “ has made Susan Collins their #1 target.” The Collins Web site claims that MoveOn has contributed $250,000 to her likely Democratic opponent and has run nine ads against her costing nearly $1 million. The Web site also displays’s controversial “General Betray Us” ad.

    Two weeks ago, MoveOn was forced to pay an additional $77,508 following media reports that The Times gave the group a substantial discount for the full-page display attacking Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the American forces in Iraq.

    The newspaper initially said MoveOn was charged $64,575, the “standby” rate for advocacy groups with full-page, black-and-white displays that can run anytime during a one-week period.

    MoveOn, however, had requested Monday, Sept. 10, the first day of Petraeus’ testimony before Congress on the U.S. military surge in Iraq. Because the ad ran on the date requested, The Times later acknowledged that it should have charged MoveOn $142,083.

    In a column on the controversy, Clark Hoyt, The Times’ public editor, concluded that the advertisement violated The Times’ own policy against accepting “opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature.” President Bush called the advertisement “disgusting.”

    Dutson said the Collins campaign’s anti-MoveOn ads were intended to raise awareness nationally of how MoveOn and left-wing blogs like Daily Kos and FireDogLake have made the moderate Maine Republican their top 2008 Senate target. The same coalition supported Ned Lamont in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut against Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman then went on to win re-election as an independent after defeating Lamont in the general election.

    Ronald Coleman, a lawyer and leading expert on online intellectual property disputes, noted that, as a private company, Google has the right to treat different advertisers differently.

    But he called Google’s removal of the Collins ads “troubling.” Coleman says that there is no such requirement under trademark law and that Google appears to be selectively enforcing its policy.

    “In a recent ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the notion that there is anything like a cause of action under the Lanham Act, the statue governing trademark law in the United States, for so-called ‘trademark disparagement,’ ” Coleman said. The courts have also rejected the notion that the use of a trademark as a search term is a “legally cognizable use” as a trademark use under federal trademark law, he added. Coleman is also general counsel for the Media Bloggers Association.

    Google routinely permits the unauthorized use of company names such as Exxon, Wal-Mart, Cargill and Microsoft in advocacy ads. An anti-war ad currently running on Google asks “Keep Blackwater in Iraq?” and links to an article titled “Bastards at Blackwater — Should Blackwater Security be held accountable for the deaths of its employees?”

    Google is the 800-pound gorilla of online advertising. Over the past year, the company has acquired YouTube and online ad giant DoubleClick, making it the dominant player in the area of Internet display advertising, ads on banners, videos and other non-text-based types of ads.

    The Internet giant came under fire last year when it removed YouTube videos uploaded by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin and threatened to ban her from the popular video-sharing site.