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Google refuses anti-war ad
March 22, 2003 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Google refuses "Who Would Jesus Bomb" AdWord from anti-war site Unknown News The search engine's evolving rationale in the case, posted along the left-hand side of the page, is interesting. [more inside]
posted by mediareport (29 comments total)

 
[more]? :)
posted by zerofoks at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2003


1. First, it was "unacceptable content:" Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain "language that advocates against an individual, group, or organization".

2. Then, it was that Unknown News is a "Hate/Anti" site: Google AdWords does not allow the advertisement of sites that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization. Ad text, site content, or keywords should not be hate/anti related.

We will allow analytical arguments to run advertisements, however, these arguments must not be emotional arguments. They must show both sides of the argument even if they support one side more heavily.

Please edit your ad text and site accordingly.


3. Finally, it was the "Who Would Jesus Bomb" message itself:
I have discussed the content of your site along with other team members and see that you are offering interesting articles and services that are discussed with a shade of humor.

If you would like for your ad to be reviewed once more for approval, I would like to suggest that you remove references to 'Who would Jesus Bomb?' from your site and your ad text as it may be potentially offensive to some religious communities.

posted by mediareport at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2003


Haven't looked at the website but even as a Christian and a supporter of Bush I still think this is silly.
posted by konolia at 12:30 PM on March 22, 2003


You know what? Google is right. Why should they have to sift through eleventy million hysterical e-mails from Christians with no sense of humor? My mom would be horrified if she saw such an ad. She'd lose her shit entirely--and she is a regular Googler.

Why shouldn't Google refuse a paid ad, particularly one that's just going to cause an unnecessary shitstorm amongst their user base?

And if the big concern here is that Google is being shifty about their reasons for refusing the ad, well, yeah. They are. They should have been up front from the beginning, and gone with response number 3 first and only.
posted by padraigin at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2003


Uh, your opinion will mean more, konolia, once you actually look at the link.
posted by mediareport at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2003


Google's getting into some trouble with their hate/anti policy because it basically means that activist-type sites dont' make the grade, but basic commercial enterprises do fine. it's the old adage, saying "buy brand X" is okay speech, but saying "don't buy brand X" is suddenly politicized.

That said, they can do whatever the heck they want in terms of agreeing to run or not run ads, it would just be nice if they had a policy that made it clear what the rules were, and if it were above board: "no crazy activist crap". Google suffers sometimes from trying too hard to be everything to everyone.... and fixing mistakes or grey areas on the fly when they do happen. relying on ad dollars suddenly means you worry about offending people in ways you didn't before, especially people with good lobbyists.
posted by jessamyn at 12:46 PM on March 22, 2003


It's so cool to pass judgement on everyone else and make fun of the grown-ups, but it must very very unsettling when that happens to you. I can undertsand their frustration, I was 13 once, too.

Ouch unknownnews, bein' a really grow-up sucks, don't it?
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2003


Jos, the shifting rationale is proof that Google's decision-making in this case was rather fucked, to say the least. If anyone's been juvenile in this, it's the Google folks who didn't bother actually looking at the site before judging it.

If you have a point, you could try, you know, making it.
posted by mediareport at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2003


along similar lines, it seems like google is limiting the pages that go into the news.google.com feed. while are a few links to articles from indymedia, there are a lot less on there than I would expect. Could this be what they're aiming for with the blogger buyout - turn news.google.com into their blog search engine?
posted by fiz at 1:05 PM on March 22, 2003


Uh, your opinion will mean more, konolia, once you actually look at the link.

Okay, I looked. I still don't think Google should have refused it.
posted by konolia at 1:11 PM on March 22, 2003


instead of all this whining they should have just set up a good Googlebomb in revenge. That's the American way.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2003


along similar lines, it seems like google is limiting the pages that go into the news.google.com feed. while are a few links to articles from indymedia, there are a lot less on there than I would expect.

Well given that indymedia is more of a propaganda-spewing set of sites and not really a news organization I don't see where the problem is. (This is only from my experience looking at indymedia sites from various locales on a regular basis).
posted by gyc at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2003


Google is not acting like a public square (or the modern equivalent, an airport information booth) and allowing people of any opinion to use their space as a platform for espousing views. They're certainly correct from the point of view of their business -- offended users will blame Google, not the advertiser. The only bummer (as jessamyn says) is that "evil is what Sergey says is evil" -- what a terrible standard.

No one is preventing these people from posting a site or even having that site returned as a Google search result, so I don't see the problem in the outcome. It's just the description of the decision process that's odious.
posted by precipice at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2003


fiz: I imagine Google doesn't put much faith in Indymedia because it's an open wire. There's no editorial method to stop a hate-filled screed from ending up on Google's news front page (unlikely I imagine, but possible since Google is automated). I dunno if Infoshop is open wire as well, but the Google email is pretty clear about their desire to get news from a source that passes some sort of editor separating the wheat from the chaff.
posted by turbodog at 1:23 PM on March 22, 2003


(A) As displayed on the site, google's rationale is not shifting at all. They seem to be offering canned replies down a pretty normal decision tree. If you want to make fun of automated reply software agents that's fine, but the bot's replies aren't inconsistant.

(B) In the real world, while certain business functions like accounting and HR compliance opperate according to a rigid set of rules, general business decsions don't. They are based on what the company thinks are in it's interest, and that's all. They don't have to be what anybody else wants. It's very childish to insists that others have to do what you want them to no matter what they themsleves want to do, even if they are a business.

(C) You really have to be childish not see the irony and humor in fact that a website that promotes bile and partisan vitriol and anger in judgement of those that it decides to be in the wrong to be so humourlessly offended when it itself is judged.

(D) Refusing to change their ad to accomodate google is not melry as brave as they make it out to be -"We're going to say what we want to say, for an audience of open-minded adults who really do believe in freedom of expression." This hypersensative self importance is also childish.

It's sad that these spoiled folks are whining about google 'censorship', when they seem indifferent to the much greater problem of google accomidating China's successful efforts to censor and limit access to information about Falun-Gong and other groups that it dissaproves of.

So like I said, "It's so cool to pass judgement on everyone else and make fun of the grown-ups, but it must very very unsettling when that happens to you. I can undertsand their frustration, I was 13 once, too."
posted by Jos Bleau at 1:24 PM on March 22, 2003


And thus the technolibertarian blowjob for Google continues...
posted by solistrato at 1:27 PM on March 22, 2003


Google is a privately-owned company.

They refused to do business with someone based upon
what their text ad said/contained.

so.. whats the problem here?
posted by mrbill at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2003


From the "unknown news" site: Our weapons of mass destruction will murder Hussein, his sons, and a few hundred thousand other Iraqis — the rest of whom, wounded or simply traumatized, will pursue a peace wreaked by a US puppet regime of oil, sweatshops, and other Free Market luxuries.

Bwaaa-hahahahahahahah! Chumps. That's right, freaky-deaky liberals...it's ALL about oil, ain't it?

Sheesh...no wonder they're ridiculed so much. If they had some sort of *valid* argument against this military action or the motivation of the President, then maybe - just maybe - they might earn some credibility or respect. Anyway...back on topic...Jos Bleau is 100% correct.
posted by davidmsc at 1:39 PM on March 22, 2003


What doesn't make sense to me here is that only those searching for anti-war stickers would ever have seen the WWJB TextAd. Thus anybody who'd have actually been offended by this was already looking for something to get provoked by. (No anti-war Christian would get offended by the slogan. Frankly, I'm a little offended by the idea that this is "humor." Isn't it, quite obviously, a serious confrontation of the teachings of Jesus with the realities of war?)
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:57 PM on March 22, 2003


If you go to google and type in who would jesus bomb bumper sticker you get as the first result - surprise - unknownnews's sales pitch for them. Well, if you can get the number one search result position, and, as Zurishaddai notes, pretty much only folks looking to buy such would type that - so why dot hey need the ad?

Answer - they don't. But a little phony controversy is just what they need to still up a little PR, isn't it? After all, it's not enuff to come up first in the search, you've gotta get people to want your product in the first place. What would be better (free) way to promote it to the faithful than this?

I apologize. This is quite a clever scam and not the product of juvenile sensibilities at all. I was mistaken.

Mediareport, if you are affiliated with them, shame on you for posting their PR scam.

If you are not affiliated with them, then you're just another tool of a profitmaking corporate shill-machine. Please report to your local indymedia center for corrective labor immediately!
posted by Jos Bleau at 2:20 PM on March 22, 2003


jessamyn's argument ("buy this" is ok, but "don't buy this" is political) is attractive, but i don't think it holds water for two reasons. first, "bomb iraq" would also be unacceptable (the equivalent of "buy this" in this case). second, even with normal products there's something extra going on. negative advertising isn't accepted in the uk, for example, so it's not just a simple pro-commerce bias. in other words: "hug trees" would be acceptable, even if "shoot car drivers" isn't.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2003


I just googled for "peace stickers" and saw the "Who would Jesus bomb" ad for unknown news -- I guess google decided the ad was OK after all.
posted by Emera Gratia at 3:31 PM on March 22, 2003


I think the assessment that any anti-war Christian wouldn't find this offensive is off-base. If you ask me, the only reason they refused the ad was that they suspected that anti-war Christians (of whom there are many who are categorically anti-war while still conservative in their social bent) would flip their lids if they saw this.

Christians tend to take offense when other people make light of their Lord and Savior. If you walked up to one and said, "Hey, get this: What Would Jesus Bomb?" the vast majority would look at you and say, "Not funny." It's like if someone walked up to you and said, "Hey, your mother sure is freakin' ugly!" It's just inappropriate, impolite. There are other ways to convey the same message.

To me personally, I don't give a rat's ass. But I can see why Google would have no interest in getting involved. It's not a First Amendment Issue, just a business decision.
posted by vraxoin at 3:43 PM on March 22, 2003


There's a war on, and it's already been condemned by the Pope, but Google won't allow us to ask what the deity would do.

This seems like a pretty good point to me.

I think it's bonkers to say [Google Believes] strongly in freedom of expression, but I will defend to the death Google's right to be bonkers.

This also seems like a pretty good point.



The hard part is that Google seems almost like a public resource, probably because they are publically available and also one of the most valuable information resources out there. But they're not. They're a private business, and have the right to do this. I hope they continue to do The Right Thing most of the time, but every once in a while, they'll probably have to make close judgement calls and get reamed for it. Shrug. They still rock.
posted by namespan at 4:02 PM on March 22, 2003


I'm not sure, but I think Jesus was some kind of pacifist.
If he HAD to choose someone to bomb, my bet is that he'd bomb the world superpower that enforced its will on the known world, dominated trade and occupied his homeland (Palestine) trough a straw man.


The Roman empire, of course.
posted by spazzm at 4:42 PM on March 22, 2003


of course, jesus does hit like an atom bomb.
posted by nyoki at 5:03 PM on March 22, 2003


Wow. Google's rationale for not including Infoshop in its news sources is as bizarre and backward-looking as the one for not accepting AdWords about Jesus:

"We are not accepting sites where all articles are produced by one individual. We are looking for sources with current news written by a staff of reporters and edited by a staff editor. "

Oh, well. So much for Google News including dispatches from journos like Christopher Allbritton. You'd think a company that, uh, grokked the Internet would be able to understand the obvious changes in journalism already underway. Even if we agree Infoshop isn't worthy of inclusion in the robot-edited Google News, counting heads is hardly the place to draw the line. How long do you think it'll be before one- or two-person news operations prove their online value? Two years? Three?

Why is Google *behind* this particular curve instead of ahead of it?

Google is not acting like a public square...and allowing people of any opinion to use their space as a platform for espousing views. They're certainly correct from the point of view of their business...The only bummer (as jessamyn says) is that "evil is what Sergey says is evil" -- what a terrible standard.

Well-said, precipice, but I disagree on the "correctness" of Google's decision to not behave more like a public square. "Cowardly" is the better word. Google continues to slowly shift away from any commitment to a fundamentally open Net. It's now acting just like the national networks when they refuse "controversial" issue advocacy ads [self-link]. I call that a huge disappointment, and a dramatic smack in the head to the Net community.

Google is a privately-owned company.

Like, duh. I'm continually amazed at the "They have a right to do this!" argument. When has anyone said otherwise? The point here is that consumers *also* have a right to ask for policies that make sense from private companies, and to lobby those companies when they fall down on the job. It's called democratic capitalism, and I would think more folks would understand it by now.

For some bizarre reason, this "privately-owned company" still enjoys a ridiculously benevolent online reputation. How long will the glow of the Google halo keep people from noticing the moves Google's been making in the direction of controlling the content it presents? I think Net-lovers need to start being a lot more alert to this particular problem.

Jos Bleau: Mediareport, if you are affiliated with them, shame on you for posting their PR scam. If you are not affiliated with them, then you're just another tool of a profitmaking corporate shill-machine.

You're insane. It's been a pleasure chatting with you, but I'm sorry to announce you no longer exist.
posted by mediareport at 5:33 PM on March 22, 2003


Google's changed their mind and reinstated the ad.

Thus endeth the tempest. Time for nice cup of tea.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:08 PM on March 22, 2003


Thus endeth the tempest.

Yeah, right. We all just walk away. The issues raised by Google's bungled handling of the "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" bumper sticker ad have now completely disappeared. Don't worry about the fact that Google has given no explanation for its mischaracterization of Unknown News as a "Hate" site, and has offered no statement about changes it has made to prevent this kind of potentially devastating mistake from ever happening again. Just trust in the halo and all will be fine.

[gag]

Side note: The final email Unknown News sent to Google provides a textbook definition of the word "gracious":

Apologies cheerfully accepted, and all is forgiven with no grudge. Thanks for reinstating our ad.

While the matter has your attention, though, I’d like to add a quick, closing comment: Please, remember what happened here.

It's not about us, and never was. We just run an amateur news and commentary website, and sell bumper stickers to try to make ends meet (which they never do). Being "disallowed" by Google was only a minor inconvenience for us.

For a lot of people, though, it would be a much bigger problem. And it has implications that seem worrisome.

Certainly, Google needs to screen out ads for child pornographers and hired assassins and so forth. I just hope Google's ad screeners are encouraged to have a very b r o a d understanding of freedom of expression.

When more and more people are allowed more and more freedom to express themselves, that's a good thing. That's what I love about America, and about the internet.

Thanks for your open-mindedness in this matter,

And — peace

posted by mediareport at 1:52 AM on March 23, 2003


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