Google protects its commercial advertisers. The on-line ads of Oceana, a non-profit environmental group dedicated to restoring and protecting the world’s oceans, were banned by Google after they ran for two days. The ads protested Royal Caribean cruise line’s sewage treatment (dumping) methods. Clearly, there is no freedom of speech with Google. Haven’t search engines become a necessity for internet users? If so, should we treat search engines in like utilities? In other words, should search engines be regulated in some way to insure fairness and objectivity? Shouldn’t search engines be required to have clear, coherent, resonable and not arbitrary content policies?
Last week, Oceana placed two advertisements with Google, the first describing Oceana’s mission and linking to the organization’s website, www.oceana.org, the second focusing on Oceana’s well-known campaign to stop cruise pollution. Google removed the ads after two days, citing the cruise pollution ad for “language that advocates against Royal Caribbean,” and the general ad for using “language advocating against the cruise line industry and cruisers.” Google’s public editorial guidelines, however, make no mention of any such specific prohibition, stating only that the company reserves the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising it accepts.
To Google’s credit one can use Google to find news about the ad banning using the search, “Oceana ad banned by Google.” There is speculation that Yahoo would run the ads without any censorship because Yahoo’s content policy permits critical ads, if they aren’t obscene or libelous. Spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens said, “We see it as a freedom of speech issue.” So do I.