MoveOn Backtracks From Using Google to Censor Anti-MoveOn Ads

Wired magazine's Sarah Lai Stirland is reporting that liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is reversing course after it was lambasted for censorship for pushing Google to censor anti-MoveOn.org ads by Maine Senator Susan Collins' (R) campaign.:

The left-leaning political advocacy group, MoveOn.org, is backing down in a flap over the use of its name in online advertisements, permitting an influential Republican senator to criticize the organization in a reelection ad on Google's search engine. "We don't want to support a policy that denies people freedom of expression," says Jennifer Lindenauer, MoveOn.org's communications director. Both MoveOn.org and Google late last week faced a barrage of criticism after an internet strategist for Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine complained that Google had blocked several re-election ads from the search engine's advertising network because the ads contained the trademarked term "MoveOn.org" in the text. "Stop Moveon.org. More MoveOn money in Maine than anywhere else. Learn how to help," read one of the banned ads, which linked to Collins' reelection campaign site. Under Google's trademark policy, owners can request that third parties' not be allowed to use their trademarked term in the text of ads -- a policy that far exceeds the requirements of trademark law. Lindenauer says that MoveOn.org withdrew from that policy on Friday after it heard about the brewing controversy over Google's termination of Collins' text ads using the group's name.

Responding to the news, Right Side of Tech takes a swipe at Google, characterizing the company's defense of its advertising policies as a "lame response" to censorship criticism:

Google responded on their public policy blog. The response was very lawyerly and explained they allow any advertiser to restrict the use of their trademark in Adsense advertisements. This is an understandable argument. However, it does not override the fact that what they did was wrong. The use of the trademark was allowable under fair use as my understanding. This was not discussed by the lawyer in this post and I think for obvious reasons. They are working to squelch political speech of those who are trying to defend themselves from Moveon.org. At the same time Moveon.org can use Senator Collins’ name in advertisements all they want because she cannot trademark her name. The policy is arbitrary and they should work on these cases on a one by one basis rather than killing political debate.

Other blog reactions at Malkin and Reason's Hit & Run blog.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters