New Revelations Concerning Anti-MoveOn.org Ads Pulled by Google

As NewsBusters reported a few weeks ago, Internet behemoth Google banned anti-MoveOn.org advertisements placed by a marketing firm working for Sen. Susan Collins's (R-Me.) reelection campaign.

On Thursday, the Washington Examiner revealed information that raises a lot of questions concerning the influence of this far-left organization and its relationship to one of America's most powerful media companies.

The article ominously began (emphasis added throughout):

Internal documents obtained by The Examiner shine new light on MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad and raise fresh questions about the far-left advocacy group's misleading statements on the issue and its relationship with Google, a major donor to its political action committee.

The documents show how MoveOn.org used dubious claims of trademark infringement and threats of litigation to silence critics of its recent controversial full-page ad in The New York Times attacking Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, which appeared the day he was testifying before Congress on the war effort. Among those critics was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is seeking a third term.

After The Examiner exclusively reported Oct. 11 that Google had banned four anti-MoveOn.org ads placed by the Collins campaign, Google and MoveOn.org each sought to portray the ban as unrelated to the Petraeus ad controversy. The documents obtained by The Examiner, however, show a direct link between the two events.

Despite pronouncements by Google's counsel that the Collins ads were "rejected by our system because of our trademark policy," the Examiner has learned otherwise:

MoveOn.org filed its trademark complaint with Google on Sept.19 in the midst of the bitter public debate generated by the Petraeus ad. On the same day, MoveOn.org's Carrie Olson sent a "cease and desist" letter to CafePress.com demanding that the online merchandiser stop selling anti-MoveOn.org T-shirts designed by "Waitress Polly," a blogger from a military family who created the T-shirts to protest the "General Betray Us" ad.

None of the complaints filed by MoveOn.org with Google or CafePress.com asserted that a "third party" was making fraudulent use of MoveOn.org's name to collect financial contributions.

This is key, because the initial complaint by MoveOn was specific to one company, and unrelated to fundraising issues:

Olson, who is MoveOn.org's chief operating officer, alleged trademark infringement and threatened legal action against CafePress.com if it did not take down the critical ads. She also demanded contact information for ‘Waitress Polly' and that all orders the anti-MoveOn.org T-shirt be stopped. CafePress.com did as demanded.

Also on Sept. 19, MoveOn.org's Erik Olson - husband of Carrie Olson - filed a trademark complaint with Google seeking to block any mention of MoveOn.org by any advertiser for any reason, including ads that criticize MoveOn.org by name.

It was this complaint that Google cited as the basis for banning Sen. Collins' anti-MoveOn.org ads. Google's complaint form used by MoveOn.org required that the trademark owner make a legal affirmation that the complainant has a "good faith belief" that the use of the trademark is not "permissible under law."

Here's the rub:

MoveOn.org, however, did not cite any specific ad, nor did it provide Google with any evidence of trademark infringement. The advocacy group has since said publicly that the Collins ads are permissible under the law.

As such, this is quite different from the CafePress.com matter, making it appear that Google either jumped the gun in removing these Collins ads, or did so for purely political reasons. After all:

Google hasn't said how the Collins' ads were flagged for removal if Google had not yet made a decision on the validity of MoveOn.org's sweeping trademark claims.

Google also hasn't explained how MoveOn.org knew Google had a policy that permits trademark owners to implement a universal ban on use of the advocacy group's name in any Google ad when no such policy is described on the Google Web site.

[...]

Finally, Google hasn't explained why the Collins campaign was informed Oct. 8 that its anti-MoveOn.org ads were removed due to a "trademark policy violation" when there is no such policy contained in Google's "terms of service."
Talk about your inconvenient truths.
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.