The Google Ad Flap Hits the Business Press

There’s an excellent article in BusinessWeek about the controversy that ensued when my employer, Oceana, made the mistake of trying to buy some Google AdWords.

[T]he tactic of giving people information they didn’t seek is a time-honored form of protest and dissent that has helped fan the flames of democracy in the U.S and elsewhere. In other media, refusing advertisements on policy grounds is extremely rare unless those ads are clearly lewd, gross, or otherwise a public nuisance. Oceana’s ads hardly qualify. Further, readers of a site such as the The New York Times almost certainly aren’t clicking away with the explicit understanding they could be seeing a somewhat sanitized version of the dead-tree edition.
At the very least, Google and other Web companies owe their surfers more information about what they do and why they do it. “The general rule should be one of transparency — that someone should know what they don’t know,” says Palfrey. He thinks a good start might be some type of disclosure system whereby Google or other Web search engines list the organizations they have refused to sell ads to.