Google removed ads condemning MoveOn.org’s ad in The New York Times attacking General David H. Petraeus, claiming a trademark violation. This blatant act of political protection has exacted a collective yawn from Old Media, predictably enough. From The Washington DC Examiner Newspaper:
Here are the facts: Lance Dutson, a Maine blogger working for the re-election campaign of Sen. Susan Collins, recently placed two political ads on Google on behalf of the Maine Republican. The pro-Collins ads were critical of MoveOn.org’s recent “General Betray Us” insertion in The New York Times and claimed MoveOn.org was targeting Collins for defeat. Shortly thereafter, the ads disappeared, and Dutson was told by a Google representative that they were removed because they violated MoveOn.org’s trademark.
Then last week, The Examiner published an oped by Robert Cox, a member of the newspaper’s blogger board, that questioned why Google would suppress an ad at the apparent request of MoveOn.org, yet allow ads critical of corporations like ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart and Microsoft. The Cox oped was linked to by the Drudge Report, Instapundit, Slashdot and Michelle Malkin among online media, and by Fox News on cable.
Google claims its policy is to stay out of trademark disputes by removing any ad that is judged by the trademark holder to be a violation. Aside from questions about ideological bias or inconsistency in how Google enforces its policy, a more fundamental issue is at stake here — enabling abuse of a commercial trademark as a means of squelching dissident political speech.
On its face, a policy that allows censorship of political speech critical of the trademark holder is a violation of the First Amendment. If Google maintains this policy, it will be handing a powerful tool for crushing dissent not only to political groups like MoveOn.org but to every corporation with a trademarked name.
Read the rest at the link above. They don’t remove ads attacking the “Wal-Mart” trademark, because the mere mention of a trademarked name doesn’t constitute an infringement. Neither did the ads attacking MoveOn.org.
If anything, Wal-Mart and other purely commercial enterprises are more deserving of trademark protection than MoveOn, which is a registered “multi-candidate Political Action Committee.” To claim one cannot even mention the name of a PAC which has inserted itself into the news, claims influence with policymakers and legislators at the highest levels of the Democratic Party, and publicly admits purchasing the ad in question, without their permission, is a laughable position.
Suppose the Republican nominee trademarks his own name. Will Google then refuse any ads which mention him – through the campaign and, if he is elected, throughout his term? Right.
On the bright side, of course, the leftists running Google can count on continuing invitations to the very best cocktail parties.