11/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Google: Profit before (gay) people

Several readers wrote in when ads started showing up for our California readers on Bilerico Project. The pro-Prop 8 graphic was arriving via Google ads. Since none of the Editorial Team is in California, we had no idea they were popping up. One alert Projector grabbed this screenshot for us.

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We had another flare up recently when the anti-gay ad started popping up in another ad space on the site. The company that services that spot will fill any unsold space and occasionally they use Google ads to do so. Like a bad penny, the pro-Prop 8 ad just kept turning up.

Angrily, I started investigating what our options are. As I dug into Google's documentation, I realized that the ad violated Google's established advertising policy. Since the company had recently made a statement opposing Proposition 8, I was curious what their reasoning for accepting the advertisement could be. The answer might surprise you.

For all of the positive press the company got for Sergey's anti-Prop 8 post, they're quickly losing goodwill in the gay and politically progressive blogosphere as readers and bloggers alike recoil from supporting discrimination. Blogs across the nation have reported angry readers and the instructions on how to ban the ads quickly spread across the internet.

I shouldn't have to step in and ban a bad apple though. Google is supposed to be our advertising agent - always looking out for our best interests and preventing unwanted and illegal ads from reaching our sites. Google"s Advertising Policies clearly state that an ad advocating against the LGBT community (among other minority groups) is not allowed. (Emphasis mine.)

Don't promote violence or advocate against a protected group.

Ad text advocating against any organization, person, or group of people is not permitted.

Advertisements and associated websites may not promote violence or advocate against a protected group. A protected group is distinguished by their:
  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Veteran status
  • Sexual orientation/Gender identity

After I inquired with Google to see why they approved the ads since they are obviously in violation of the posted policy, spokesperson Diana Adair told me, "Google allows ads that advocate for a particular political position regardless of the views that they represent. We currently allow ads advocating both for and against Proposition 8." She directed me to another page of the advertising policy entitled, "Political Advertising."

Thinking that there must be a different set of rules in place for political advertising than other ads, I clicked the link and this is what met me.

Political advertising is allowed.

We permit political advertisements regardless of the political views they represent. Stating disagreement with or campaigning against a candidate for public office, a political party, or public administration is generally permissible.

However, political ads must not include accusations or attacks relating to an individual's personal life, nor can they advocate against a protected group.

And what do you get if you click the link in that quote? What is a protected group? Why the link goes back to the first page I cited. Same page. Same answer.

The ads are in violation of Google's stated Advertising Policy.

Google's co-founder, Sergey Brin, recently posted on the official Google blog that the company opposed Proposition 8. Part of what he said points out that the company realizes this is a civil rights issue.

However, while there are many objections to this proposition -- further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text -- it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality.

Which leads me to wonder, if an amendment somehow made it on the ballot to rescind interracial marriage, would Google allow advertisements in support of segregation? I highly doubt it. The answer is obvious which side of the political advertising/protected group fence interracial marriage would fall. The ads would never have been accepted.

GoogleLogo.jpgI also wonder how LGBT Google employees feel about their employer helping Proposition 8 by allowing it's ad servers to be used to promote an amendment that has a "chilling and discriminatory effect" on their employees. Talk about a hostile work environment! I don't know about you, but knowing my employer was making money by promoting an amendment to prevent me from getting married would definitely make me feel uncomfortable.

I definitely wouldn't feel like a valuable employee. Apparently, the ad buy from Proposition 8 supporters is more important than LGBT employees or customers. Civil rights went up against cold hard cash.

Civil rights lost.

CALL TO ACTION: If you think these ads should be pulled from Google ads for "advocating against a protected group" and causing a "chilling and discriminatory effect" on Google employees and customers, please send Google an e-mail or call them at (650) 930-3555. Ask them to stop making money from our fight for equality. Remind them that - as Sergey said - this is "an issue of equality."