One of the Internet’s leading search engines is refusing to sell advertising to firearms dealers or companies that sell gun parts or knives, though it will sell ads to pornographic sites.
According to the owners of Bowman’s Brigade, a Montana-based online gun parts and adventure gear retailer, the online search engine company Google, based in Silicon Valley, Calif., refused to accept prepaid advertising on three separate occasions earlier this month.
“For gun owners, the problem is [the Google search engine] is widely used to find products, articles or information gun owners are interested in,” said a statement published by the retailer.
However, at the same time, “Google is actively engaged in making sure you don’t see advertisers that just might have that particular product or information you wanted – if you’re a gun-related business that is,” the retailer said. “They do this by denying ad space to gun-related businesses – no matter what your ad may actually say.”
Contacted for comment by WorldNetDaily, the owner of the business requested anonymity. But he said he believes Google’s policy is akin to economic racism.
Google refused to sell the retailer ads hawking night-vision goggles, dehydrated storable foods and parts for pistols. All three ads were placed March 7; by the next day, the retailer said the search engine’s ad staff had rejected all of them.
Google sells what it calls “AdWords” – keywords that an advertiser purchases, so when a Web surfer searches for subjects related to those specific words, the advertiser’s ad pops up on the right side of the Google search page.
A retailer “could be selling ice cream on [its] website – but if [that site] also has any gun- or knife-related products, your AdWords and AdWords Select ads for ‘ICE CREAM’ will be refused by Google. That in a nutshell is exactly what happened to us,” the retail owner said.
David Krane, a spokesman for Google, said the website’s ad policy “clearly states” that the company refuses ads from firearms dealers, as well as ads for liquor, tobacco and a few other products.
When questioned specifically about pornography sites, though, Krane said, “We actually do accept those ads.”
WND found that Google also accepts ads from online gambling sites.
“We have a fairly large group of folks representing our advertising staff and executive management team that come up with these policies,” he said, acknowledging the company’s refusal to sell to Bowman’s specifically – even if Bowman’s limited its ads strictly to its freeze-dried food.
“The problem we have is not with the dehydrated food, but when you link back to the food, the same site also sells knives” and other weapons-related gear.
When asked to qualify Google’s policy of accepting porn ads but refusing those for guns and “vices,” Krane fell back on the First Amendment.
“[The company] believes strongly in freedom of expression. Therefore, we offer broad access to all ranges of content across the Web without censoring our results,” he said.
Indeed, in a sample search using the keywords “gun,” “gun control” and “gun rights,” the Google search engine returned thousands of “hits” – but no “AdWords” advertisements.
“At the same time, we do reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to advertising accepted on our site, which is very clearly noted in the terms and conditions of our advertising policy,” Krane said.
According to the online “terms and conditions” Google posts for prospective advertisers, however, there is no language that specifically addresses the items the company bans. And Krane did not return a follow-up phone call seeking the link to the company’s complete ad policy.
What is posted online regarding banned items is vague; it simply states that advertisers must “agree not to use the Google Web Site or Partner Sites … to advertise substances, services, products or materials that are illegal or violate Google’s Ad Policy, as it may be revised from time to time.”
There is no link to the full “Ad Policy,” however.
In a separate Google advertising section – for premium sponsorships – Google says: “All advertisements are subject to Google’s approval. Google reserves the right to reject any advertisement, Insertion Order, or URL link, at any time, for any reason whatsoever (including, but not limited to, belief by Google that any placement thereof may subject Google to criminal or civil liability).” An Adobe .pdf file on the same webpage contains the very same language.
Other Web search engines are equally hazy.
Yahoo, the most-visited search engine, doesn’t publish online an advertising “terms and conditions” statement.
Lycos, the second-most popular search engine, says it “reserves the right, without liability, to reject, omit or exclude any advertisement or to reject or terminate any links, buttons, boxes or banners for any reason at any time, with or without notice to the advertiser/agency, and whether or not such advertisement, link, button, box or banner was previously acknowledged, accepted, or published.”
Ray Whedon, acting on behalf of Bowman’s Brigade, has initiated a petition drive to get Google to change its “no guns allowed” ad policy.
“Many of us believe this is discrimination upon individuals, businesses and organizations, an assault on the First and Second Ammendment rights of all Americans, a deliberate singling out of a specific target group of individuals, businesses and organizations which are the forerunning champions of the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution,” the petition states.
“Furthermore, we believe that such actions by these politically correct policies being forced upon every American by businesses, companies, corporations, organizations and all levels of the state and federal government are leading to the continued destruction of the Constitution of the United States, the downfall and moral degeneration of our society and culture, and are an utter disregard for the millions of individuals who fought for our freedom we all enjoy and cherish,” it says.
Krane maintains that Google’s decision was not based on politics.
“We remain completely removed from any opinions and political preferences one way or the other when we determine our advertising policies,” he said.
Bowman’s owner disagrees.
“That’s doublespeak,” he said. “[The Google decision] is a direct, focused effort that is deliberately excluding gun-related businesses. If it wasn’t about politics, the food ads would have run.”
According to a statement issued Tuesday by Gun Industry Watch, a noted gun-control group, H & R Block’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “came as a result of widespread protests spearheaded by the Alliance for Justice’s Gun Industry Watch, and supported by the Million Mom March united with the Brady Campaign and the Mid-Atlantic Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.”
The tax preparation service had entered into an agreement with a marketing company called Memberdrive to market its products and services to NRA members, said the alliance.
However, the agreement also provided for royalties paid by H&R Block, through Memberdrive, to the NRA. According to an H&R Block advertisement that ran in the March issue of America’s First Freedom, the NRA’s magazine, H&R Block “will make a contribution to the NRA for every Member who becomes a new customer,” the group said.
The NRA and H&R Block could not be reached immediately for comment.
“Let this send a loud message to other corporate partners of the NRA. If you support the NRA, we will work to make sure that your employees, customers and all of your stakeholders know that you support an extremist gun lobby that is out of step with mainstream America,” said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron.
Critics of the anti-gun lobby point out that support for guns is growing, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks. They point to 44 states that now have concealed-carry laws, with half of those considering easing current gun restrictions in current legislative sessions.
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