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Oceana Fights Back Against Google Ban

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-02-23

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Google, one of the Internet's leading information portals, has silenced two advertisements placed by Oceana, a company trying to save our world's oceans.

It all started innocently enough.

Oceana, a non-profit organization devoted to protecting and restoring the oceans, bought two advertisements on Google.

The advertisements were intended to bring an anti-pollution message to the public.

One of the ads stated simply: "Help us protect the world's oceans. Join the fight!"

The other specifically focused on an effort to stop cruise pollution, citing Royal Caribbean as a prime offender.

Just days later, Google pulled both advertisements, refusing to support "language advocating against Royal Caribbean," a popular cruise vacation company.

"This is outrageous," said Oceana's Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpless. "For this company to claim to promote freedom of expression and yet deny us the right to effectively advocate against pollution is blatant hypocrisy. The question that leaves us with is why they chose to blunt our right to express ourselves if not from cruise industry pressure."

Further fueling the fire, Google's public guidelines make no mention of any such rule and a Google search showed advertisements by similar groups advocating against other popular companies, including Disney and Nike.

The guidelines do state that Google reserves the right to editorial descretion over its AdWords program.

"To exercise editorial discretion is one thing, but to stifle a message that the public needs and deserves to hear based on some secret criterion is quite another," said Sharpless.

"Google has no qualms running a series of ads promoting low fares and exotic getaways on Royal Caribbean's behalf. They also don't seem to have a problem running countless ads for pornography, but apparently cleaning up the oceans crosses their line."

This week Oceana started a new campaign asking people to email Google in an attempt to get the advertisements reinstated. The campaign reads:

"Oceana recently bought two ads with Google for its Web sites oceana.org and StopCruisePollution.com. Only two days after the ads started running, Google shut them down. Why? They tell us that they will not run any ad containing or linking to a Web site with "language critical of Royal Caribbean" or "the cruise industry"! Never mind that none of their written policies include such a rule, and only one of the two canceled ads even mentions Royal Caribbean in the first place. Why did Google stop our ads from running? Send an e-mail to them asking them why saving the oceans is too hot of an issue for Google to handle!"

It should be noted that Google is not the only information provider to stifle the advertisements. PR Newswire censored a press release by Oceana citing Royal Caribbean's poor environmental standards.

"PR Newswire, like Google, prides and advertises itself as an institution that gets relevant information to those who need it," said Dana DuBose, Oceana's Cruise Pollution Campaign Director.

"The news release in question was no different in tone, attribution, or content, than several that we have distributed through PR Newswire in the past. I think it's time to start asking some serious questions about whether PR Newswire and Google are caving to the demands of big marketers like the cruise industry."

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