By Scott Tibbs, February 15, 2004
Google and CBS have the right to reject ads
Google, a Linux-based search engine, has to some extent become the search engine. I hear people say they "googled" for something almost as often as I hear them say they they did a web search. For this reason, I understand why Oceana was unhappy when Google removed an advertisement from Oceana criticizing Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
We saw a similar controversy when CBS decided not to accept an advertisement from MoveOn.org criticizing President Bush. MoveOn.org was frustrated because the Super Bowl is the most watched television event of the year, and was an opportunity to get their message across to millions.
Oceana and MoveOn.org have claimed Google and CBS were practicing "censorship". Yes, this is true. As private corporations, Google and CBS have the right to decide what it does and does not put on its Web site or the airwaves they broadcast.
That having been said, should CBS and Google have run the ads from MoveOn.org and Oceana, respectively?
I watched the MoveOn.org ad and thought it was in good taste, light years better than the "crotch-biting" beer ad. I think it was somewhat silly for CBS to not run the ad, but, again, it is their decision. As for Google, their stated policy is not to run "negative" ads.
Google and CBS deciding to discontinue running a political advertisement is much less of a concern than government censorship of free speech. MoveOn.org and Oceana can go elsewhere to place their ads. Furthermore, neither message was silenced. The controversy over the MoveOn.org ad has attracted quite a bit of media attention, and the Oceana controversy is beginning to attract attention as well. The free market and the marketplace of ideas work well together.