Best of 2007: MoveOn.org giveth
Originally posted on October 15, 2007.
But does it then taketh away? Wired reports:
The left-leaning political advocacy group, MoveOn.org, is backing down in a flap over the use of its name in online advertisements, permitting an influential Republican senator to criticize the organization in a reelection ad on Google’s search engine.”We don’t want to support a policy that denies people freedom of expression,” says Jennifer Lindenauer, MoveOn.org’s communications director.
MoveOn has withdrawn its instruction to Google not to run ads utilizing its trademark, MOVEON.ORG.
That certainly sounds like the right thing to do if you’re “progressive,” or even if you’re not. In the article, Lindenauer says that the concern was not with the content of critical advertising, but with potential fraud — unauthorized advertisers raising funds in MoveOn’s name.
Google remains unmoved, not surprisingly (U/D: “This doesn’t get Google off the hook”); its policy is still stuck at “maximum protection for Google,” ostensibly at the cost (to Google) of advertising dollars, in exchange (for Google) for a reduced exposure to involvement in lawsuits. The cost to third parties and to the public of this policy, which treats any use of a trademark as a potentially actionable trademark use, is incalculable — but that is not Google’s problem.
Advice to all public figures and organizations seeking to avoid criticism via Google advertising: Claim trademark in your name! (So? Is Google keyword advertising the only channel by which people can broadcast their opinions about public issues? — ed. No, but it’s an important enough medium that one of the most dominant companies in the world is built on it!)
One more thing: MoveOn left the door open, perhaps not intentionally, to slamming it right back closed again. Here’s what it told Wired:
“When we became aware of all the controversy around it, we opted out,” Lindenauer says. “Of course we support free speech, and the right of anyone to parody us, but what we do care about is protecting our members — we don’t want anyone using our name or logo in a way that could harm our members and mission.”
That’s a “yeah but” you can drive a Hummer through. Let’s see what happens down the road. We won’t be moving on so fast on this.