Google: Vote No on Political Attack Ads!

Super Tuesday is three days behind us, and we only have 270 days until Election Day on November 4th.

So, the negative personal attack ads we hear on TV and the radio day-in and day-out have just become part of the norm. But when it comes to search engine marketing, Google AdWords put its SEM foot down and said: Vote No on Online Political Personal Attack Ads!

In a January 24th post on Google’s Public Policy blog, Peter Greenberger stated:

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.

In other words, John McCain can get away with this:

But John Doe from Your Town, USA would not get away with this:

Vote John Doe
Joe Shmoe’s Affair Leads to Your Town, USA Turmoil. Vote John Doe Today!
JohnDoe.com

But could this be a violation of freedom of speech or expression?

A valid comment was made on Greenberger’s blog post concerning the tax dollar usage of a former republican presidential candidate. Allegedly, the candidate used tax dollars to meet with his mistress. I think we can safely say tax payers don’t want their elected officials to use tax money to hang out with their mistresses. But what if a competitor wanted to run an ad attacking this former presidential candidate?

He (allegedly) used tax dollars (public) to visit his mistress (personal). It leads to quite a gray area.

I must admit, being free from the “He Said, She Said” of political advertising is a breath of fresh air, but at what cost? Should Google Adwords set such restrictions when it can ultimately lead to serious gray areas? I’m on the fence with this one.

Attack ads, to me, don’t tell me what I want to know, which are what issues and values the candidate holds dear. On the other hand, I would have a problem if my presidential hopeful was using tax money to rendezvous with his gal pal / her boy toy.

I think Google had the best intentions with this one, but ultimately gray areas will start popping up and attack ads just may find their way into Google’s sponsored links.