There has been surprisingly little reaction to The Examiner’s revelation last week that Google censored two political adscritical of MoveOn.org. Nothing is so fundamental in a republican democracy as freedom of speech and thought, yet the reaction among folks who normally go ballistic over the slightest restraint on political speech is strangely mute.
Here are the facts: Lance Dutson, a Maine blogger working for the re-election campaign of Sen. Susan Collins, placed two political ads on Google on behalf of the Maine Republican.
The pro-Collins ads were critical of MoveOn.org’s recent “General Betray Us” insertion in The New York Times and claimed MoveOn.org was targeting Collins for defeat. Shortly thereafter, the ads disappeared, and Dutson was told by a Google representative that they were removed because they violated MoveOn.org’s trademark.
Then last week, The Examiner published an Op-Ed by Robert Cox, a member of the newspaper’s blogger board, that questioned why Google would suppress an ad at the apparent request of MoveOn.org, yet allow ads critical of corporations such as ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart and Microsoft. The Cox Op-Ed was linked to by the Drudge Report, Instapundit, Slashdot and Michelle Malkin among online media, and by Fox News on cable.
Google claims its policy is to stay out of trademark disputes by removing any ad that is judged by the trademark holder to be a violation. Aside from questions about ideological bias or inconsistency in how Google enforces its policy, a more fundamental issue is at stake here — enabling abuse of a commercial trademark as a means of squelching dissident political speech.
On its face, a policy that allows censorship of political speech critical of the trademark holder is a violation of the First Amendment. If Google maintains this policy, it will be handing a powerful tool for crushing dissent not only to political groups such as MoveOn.org but to every corporation with a trademarked name.
Where are the big guns of the left side of the blogosphere? Perhaps we missed it, but we can find nothing about this controversy on Daily Kos, Eschaton or Talking Points Memo. One has to wonder if they aren’t upset because it’s a moderate Republican targeted by the Netroots for defeat who is being suppressed.
Or perhaps there is fear of angering the Internet giant.
As for the righties, how long before they realize protecting freedom of speech must always be a top priority for them because many of their opponents have little hesitation about using any means necessary to silence them.