Two dozen Congressional Republicans demand Google reinstate Live Action's 'life-saving' advertisements
WASHINGTON (September 2, 2011) — A bipartisan group of twenty-two Senators and forty-three Representatives wrote a letter to Google CEO Larry Page today calling on Google to reinstate the right of free speech to its image, by lifting its restriction on numerous ads placed by anti-abortion activist organization Live Action in the past year.
“Google has responded to public calls for transparency in the way it conducts its business by publishing and posting its policies online on its blog. Yet, these ad policies are being violated on a systemic basis by a company that controls millions of ad placements for large businesses and organizations,” wrote the legislators in the letter. “During the past year, Live Action has contracted with leading advertising agencies to place ads on Google and is openly selling its services for ads on Google for a fee. These ads have gone unsold through Google’s automated selling auction because they are critical of abortions.”
“As I have said before, these ads are in no way misleading. Nevertheless, Google has refused to place these ads on its sites and has declined to send the individuals who request to place these ads to appropriate department or business offices for further review or clarification,” the letter continues. “But according to Google, there’s no defense for restricting speech on the Internet. This is fundamentally inconsistent with its own stated policies.”
“By censoring and refusing to place these ads in its programs, Google has violated these Americans’ constitutional rights to free speech. This is not about freedom of speech versus freedom from speech; it’s about the First Amendment, which bars the government from treating any speech differently than another,” the letter concludes.
A representative from Live Action made the ad request at Google’s D.C. offices to further explain the importance of these ads:
“Live Action International released a Life Saving Awareness Video to the online community over a year ago. Please consider airing this important content over your social media platforms and other news sources. We are pleased that you and your company support us.”
“Regrettably, that is no longer the case as Google has censored this content and refused to run the ads and asked us to remove the ads that our subscribers have sent us to run on your website,” the representatives responded. “These ads are in no way misleading. They are the advertisements for ads by Live Action. However, if you could please reconsider, we will stand by our clients and advertise on your site.”
“These policies should allow ads on Live Action that are critical of abortion in all respects,” the letter states. “Pro-abortion advocates have also done exactly that by putting videos on our site showing inaccurate information. In addition, other prominent providers of birth control and reproductive health information have also advertised on Live Action. By limiting access to this most important tool for those seeking information about abortion, Google is hurting women’s health and lives in America.”
The ad requests had been placed on Google’s affiliated sites ad network ads.google.com, including Gmail, YouTube, and Google Groups.
Live Action has also addressed the policy on Google-owned sites in a larger public letter last month , asking Google to address the issue and restore these ads. The letter cited public requests, the American Civil Liberties Union, Supreme Court cases such as Sullivan v. Alaska, and a blog entry published by Google’s most senior executives with the title “The Search Engine Revolution Will Make Google Politically Ridiculous.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to the public comments and created an online petition .
The authors of the letter include Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Chris Coons (D-DE), and Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), Justin Amash (R-MI), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Thomas Garrett (R-NC), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Steve King (R-IA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Paul Gosar (R-AZ