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Google Ads Are a Free Speech Issue

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the free-as-in-not-speaking dept.

Censorship 148

WebHostingGuy writes "A US Federal Court recently ruled that ads displayed by search engines are protected as free speech. In the case at issue, Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft were sued by an individual demanding under the 14th Amendment that the search engines display his advertisements concerning fraud in North Carolina. The Court flatly stated that the search engines were exercising their First Amendment right of free speech in deciding what ads they want to display."

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148 comments

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heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18179978)

But, but...! (*waits for someone to whine about discrimination*)

So does this mean (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181370)

So does this mean that using an adblocker is censorship...
*ducks*

Re:So does this mean (1)

ATMD (986401) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181700)

No, it's more like a big pair of woolly earmuffs. Or double glazing.

Free Speech?? (1)

stanmann (602645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18179988)

Seems to me it would have been association, not speech, but I am not a Constitutional lawyer.

Re:Free Speech?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180048)

Yes, clearly you are not a Constitutional lawyer. Or any kind of lawyer.

Re:Free Speech?? (3, Insightful)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180536)

Well think of it this way:

If you were working in a shop, and someone walked in, picked up a coke, and walked to the counter to buy it, you'd serve him, right? But you'd still have the right not to serve him, if he's being anti-social or smoking in your shop or something. Something *you* don't agree with.

The right to free speech is also the right to not say something if you don't beleive what you're saying. This works on the same basis. It may be discriminating against a group, but that group exists because of human thought, not something you're born with. You can't just set up an anti-walmart group (or whatever) and expect everyone to bow to your right to free speech if it damages theirs.

Re:Free Speech?? (2, Interesting)

caseydk (203763) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181718)

If you were working in a shop, and someone walked in, picked up a coke, and walked to the counter to buy it, you'd serve him, right? But you'd still have the right not to serve him, if he's being anti-social or smoking in your shop or something. Something *you* don't agree with.

Actually, this right has been stripped from us in most circumstances. If you choose not to serve someone, you're going to get sued for discrimination based on whatever...

Personally, I think anyone should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason as long as the reasons are publicly posted. If you don't want to serve a black man, I'll call you an idiot but you should be able choose. If you don't want to serve a Christian, I'll call you an idiot but you should be able to choose.

I'm hoping that someday an active Klansman applies for a job with the NAACP. Can you imagine the fight? Which side would the ACLU take? Which side would the Press take?

Negitive Free Speech Rights (5, Informative)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180578)

This area of law is usually described as the "negative right to free speech"; namely, the right not to be forced to speak.

For example, in Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977), the Supreme Court overturned New Hampshire's motor vehicle regulation that required motorists to display license plates declaring "Live Free or Die". The court held that a person can not be forced by the government to display an ideological message on his private property. In West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624
(1943), the Supreme Court held that students did not have to recite the pledge of allegiance, since the government could not force a student to declare a belief.

Lastly, a private individual is not subject to the requirements of the 1st Amendment. A private individual is not the government. While the government can't force me to say anything, I might take on contractual obligations to make statements. However, if I fail to make those statements, a court would not force me to make those statements. It would hold me liable for money damages, unless it could find a very compelling reason to make me speak.

Re:Free Speech?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181270)

Why the hell do you have to be a lawyer to understand the Constitution? Isn't it suppose to be a document by the people, of the people, for the people?

Free Speech? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18179994)

The fact that Google, M$, and Yahoo! have free speech rights under the first amendment is the source of the problem.

Re:Free Speech? (4, Insightful)

malchus842 (741252) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180656)

The fact that Google, M$, and Yahoo! have free speech rights under the first amendment is the source of the problem.

Then I guess you'll be really upset to learn that they have even MORE rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

See that little "of the press" part? They can publish (or not publish) what they like - so long as they aren't violating the law. Editorial decisions have significant protections under the US Constitution.

Re:Free Speech? (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181472)

The fact that Google, M$, and Yahoo! have free speech rights under the first amendment is the source of the problem.

Then I guess you'll be really upset to learn that they have even MORE rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

See that little "of the press" part? They can publish (or not publish) what they like - so long as they aren't violating the law. Editorial decisions have significant protections under the US Constitution.

Actually, they can publish or not publish whatever they want, and congress is not allowed to make it illegal. The way you worded it is almost a catch-22. Of course, congress had passed many laws that do abridge those freedoms, but they are largely tolerated as being reasonable. (libel and slander laws, copyright, etc.)

Get your facts straight. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180948)

I assume you are a part of the "Companies should not be people!!" crowd that has been frequenting Slashdot?

Let me shed a bit of light on the obvious misunderstanding. Companies are not regarded as people. If they would, there would not exist separate laws for companies. The last time I checked, companies had significantly fewer rights when making purchases, and I can't see any requirements for private individuals to publish audited accounts of their lives. Per definition and logic, claiming that companies are regarded as equal to people is therefore plainly and irrefutably false. It is, again, completely incorrect and ignorant to claim that companies are by law considered to be in all ways equivalent of people.

What is however completely correct is to say that companies are considered to be 'legal persons', a special type of person (that is, again, not equal to a person on the street, in case you missed it the first time) for whom there exist separate laws. The rights of the 'legal person' does however have some significant overlaps with that of actual persons. This includes, for example, the right to not have published lies about them. That's a right individuals have, and a right companies have.

You would probably argue that it's a right companies should have - I would argue it's absolutely, by pure moral standards, equally right. Should people have a right to make placards of you with "Pedophile!" under and staple across town? You would say not. What if five people band together to do business, and call themselves a trade name, does that make it _morally acceptable_ for people to publish "This company trades in child sex!" placards about their _legal person_? Obviously not. The rights that overlap between legal persons and actual persons are for a large part very morally justifiable.

In short,

1. Companies were never considered "equal to individuals".

2. They do however have a significant overlap in rights and obligations with actual people. The difference is largely that companies have significantly less rights and more obligations.

3. The rights that overlap are, in my view, completely morally justifiable. Including the right to free speech, and the right not to have lies (incorrect facts, not opinions) published about you.

You are naturally free to disagree, but rather than the current mindless repeating scattershot of "companies are obviously not people and shouldn't be, that is the source of all our problems", please phrase your arguments in terms of specific rights that you feel companies should not be allowed from a moral perspective and the reasons for and against, bearing in mind that you still feel those rights are very important for individuals.

Re:Get your facts straight. (3, Interesting)

slofstra (905666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181346)

Interesting and insightful response. Glad you posted it; this thread has been well worth reading. One issue I do have with Google, Yahoo, et al. is that they are quick to assert their 'editorial' rights when they refuse an advertiser (and I agree that not only should they have the right, but that they should exercise it). However, when they do publish something egregious - be it child porn, whatever, they are as quick to assert that they - like a telephone company - have no control of what passes through their search engine. There's an inconsistency between their advertising and content policy that I'm not totally comfortable with. I can see why each exists, but is this for the best?

Re:Free Speech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180980)

Well - they should have free speech rights, since they have their own social security numbers and are their own entity.

I would be all for taking away their 'free speech rights' if you agree to take away the double taxation that occurs in corporations.

Re:Free Speech? (1)

aesova (958795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181446)

I assume that this is sarcasm of some sort, but considering for moment that it might not be: AC, Do you propose instead that Google, Microsoft, et al, _not_ have free speech rights, and be _required_ to print, publish, display, etc. anything that a paying customer demands of them? Should this lack of a right to free speech extend beyond websites into other forms of publication? If I publish a novel, should I be required to fill it with ads if someone is willing to pay for it? Essentially, this could be interpreted as saying that a company (which could be 1 person or 1,000,000 people) should not have rights that extend beyond the right of a person or organization with the money to pay for an offered service, i.e. the right to _consume_ trumps the right to speech, or the lack thereof. I'm not sure I can follow this logic.

Re:Free Speech? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181802)

and should a web advertiser be allowed to censor an ad which is paid for? Google et. al. are making their money from advertising. I believe the analogy to a newspaper is appropriate, not the analogy to a novel.

How often do newspapers censor paid ads?

If internet businesses had developed a business model different from TV and newspapers, such as novels you normally buy without paid advertising, I might feel differently, but that's the business model that their geniuses have adopted, and which we fools support.

(hence the need for spam blockers, adblocker and RIP)

Human Rights (5, Funny)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180026)

Good to see the human rights of search engines being protected.

Ah, wait...

Re:Human Rights (4, Funny)

ack154 (591432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180084)

Think of the search engine's children!

Re:Human Rights (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181414)

Think of how the search engines got children!

Ewww...

Now I have an image in my head of Borg Bill Gates and the Google logo (which has just a few too many holes).

Re:Human Rights (1, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181796)

Think! (fixed it for you.)

Re:Human Rights (2, Funny)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180736)

Yeah. They're way more important that the human rights of humans. Money doesn't talk. It swears.

Re:Human Rights (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181210)

Corporations are merely groups of people associated in order to get something accomplished. They may or may not be for-profit, publicly traded, etc. If you treat the corporation differently a group of people you are restricting the rights of people, interfering with property rights, and so on. A corporation is NOT a disembodied entity separate from the people that participate in its operation.

Re:Human Rights (1)

TheCoelacanth (1069408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182026)

The idea behind a corporation is that you sacrifice some personal rights in what the corporation can do in order to avoid liability for what the corporation does. If you own stock in a corporation you are only liable to the extent that you have invested, you won't go to jail for something it does.

Re:Human Rights (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182178)

If you own stock in a corporation you are only liable to the extent that you have invested, you won't go to jail for something it does.
And this makes perfect sense. Why should I go to jail because I invested money in a company, and some of the people employed by it do something illegal? I should be held accountable for my own actions, not for somebody else's.

Re:Human Rights (2, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180754)

I know you're trying to be funny, but I see this all the time about how, "duh, how can a corporation have rights"?

Individuals working in the service of that corporation have free speech rights, correct? So every time you see "Google's free speech rights", replace it with "the free speech rights of all individuals working for Google". Now, what's the problem?

Remember, a forest *is* just a bunch of trees.

Re:Human Rights (1)

rfc1394 (155777) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181258)

I know you're trying to be funny, but I see this all the time about how, "duh, how can a corporation have rights"?

Uh, for your information, Corporations do have rights. Ever since the 19th century when the courts ruled that a corporation is entitled to the same rights as a person.

Re:Human Rights (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181338)

What does that have to do with my post? I was explaining the contradiction in claiming that humans but not corporations should have rights, not the current legal status of either.

Re:Human Rights (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181930)

Corporations do not need special rights over and above those of the individuals comprising the corporation. The individuals already have their rights, why does the group need additional rights? That's the way it stands now, and I don't think it makes sense.

Re:Human Rights (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182246)

And I can understand why people would object to "special rights over and above those of the individuals comprising the corporation", but when the right in question really is equivalently expressible as the rights of individuals (as seems to be the case with free speech), it seems like a case of "much ado about nothing", to use a cliche that needs to die.

Re:Human Rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181294)

Individuals working in the service of that corporation have free speech rights, correct? So every time you see "Google's free speech rights", replace it with "the free speech rights of all individuals working for Google".

Actually, in this case, it would be the free speech rights of the owners of google.

Re:Human Rights (1)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181776)

The problem is that you're taking a fundamental freedom and making it into a tradeable commodity.

Or in more detail, the principle of free speech has two purposes; to make sure that good ideas or important bits of information don't end up getting supressed, and more to the point, simply to allow people to speak their minds, because society exists for the benefit of individuals, and people feel bad if they can't say what they think.

Allowing "free speech" to corporations achieves neither of these. This isn't mathematics, the rules and principles we devise to allow our society to work are not proven theorems which are effective in any conceivable set of circumstances, (which is what you'd need to perform your kind of reasoning on it). They are general rules which work as long as the situation is similar enough to the ones it was designed for. That is why, for example, we have the principle of "do not murder", but we allow abortion in many cases and are increasingly recognising that it shouldn't be applied in certain cases of euthanasia. If a corporation can't say certain things, none of the individuals working for it will feel bad because they can't say what the corporation "thinks" (or rather, what it's most profitable for the corporation to say).

Free speech is based on the assumption that the speaker has feelings. Corporations do not have feelings. That is why allowing the principle of free speech to apply to corporations is silly.

Re:Human Rights (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182078)

Or in more detail, the principle of free speech has two purposes; to make sure that good ideas or important bits of information don't end up getting supressed, and more to the point, simply to allow people to speak their minds, because society exists for the benefit of individuals, and people feel bad if they can't say what they think.

That may be *your* reason for supporting free speech, but it isn't "the" reason.

If a corporation can't say certain things, none of the individuals working for it will feel bad because they can't say what the corporation "thinks" (or rather, what it's most profitable for the corporation to say).

Forest, trees, again.

If an individual acting in service of a corporation is prohitbited from saying something because "corporations don't have rights", he certainly *will* feel bad, because he will not be able to earn income in that particular way.

Free speech is based on the assumption that the speaker has feelings.

No, it only assumes someone wants some information communicated. This is true whether a "corporation" is speaking, or an individual.

Who cares? (5, Insightful)

babbling (952366) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180036)

The outcome of this case should've been obvious from the very beginning. Of course Google, Yahoo, Microsoft don't have to display his ads. It might be in their interests to display them since he will pay them for it, but why should they have to? He's still allowed to spread his information elsewhere.

"Wahh wahh... Google/Yahoo/Microsoft won't display the ads I want them to."

Re:Who cares? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180242)

It's the same as if someone wanted to put up something on a billboard or on the side of a bus -- the company that owns that space is not required to put up something just because you have the money and you want them to. The major search engines don't want any part of this; that doesn't mean he can't start his own web site or find some other place that will take his material and his money. As it said in the article, this guy's a whiner.

Re:Who cares? (0, Troll)

Penguinoflight (517245) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180588)

No, you can't really deny someone advertisement based on whim. This court is obviously out of touch with the real world (and maybe the constitution too). This really couldn't be any less of a free speech issue.

Re:Who cares? (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180618)

Why can't you deny it? Constitutionally, you can't force it, since you're forcing association then, a violation of the First Amendment.

Re:Who cares? (2, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180660)

On what basis do you make this claim? In the general case, businesses have the right to deny service to anyone they please. Which exception prevents them from doing that here?

Re:Who cares? (3, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180938)

No, you can't really deny someone advertisement based on whim.


Let me pile on with the others who have said, yes you can. There are numerous cases where anti-abortion groups wanted to run ads on television showing dead fetuses and such but were denied by the stations in question. The groups claimed discrimination and other things but the courts consistently have held that television stations and such do not have to run the ads.

Here are cases involving billboard companies refusing to run ads because of their content:

North Georgia [accessnorthga.com]
Crawford Texas [salon.com]
Hollywood [msn.com]
Times Square [cnn.com]

I know for a fact that Lamar Advertising refused to run ads in my area from anti-Bush people during the last campaign.

Here's a story from last year (2006) when CBS refused to run two ads during the Super Bowl. One was for PETA and the other was anti-Bush. Link [commondreams.org]

So yes, you can deny someone advertisement on a whim just like a restaurant has the right to refuse someone service for any reason they so choose.

Re:Who cares? (1, Redundant)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181012)

Unless it's on a fairly narrow basis (race, sex) any business has the right to deny service to you.

Re:Who cares? (3, Informative)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181306)

No, you can't really deny someone advertisement based on whim.

If you don't like the content, yes you can.

Private entities are generally able to discrimate for pretty much any reason, so long as the reason is directly related to the transaction at hand. Theaters can refuse to hire an actor based on skin color. Churches can fire a priest for changing his religion. Gyms can turn away paraplegic clients. Publishers can reject content they simply don't like.

The corellation must be direct, however. Theaters can't fire an actor for changing religion, gyms can't turn away clients based on race, and churchs can't discriminate over paraplegy.

Moo (0, Troll)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180060)

This whole case is troublesome. Something just doesn't add up right.

How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertising (1, Troll)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180070)

Surely there has to be some distinction between 'Free Speech' and blatantly lying in advertising (what we in the UK call false advertising).

Is there an equivalent rule in the US, or can any company invent any old rubbish about their product and have the lies protected by 'Free Speech'? Obviously there's more to this case than that, but isn't the judge setting a dangerous precedent?

Get ready for 'there's no such thing as Climate Change' adverts sponsored by Smogmaker Industries, followed by: 'Of course smoking is good for you!'

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (3, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180236)

Is there an equivalent rule in the US, or can any company invent any old rubbish about their product and have the lies protected by 'Free Speech'?


No, we pretty much have the same rule as you do but since it's rarely enforced, people like Kevin Trudeau can continue to peddle crap which claims to 'cure' dieting even though by claiming such, he is required to submit his products for testing to verify their claims. Since you're not from the U.S., any product which claims to cure an affliction must be tested by the FDA to prove it's claims. If, however, you say that the product helps to relieve the symptoms of X, then it's not subject to medical scrutiny. See this FDA page [fda.gov] on how things are supposed to work.

Which he hasn't and never will. The only time the FTC stepped in on his lame ass was when he sold the products themselves. The FTC shut him down based on his infomercials so he adjusted his snakeoil salesmanship to only sell the books which tell you what products to buy. Since his books are protected Free Speech, PROFIT!

See this link [go.com] and this link [salon.com] for what a con artist this guy is and how he's endangering peoples lives with his lies as well an analysis by a doctor [infomercialwatch.org] about his claims.

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180460)

The other problem is that weight loss, and "low energy" aren't considered medical issues and therefore you can claim to treat them without all the usual requirements applied when making claims about medical products.

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181406)

See this link [go.com] and this link [salon.com] for what a con artist this guy is and how he's endangering peoples lives with his lies as well an analysis by a doctor [infomercialwatch.org] about his claims.

Con artists/medical quacks are one of the few selection pressures that we have left in our society. This guy helps select against stupidity! We should be protecting his business from completely disappearing so the stupid will buy into his medical claims and remove themselves from the general population.

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (1)

wpegden (931091) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181452)

An exception to FDA rules are a homeopathic medicines [homeowatch.org] , which are subject to essentially no regulation so long as they are intended to treat "minor" conditions. Homeopathic medicines are the ones where you dilute as much as possible some "agent" that would be thought to cause a similar condition. So, for example, for insomnia, you take a pill that contains super-diluted coffee. No, I'm not making this shit up, go to your nearest whole foods and check at the homeopathic medicine section. On the back of the box (or tube or whatever) it will say ACTIVE INGREDIENT: give indications, and will nowhere say something like "these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA" (which they haven't).

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (2, Interesting)

Southpaw018 (793465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180306)

Yes, there is. In fact, there was just a big case concerning false advertising a couple months ago. Some of those "magic super pill" weight-loss-in-a-bottle companies were fined massive amounts of money and told to pull their commercials and never show them again.

However, this case isn't about false advertising, it's about search engines refusing to advance one idiot's personal views under the guise of advertising. So the judge is using the First Amendment to reinforce the idea that said engines don't have to run those ads if they don't want to, for any reason they don't want to, as opposed to the idiot's claim that they DID have to because he is entitled to due process in a public forum (which was a frivolous claim anyway, since Google is not a government entity and is not a protected public forum).

Re:How far does 'Free Speech' extend in advertisin (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180992)

Is there an equivalent rule in the US, or can any company invent any old rubbish about their product and have the lies protected by 'Free Speech'?
That's not a free speech issue. That's some sort of fraud issue.

Off topic :: Firehose (0, Offtopic)

Any Web Loco (555458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180082)

Anyone know what the "you are invited to take a drink at the firehose" thing means on the front page?

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (2, Funny)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180120)

Yes, I do.

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180156)

I think it means something like this [ornl.gov]

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (4, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180184)

It's a user moderation system for Slashdot story submissions. You're presented with a list of currently submitted stories, and you mod each one up an down depending on your personal opinion. Submissions are then ranked on some kind of colour system, with red submissions being the higest rated, and purple or black the lowest. You can also submit tags for consideration I believe. Presumably this aids the editors in the selection process, preventing dupes and such like.

To descend even further offtopic, I'd like to publically apologise to the Slashdot Editor for all the flack they've gotten from me over the quality of stories on the front page. The submissions are as a rule really quite bad. Not awful, though there are the occassional moronic posts and even a few spam ads. The majority of submissions just, aren't very good.

Long rambling paragraphs filled with personal diatribe and hyperbole. Spelling mistakes. Raw urls instead of anchor tags. Summaries that are too long, too short, incoherant, undescriptive or misleading. Headlines without any capitalisation, in the wrong section or with the wrong topic. Duplicated and resent submissions. Laborious submitted journals. Submissions consisting of nothing but a bookmark, or one solitary link with "check this out" on it. Most of the good submissions coming from the same authors again and again.

I would estimate, that of the filtered submissions, those above the equivilant of a moderation of 1, about 1 in 15 could be considered as a potential candidate for the front page. 90%+ of my votes so far have been negative. It's really that bad in there folks. Cut the eds a little slack when the next dupe comes around. Well, not too much slack.

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (2, Interesting)

Bob54321 (911744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180384)

I think the firehose is working very well at filtering dupes - a quick look found no "dupe" in the tags for the last few days. When was the last time that happened?

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (1)

Any Web Loco (555458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180776)

Nice one - thanks very much for explaining. I hadn't seen it before & was curious.

Sounds like Digg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180904)

The majority of submissions just, aren't very good. Long rambling paragraphs filled with personal diatribe and hyperbole. Spelling mistakes. Raw urls instead of anchor tags. Summaries that are too long, too short, incoherant, undescriptive or misleading. Headlines without any capitalisation, in the wrong section or with the wrong topic. Duplicated and resent submissions. Laborious submitted journals. Submissions consisting of nothing but a bookmark, or one solitary link with "check this out" on it.

Sounds like a typical front page at Digg.

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (0, Offtopic)

techpawn (969834) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180244)

maybe it's a refrence to UHF [imdb.com] where the kids show would let you drink from the firehose as a prize

Re:Off topic :: Firehose (0, Offtopic)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180260)

Probably a reference to Weird Al's movie, UHF. When the kid finds the marble in the oatmeal, he wins and gets to "drink from the firehose!" *Yaaahhhhhh!!!* He sits on a mechanical horse (like in front of stores) and Stan Spitowski flips it on and blows the kid off the back of the horse.

Awesome movie :)

[John]

Gay Cowboy Neal Reference (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180374)

... definitely a gay Cowboy Neal reference.

This was settled along time ago (5, Interesting)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180140)

There was a case about an enivornmental group suing a power company to put an advertisement in the power company's bills. The court ruled that the power company didn't have to include the advertisement, even at no cost to themselves, because it would force them to either contest what was said in the ad, or implicitly agree with it. I don't see how this is any different, except it involves that internet thingy. Maybe a lawyer looking to make a quick buck?

Re:This was settled along time ago (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180264)

So unless it's _explicitly_ stated otherwise, if a company runs an ad for some product/service on their service/product, it's an implicit endorsement of whatever is stated in the ad? That somehow doesn't seem right.

Re:This was settled along time ago (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180354)

Why not? They are taking the advertiser's money and providing a platform for the message. It may not be reality, but its a sufficient argument for a lawyer to pitch it as a sufficient reason why the power company shouldn't be forced to run the ad.

Re:This was settled along time ago (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180320)

Nope. The plaintiff represented himself (and ain't no lawyer, if he had been he'd have seen from the get go that this would never get off the ground)

Re:This was settled along time ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180778)

There is some difference in including an ad along with the bill and such of a company and showing an ad on a web page that people use as an indexing source of information.

It'd almost be like if a librarian went by and ripped out a card in the card file of a book they did not like in the old pre-computer days.

This... retard (1)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180150)

This... "gentleman" acted like google is public domain and not a private company which it is. If there was any dissenting voice in that courtroom justice would not have been served.

fubck[. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180300)

Talk about bass-ackwards! (0)

whitroth (9367) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180326)

The judge should go read the US Constitution, and what the Founding Fathers wrote about what they were doing. What is *explicitly* meant by "free speech" is freedom of *political* speech, and fraud in NC sounds like just that....

                mark

Re: Not bass-ackwards at all (2, Informative)

Symphony Girl (110627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180486)

His right of free speech is exactly that - the right to speak. There is no corrollary requirement that other people listen, or that they facilitate his his free speech.

Re:Talk about bass-ackwards! (2, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180558)

You have the right to free speech, you don't have the write to force another entity to allow you to use their venue.

Re:Talk about bass-ackwards! (2, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180722)

Exactly. This is why I cannot picket inside a business, but I can do so on the public property just outside their property.

Let's extend this guy's argument a bit. It would seem as though he's suggesting that I should be able to force my local newspaper to run an ad decrying that newspaper. Or that Google could be forced to run an ad for googlesucks.com. It's an absurd suggestion.

Re:Talk about bass-ackwards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180604)

Possibly you should go and read the judges opinion before commenting on it? You might realise quite how irrelevant your post was.

Re:Talk about bass-ackwards! (2, Informative)

CrayDrygu (56003) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180932)

The judge should go read the US Constitution...

Maybe you should take a closer look, yourself. The US Constitution is a list of restrictions on what the government can do. Private entities are not bound by it.

The first amendment only prevents the government from restricting speech. As Google is not a government agency, they are free to restrict any speech they want to, on their property.

The guy who modded you "insightful" should go take a look at it, too.

Re:Talk about bass-ackwards! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181120)

Even more to the point is that free speech means you get to say what you want on your property. This guy was trying to force Google to say what he wanted (i.e. take away Google's right to free speech). The courts rightly decided that Google has a right to free speech, and the Constitution prevents the court from taking it away, and this individual's own right to the same thing does not trump Google's.

I don't think explicitly means what you think ... (1, Informative)

DarrenR114 (6724) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182156)

The First Amendment does not restrict itself to *political speech*. The word "political" is not used anywhere within the U.S. Constitution, much less the First Amendment, therefore there is no "explicit" about it. Perhaps you meant "implicit"? In either case, it *is* clear from the full text of the First Amendment that *all* speech was intended to be covered, not just "political speech".

To whit:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice the mention of religion? Notice the mention of the press? These are not necessarily related to "politics".

Of course, being from Central Florida, I don't expect you to really give much attention to the actual US Constitution - just the Katharine Harris Abridged Edition.

Interesting (4, Interesting)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180346)

The guy has two websites, one complaining about a North Carolina polititian and the other about China. He submits his ads to Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo who either ignore him or refuse to run the ads. Google and Yahoo even delists his sites. He sues all (dropping AOL later) saying the companies are public places (like malls) and he should be allowed free speech. He also says there's a common law contract such as between innkeepers and guests.

The judges take each item and reply that it doesn't apply and dismisses each claim. Google et.al. are not Inns, Shopping Malls are private companies and not subject to free speech laws. He's not a citizen of Delaware so not applicable. No actual damages occurred so no claims are valid.

The only charge left is breach of contract between Google and this guy.

The interesting thing in general that I learned was that judges and lawyers are basically researchers. They take each point and find case law that's already been rendered and reference it in their judgements. The case is actually more interesting reading because of that.

[John]

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180600)

The interesting thing in general that I learned was that judges and lawyers are basically researchers. They take each point and find case law that's already been rendered and reference it in their judgements. The case is actually more interesting reading because of that.


Unless there's no precedent, in which case they shape the law. Also several different interpretations can be made from precedent.

They are not 'basically researchers'.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181552)

They are not 'basically researchers'.

Yeah, lawyers are more like '90% researchers.'

Down With The Big Dogs! (1)

superbus1929 (1069292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180348)

So basically, it's OK for any of us that own a website to allow any kind of advertisers we want, but if you're a large company like Google or Microsoft, you all of a sudden have to be charity? I realize it's fashionable for people to attack THE MAN!!!11, but they have rights in this just like everyone else. Besides, they can't take on another advertiser. They're too busy showing full sized banners for those stupid spyware-filled 3D IM things, among other crap.

Re:Down With The Big Dogs! (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180634)

So basically, it's OK for any of us that own a website to allow any kind of advertisers we want, but if you're a large company like Google or Microsoft, you all of a sudden have to be charity?

Yes.

Capitalist society relies on free competition to compel businesses to adopt an "enlightened self interest" approach - i.e. you are unlikely to turn away business (that will probably end up going to a competitor) without a good reason. This is all fine and dandy until a few big players reach such a dominant position that they have a captive market and can give the finger to competition. Hence, yes, the big dogs need to be held to a different set of standards.

Re:Down With The Big Dogs! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181262)

Capitalist society relies on free competition to compel businesses to adopt an "enlightened self interest" approach - i.e. you are unlikely to turn away business (that will probably end up going to a competitor) without a good reason. This is all fine and dandy until a few big players reach such a dominant position that they have a captive market and can give the finger to competition. Hence, yes, the big dogs need to be held to a different set of standards.

And that is why the FCC gets to regulate the airwaves. But the internet is not in the same situation - there is no effective barrier imposed by Google that would prevent you from setting up your own web site to display your own advertising.

Re:Down With The Big Dogs! (2, Insightful)

superbus1929 (1069292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181858)

How does that apply to this situation? If one company didn't want to take this person on, then the other two could have. Since all three did, yes, that removes his options, but you know what? According to our free trade laws, they all have a right to refuse service. If that's a problem, he can go with a smaller firm. The firm is too small to make a dent? Their fault, not Google's or Yahoo's; Rome and Google weren't built in a day, you know.

To have a capitalist market, you need to have controls, but you can't have it set up so that it's selective; you can't just selectively pick on the big companies because they're big, because then, you're telling smaller companies, essentially, that they don't WANT to get too big, because they'll be cut down to size. You're essentially saying "You all have freedom to do whatever you want... EXCEPT YOU GUYS! You're too successful! >:["

What you are advocating is not Capitalism, because your ideal has more to do with socialism than capitalism. You really can't have it both ways.

n igga (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180372)

interesting (1)

dbmasters (796248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180518)

So Google free speech right prevents this other clown from spreading his right of free speech... I run Google Ads myself, and have looked at MSN's and Yahoo's and as far as I recall they openly state they will refuse ads for any number of reasons...hate sites, slander, adult content, etc, etc, etc...

Re:interesting (2, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180646)

No, that's the problem with how a lot of slashdotters seem to look at these cases.

For anyone who thinks this guy's right to free speech is being violated: nobody is denying this guy his right to free speech, they're only denying him their venue to do it. There's no constitutional right to force someone else to allow you to use their venue to peddle your free speech. Period.

Nobody is telling this guy he can't say the things he's saying, he's got his own websites that prove his free speech is alive and well. He could come up with his own advertising system, or try one of the other ones that, instead of targetting searches, would actually target politically oriented sites. There's no guarantee of anything.

A second point is that if I ad block, I'm not denying advertisers their right to free speech, either. Free speech doesn't mean you have the right to force people to listen.

Re:interesting (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180746)

They aren't preventing him from expressing himself. They are preventing him from expressing himself on their website and in their ads.

I agree in a way... (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180638)

No, they are private businesses. It's almost like the "No shoes, no shirt, no service" sign pointed out repeatedly in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".

However, freedom of speech? Come On! Is it a political opponents free speech to display their damn ad in my front yard now...or wait, would that be ME displaying an ad for say HUSTLER on my front lawn and protected by free speech?

Winner! (2, Funny)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180764)

Do you realize that, by this being published in Slashdot, the guy got more publicity than if he had simply been allowed to publish his ads on the three ad networks?

Google, etc Reject Ads From Marijuana Websites (2, Interesting)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181054)

Google, Overture, and many, if not all, of the other major ad services will NOT accept paid ads, no matter how benign, from cannabis / marijuana information websites.

And since the major paid ad services are basically an oligopoly, that leaves such objectionable websites with little to no alternatives...

Even worse, Google, Yahoo, etc can choose to reject / demote websites they don't agree with in their free search listings too at any time...

Freedom of speech is all well and good in the marketplace, but tends to severely breakdown in an oligopoly environment.

Ron

Re:Google, etc Reject Ads From Marijuana Websites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181268)

Google, Overture, and many, if not all, of the other major ad services will NOT accept paid ads, no matter how benign, from cannabis / marijuana information websites.
Good. There's no such thing as a benign ad for pot, druggie. The world doesn't need your kind.

What will be next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18181106)

A poor soul being sued for installing AdBlock on his Firefox browser because it limits 1st amendment rights of some big corporation?

Anybod else see liability issue with this?? (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181324)

If google now has the freedom of speech argument to reject an advertiser, I'm guessing that they now have the responsibility that comes with that speech. If one of the advertisers they allow does something wrong with their ads, it would now be much more difficult to argue common carrier, etc rights that they shouldn't be held legally responsible as well; since they approve/disapprove of the ads.

As an aside (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181390)

I understand that the search engines are private entities, and can do as they please regarding what they choose to advertise. However, I'm not entirely comfortable with private ownership of the medium used for public discourse. There are opinions which are never heard in America simply because the media is corporate owned and simply refuses to publish said opinions.

I could care less what private entities do with their own networks, but our public discourse should not be limited to a privately-owned medium.

Google and MS are 100% CIA/NSA controlled (0, Troll)

Roark Meets Dent (650119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181438)

This decision is based on the premise that "search engines are not state actors" and thus have the right to choose what ads they will display. If the government were to pick and choose the same way, it would be a free speech violation.

Here's the problem: Google, and all major corporations really ARE government players, they're all bought and controlled by the same New World Order power structure that runs the government. It's just all done under the cloak of secrecy so we, the "ignorant masses," don't figure out what's going on. The truth is that this is the covert means by which America's Constitutional system of government has been dismantled, and by which the whole world is being delivered into the hands of a global dictatorship run by European banking elite.

Re:Google and MS are 100% CIA/NSA controlled (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181784)

On a similar note, someone else was talking about advertising hallucinogenic drugs somewhere up the page.

You and he should have a little chat, maybe fix each other up?

Re:Google and MS are 100% CIA/NSA controlled (1)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181860)

Here's the problem: Google, and all major corporations really ARE government players, they're all bought and controlled by the same New World Order power structure that runs the government. It's just all done under the cloak of secrecy so we, the "ignorant masses," don't figure out what's going on. The truth is that this is the covert means by which America's Constitutional system of government has been dismantled, and by which the whole world is being delivered into the hands of a global dictatorship run by European banking elite.

But if ALL major corporations are in on it, who can I and the other ignorant masses buy our tinfoil hats from?

Right to speak includes right not to carry other's (3, Interesting)

rfc1394 (155777) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181482)

The right to speak includes - outside of some very narrow exceptions - the right not to carry someone else's opinions as well. Some cases have ruled that even public transit agencies have the right to choose not to carry certain ads. Further cases have refined that such that, for example, corporations have the right to have public opinions and to make them public. But it's also important to note that a private organization that publishes material has a right (within certain limits) to decide what it will or won't carry. You can't carry ads which are themselves illegal, and conversely, many cases have held that a newspaper has the right to choose not to carry certain materials if they don't want to.

A state law in Florida attempted to do for newspapers what the Fairness Doctrine [wikipedia.org] did for television stations: require when a newspaper supported a political candidate or provided space to one, that they had to also give space to others, or when they expressed an opinion they had to give time to the other side, or something like that, I'm not exactly certain which it was. Courts found that requirement unconstitutional and struck it down.

Now, the only time that a particular place can be required to carry someone's message is when they are considered a common carrier (such as a telephone, telegraph or cable tv system). They generally were required to provide service to anyone who could pay the same rates as anyone else, because they were granted an exclusive license to operate, or, today, they have the use of a limited resource - the public right of way - to provide service to customers, since the customers can't build their own phone lines across the roads (the way, say, anyone can buy a car and drive it on the highway), they have to provide service to anyone who can pay.

The ostensible reason the Supreme Court upheld the Fairness Doctrine with respect to broadcast stations is that they have a license to use extremely limited airwaves and should not be permitted to monopolize something which is a public resource. Of course, this is a hard argument to make today because the television stations tend to presume that they own the airspace they have and any dispute of their exclusive rights should be resisted vigorously, hence the usual fights over even small and marhginal organizations operating low power television. But the argument still can be applied; not everyone can run a television station because "their ain't that much room available" in the airspace.

Now, it's arguable that none of these search engine companies that accept ads are in any way a user or licensee of a limited or public resource or have some special condition that requires them to in some way be declared to be common carriers.

Before anyone else flames me (2, Funny)

rfc1394 (155777) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181594)

In the next to the last paragraph, the last line should read "there ain't that much room available." Now, if you don't like use of the word "ain't," then substitute "isn't."

derr! (1)

delong (125205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181758)

The Fourteenth Amendment applies to States, not private individuals. What a fool. His counsel is a bigger fool for allowing his client to entertain such nonsense. He should be sanctioned under Rule 11 for bringing a frivolous claim not grounded in law.

misconceptions about free speech. (1)

fayd (143105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181996)

There's alot of less-than-informed beliefs surrounding this topic.

The fact that you have the right of free speech does not obligate me in any way, shape or form.

The misconception stems from the confusion between speech and access. Because I don't have much of an audience, no one really cares that don't have any obligation to grant you access to that audience. But access to Google's audience suddenly appears to be a right, and refusing access to that audience seems like censorship. It's not.

Google is not denying your rights to free speech, they're denying you access to their audience.

On the up side, that's the nice thing about the internet .. it re-leveled the playing field. Again. For $5 a month, you can say (nearly) anything you want, and the whole world has the opportunity to see it. If you actually have something interesting to say, you can build your own audience, and then refuse to grant others access to your audience :)
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