Google's Role in Ocean Protection
An interesting new fight has emerged in the ad censorship arena. Much like TV, radio and newspapers, Google has stepped into the ad censorship business. Oceana's campaign is based on irrefutable facts. The ships are not designed to treat human waste nor do they claim that they do. The method of management of the waste is to dump it in shipping lanes. Oceana's campaign is targeted to put pressure on the industry to stop dumping waste overboard.
Google is making the distinction of critical vs. factual and seems to be on the wrong side of the issue. The advocacy movement can not afford to be filtered from Google ads.
Ask Google Why They Canceled Oceana's Ads Google shut them down. The reason? The ads, they said, linked to sites that contained "language critical of Royal Caribbean" and "language critical of the cruise industry"! So what are you allowed and not allowed to say in a Google ad? What companies are you prohibited from criticizing? Who knows?
Oceana has provided a tool to respond to this censorship and target Google Founders and their Corporate and Consumer Public Relations team.
The google choice is difficult to accept in this case. Although, I am not sure that the typically underfunded, non-advertising advocacy movement wants to see ads next to searches on group names or critical issues like environmentalism, forest protection, etc. I can think of lots of ways those industries that could afford ads could use this as a message shooting range in a way that really hurts the movement.
Astroturf and Grassroots
There has been an up tick in the idea of "<a href="http://www.network-centricadvocacy.net/2003/10/letter_to_the_e.html">Astroturfing becuse of the military campaign to astroturf letters to the editor.</a> "Astroturfing" is using technology and mass communication tricks to artificially create the appearance of a grassroots movement supporting a position.
There are a few tricks to monitor "astroturfing." These tricks include putting key phrases into Google to see if many papers are cranking out letters to the editor from different people that use identical language.<a href="http://www.politechbot.com/p-04332.html"> Declan McCullagh of CNET's News.com </a>documents an example in his blog
Additionally, there has been a rapid growth of companies that specialize in artificially creating the appearance of a grassroots movement. The larger problem for the movement is that as the costs of these services drop the impact of genuine grassroots work is cheapened. (ie...weighing letters or simply counting call volume).
<strong>Examples of companies that create the appearance of grassroots support:</strong>
<a href="http://www.democracydata.com/nav.asp">Democracy Data - DDC</a> provides leading technology, communications, and support services for the public affairs operations of corporations, trade associations, and interest groups. By combining Internet solutions with telephone and direct mail recruitment, DDC enables clients to conduct exceptional grassroots and PAC programs both online and off-line.
<a href="http://www.hillwatch.com/">Hillwatch Inc.</a> is a full service government relations firm that combines traditional lobbying strengths with the latest digital campaigning techniques.
<a href="http://www.gnossos.com/company/testimonials.html">Gnossos Software</a> translates expert knowledge into software features you can use right away. Gnossos builds more than state-of-the-art technology into public affairs and government relations software. Our expertise in managing political action committees and grassroots programs at the federal and state levels helps assure new ease and effectiveness for your efforts.
<strong>The Good News</strong>
Technology from spam filters and search capabilities are starting to catch these "like" messages more quickly. Gannet searches quickly picked up the similar letters from the solders.