October 12th, 2007 | Published in Google Public Policy
A recent article about our treatment of a political ad placed on Google suggested that we make decisions about advertising content based on the political viewpoint of the advertiser and the ad. This is simply untrue. We do not accept or reject ads based on the political opinions expressed in the ads or the political views of the advertiser.
Let me explain the facts behind the matter and the policy behind the decision.
Recently, representatives of Senator Susan Collins' Senate re-election campaign tried to place an ad on Google that included a reference to MoveOn.org, a political group. The text of this ad was rejected by our system because of our trademark policy, not because of its political content.
Under our trademark policy, a registered trademark owner may request that its mark not be used in the text of other parties' ads. Some time ago, MoveOn.org submitted a request to Google that its trademark not be used in any ads, and as a result our advertiser support team offered instructions on how Senator Collins' campaign could edit and resubmit its ad.
Any company or organization -- regardless of political affiliation -- could do what MoveOn did and thereby prevent advertisers from running ads that include their trademarks in ad texts. And that's very important. The ad in question could have said that MoveOn.org was great, or even just so-so, and our policy would have resulted in the same outcome; Google would have asked the advertiser to drop the trademarked phrase.
Our trademark policy is considered one of the least restrictive in the industry. It strikes a balance among the interests of users, advertisers, and trademark owners by leaving it up to trademark owners to notify us of restrictions on their registered trademarks. Any entity that demonstrates to us that it owns trademark rights can request that its trademarked terms not be used in the text of Google ads.
Finally, it was claimed that "Google routinely permits the unauthorized use of [other] company names...in advocacy ads." In fact, if ads are running on Google that include trademark terms in their text, either the trademark owner has not submitted a complaint, or the advertiser has been authorized to use the trademark.
We are committed to fairness and freedom of expression, and we recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate. We look forward to engaging in this debate in an open and transparent fashion, and we encourage political candidates and campaigns to contact our elections team with any questions they may have about our policies.