Now Josh Hawley Is Threatening Google Over 1st Amendment Protected Expression

from the not-how-it-works-josh dept

What is it with annoying grandstanding Senators of both parties and their incorrect beliefs that they can bully private companies over 1st Amendment protected expression? Last week we wrote about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bogus threats sent to Amazon regarding the fact that Amazon is selling books with “misinformation” in them. Right as that was happening, it seems that Senator Josh Hawley decided to do something somewhat similar, in “demanding answers” from Google regarding Google’s decision to reject ads from an anti-abortion organization.

This story got attention after the founder and President of the anti-abortion group Live Action, Lila Rose, posted a Twitter thread insisting that ads from her group were banned “at the request of abortion activists.” Of course, if you look at the actual images that Rose posted, it’s pretty clear that the decisions had nothing to do with ideological viewpoints on abortion, but rather concern about advertising sketchy medical interventions. Specifically, Live Action was trying to run an ad about an “abortion pill reversal treatment.”

As the Daily Beast recently detailed, this “treatment” is extremely sketchy, totally unproven, and extraordinarily dangerous. From a Washington Post article about these treatments:

But when researchers attempted to carry out a legitimate study of whether these “abortion reversal” treatments were effective and safe, they had to stop almost immediately — because some of the women who participated in the study experienced dangerous hemorrhaging that sent them to the hospital.

On top of that, remember that a decade ago the DOJ hit Google with a $500 forfeiture for advertising foreign online pharmacies, so it’s not at all difficult to see how Google is going to be extra careful regarding advertisements regarding sketchy “medical” interventions.

Hawley’s letter ignores all of this and insists this is proof of Google’s ideological biases in moderating its ads:

Recently, while attempting to run ads for a client in the Washington, D.C. metro area,
Choose Life Marketing realized that these ads were not running, even though Google
designated them as eligible to run. Worse, Choose Life Marketing was unable to obtain
an explanation from your company. Notably, even a cursory investigation reveals
numerous examples of Planned Parenthood advertising directly to internet users that it
offers abortions, contrary to Google’s stated policies.

All of this is alarming enough on its own, and the situation has only continued to escalate.
Notably, Lila Rose—president of the pro-life organization Live Action—reported on
September 14 that your company had pulled the plug on Live Action’s advertising
campaigns, citing “Google Ads policy.”

Hawley also claims (without any evidence) that, “This would not be the first time that political considerations have influenced your
company’s ad eligibility decisions” misleadingly citing Google’s warning to the Federalist regarding ads on its site. As we explained then, Google sends those warnings to tons of sites, including ours (which is why we no longer have any ads on our site). I’m still waiting for Hawley to speak up in defense of Google threatening to demonetize ads on Techdirt, but I get the feeling I’ll be waiting a very long time. If Hawley can’t grandstand and lie about the reasons why these decisions are made, what good is it to him?

Either way, even if Google were making these decisions for ideological reasons (again, there is no proof to support this), that is its 1st Amendment protected right. The 1st Amendment’s right of association means that if you don’t want to be associated with ads promoting a sketchy, potentially dangerous medical procedure, you don’t need to be. For Hawley to imply otherwise is just yet another attack on the 1st Amendment, and makes him just as bad as Elizabeth Warren on the other side of the Senate chamber.

It sure would be nice if Senators from both parties actually understood what it means to protect and defend the Constitution, and how that includes the 1st Amendment.

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Companies: google, live action

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Comments on “Now Josh Hawley Is Threatening Google Over 1st Amendment Protected Expression”

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44 Comments
Anonymoussays:

ELI5 why these companies can’t do their OWN ads! I remember in 1980 the way ads worked was the newspaper had somebody to sell column inches. It was up to the customers and company – and nobody else – to negotiate what that was worth.

How did people get contorted into a situation where "ads" have to pass muster of some idiot machine censor of a monopoly company far away, which is spying on all the people reading their publication? It’s just wrong!

I bet most companies willing to go out and buy ads directly from Techdirt are companies I would like to hear about.

ECAsays:

TEST IT

Twitter thread insisting that ads from her group were banned "at the request of abortion activists."

Really?
Then take them to a nearest Advertising corp and have them displayed on Every cable and broadcast channel.
If you can do that, you Know that Amazon wont mind.

That, or you pay amazons Legal fee’s for getting sued AFTER they broadcast you Stuff.

That One Guysays:

'We're pro-life!' 'Your treatment could kill people' 'Pro-life!'

Minor but important correction, it’s ‘Insurrectionists Supporter Hawley’, he worked to earn that title and it’s important to reward such diligence.

That out of the way why am I not surprised that the hypocritical goon who cheered on the insurrectionists is throwing a tantrum about Google having the audacity to refuse to host ads for a highly dangerous medical treatment, untested because even attempting to do so sent the test subjects to the hospital?

‘I don’t care if people die from it, all that matters is owning the libs’ is just so in character for him at this point so while it’s disgusting that he’d jump on this it’s not at all surprising.

Anonymoussays:

Censorship is always wrong, at every level. It is different at different levels and the way it is wrong is different, but it is always a false idea.

It’s wrong to haul someone into court because of the content of their site, no matter whether it is because they included something you didn’t like or didn’t include something you did like.

It’s wrong to have a marketplace dominated by individual companies or companies colluding on the same "voluntary" restrictions on content based on proven, spoken, or unspoken threats from a government.

It’s wrong for a company to censor community discussion and exchange of information under the rubric that it’s their site and they can do what they want. Not at the same meta-level as the government is wrong, but in the sense that they go from being a good and useful company to one better avoided.

It is also wrong for a company or organization or open source software to fail to offer users effective tools to avoid spam, off-topic and other content they don’t want – according to their own standards – because if you can’t effectively read a site it is still being blocked!

Finally, it is a root of many evils that computer "scientists" never have worked out the fundamental philosophy of a free and fair forum, one where everyone has a fair chance to be heard, where the best ideas really do come to the top. This is the central problem of democracy – a level of technical understanding without which democracy is failing as its rivals continue to plunge ahead with their own technical ideas. All civilizations will fall when their technology gets too far ahead of their philosophy, and we are at that point.

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R.H.says:

Re: Re: Re:

US Senators are only required to be residents of the state they’re elected from when they initially run. Members of the House, on the other hand, are required to maintain legal residency in their home state (but not the district that they represent) at all times. Hawley was, therefore, a resident of Missouri when initially elected but now lives closer to where he works.

PaulTsays:

Re:

"Make yourself the public forum"

You’re getting your idiotic fact-free talking points mixed up. Google is not a public forum, that’s the bullshit argument you’re meant to be applying to Facebook and Twitter.

Here, we’re talking about the equivalent of a billboard, and last time I checked even if ClearChannel have a monopoly in your local area they’re able to turn down ads they don’t wish to have on their property.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re:

"Make yourself the public forum"

Only possible if you also become the government.

Those of us still living in factual reality realize that you posing a false argument to base a flawed assertion on isn’t, in fact the stroke of genius you think it is, Baghdad Bob.

Meanwhile I’ll just consider ad notam that you just won’t quit assuming that if private property becomes popular enough it should suddenly be considered public property.

ECAsays:

Re:

colluding on the same "voluntary" restrictions on content?

All sites are Private, and they State what is allowed.
There are problems with this, but every nation has banned the display of People getting heads chopped off by the taliban.
The RIAA and MPAA, have there OWN ban, on everything including what they dont own, being in the Public free sector.
There is a ban on Intimidating Kids. being a bully, online.

  1. if you make a statement, that is a falsehood, then they MIGHT censor you.
  2. If you comment, and talk about something as an OPINION, then generally there shouldnt be a ban.
  3. IF you Like the Old Christian and Muslim Ideals that, "Im right you are wrong, and if you dont believe me I will cut off your head" Mentality.. YOU MIGHT GET BANNED.
    Most smart people on general subjects Only listen, they dont make an opinion until they know everything about something. At least try to. The Idea that the LOUDEST person wins, is Wrong. Might makes right only makes lost teeth, and a person looking for his friends to fight you back,.
That One Guysays:

Re:

Censorship is always wrong, at every level. It is different at different levels and the way it is wrong is different, but it is always a false idea.

Starting with what is at best a mistaken definition is really not a good look, so just to get it out of the way ‘not on my property’ is not censorship unless you want to water the term down to the point where it loses all impact and no-one gives a damn any time it’s thrown out.

That out of the way that argument might as well be the mantra of the asshole, ‘I don’t care if you don’t like my bigoted rants, bald-faced lies and/or delusional ranting, you just need to suck it up and grow thicker skin because it’s wrong to tell me to take it elsewhere!’

It’s wrong to haul someone into court because of the content of their site, no matter whether it is because they included something you didn’t like or didn’t include something you did like.

And I’m sure you have at least a few examples of that happening so that people can judge for themselves how warranted those lawsuits might have been…

It’s wrong to have a marketplace dominated by individual companies or companies colluding on the same "voluntary" restrictions on content based on proven, spoken, or unspoken threats from a government.

Which content would they be ‘colluding’ to restrict there, and be specific.

It’s wrong for a company to censor community discussion and exchange of information under the rubric that it’s their site and they can do what they want. Not at the same meta-level as the government is wrong, but in the sense that they go from being a good and useful company to one better avoided.

Note to self, ‘free speech’ is shorthand for ‘consequence-free speech’ and property rights cease to exist as soon as you allow someone else to make use of your property.

It is also wrong for a company or organization or open source software to fail to offer users effective tools to avoid spam, off-topic and other content they don’t want – according to their own standards – because if you can’t effectively read a site it is still being blocked!

They do, you’ve spent several sentences complaining about them just because the sites do a lot of that work themselves by having those fiendish things called ‘rules’ and ‘acceptable behavior’.

Finally, it is a root of many evils that computer "scientists" never have worked out the fundamental philosophy of a free and fair forum, one where everyone has a fair chance to be heard, where the best ideas really do come to the top.

See reply #1, platforms owners know better than you what that actually results in and if you want to see it yourself I invite you to head on over to one of the alternative social media sites and/or chans with ‘looser’ rules on acceptable content to really wallow in what that type of ruleset enables.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

People can choose between sites with different levels of moderation, and not surprisingly most choose sites like Facebook and Twitter, rather than 8kun and Gab. If a site does not moderate, it will gain few users, as it takes too much effort, if the person has the skill, to filter the site to a level where they can decide whether it is worth using or not.

Also, whether or not those who shout loudest win over the ordinary people is of a mute question, when they can usually win over the politicians, and get their ideas imposed onto society. Note that it is a vocal minority, with unpopular views that want to eliminate moderation so that they can shout louder and get politicians to do what they want. Are you one of those people?

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re:

"Finally, it is a root of many evils that computer "scientists" never have worked out the fundamental philosophy of a free and fair forum, one where everyone has a fair chance to be heard…"

False assumption, turning the rest of your argument into that much bullshit. Free speech isn’t about your right to be heard. It’s about your right to speak. The right to be heard assumes you are forcing people to listen to you.

And in private property the right to speak on the premises only exists until the owner of said property tells you that you are an asshole and shows you the door.

"This is the central problem of democracy – a level of technical understanding without which democracy is failing as its rivals continue to plunge ahead with their own technical ideas."

Like hell it is!

"Democracy*" has always practiced moderation in this exact manner. Go into any Bar, any Restaurant, any Mall, anyone’s personal home or store. Try to holler incessantly to the other patrons. I fuckin’ guarantee that you will be shown the door – moderated, as it were, and told not to come back.

And that’s been the way for thousands of years. Your only problem is that yesterdays publican has started applying the exact same method online that they always used offline

"…and we are at that point."

No this is just the same tired old point where we point out to you that just because your wall of red herrings and false assumptions is coherently built doesn’t mean you’re less of an irrelevant troll trying to push the idea that private property should cease to exist if it has enough of an audience to attract proselytizers for the KKK and american nazi party.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

So you claim:

It’s wrong for a company to censor community discussion and exchange of information under the rubric that it’s their site and they can do what they want

But then go on to claim:

It is also wrong for a company or organization or open source software to fail to offer users effective tools to avoid spam, off-topic and other content they don’t want

So you want working tools to hide content, then bitch about it when private communities implement exactly that? Like… if you’re going to regurgitate the same old dumbass Jan 6th apologism points at least stay consistent within the same damn post…

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re:

Since when have the confused alt-right trolls ever tried to apply factual reality and logic to their assertions? I mean, when he can’t even finish his first sentence with a glaring falsehood even he wouldn’t subscribe to then that’s not a great recommendation for the rest of his comment.

He is free to prove me wrong in this, of course. All he needs to do is invite us all to his home where we can spend four hours daily taking turns to read out loud the stuff we think he really needs to hear. Personally I think a few chapters from the "Communist Manifesto" might serve well to inform him of where his call to abolish property rights for some perceived "public good" comes from in the first place.

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