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.”
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.