Thursday, January 01, 2009

How do we change Google's mind?

I have just listened to StutterTalk's interview with Leys Geddes. Leys is currently campaigning for google to refuse adverts that claim cures for stuttering: see also here and here . His arguments have convinced me that it is of utmost importance for us as a community to fight these myths. The Internet is everywhere and it shapes public opinion. We need to take over the control of the message, and educate the others. Every ad on cures that comes up during a search re-enforces the view that stuttering is easily curable and that we do not work hard enough to cure it. The desperate ones will fall for the ads, and our mothers or grannies will pester us to enrol!
How can we change Google's mind? I cannot believe that they feel strongly about this. Revenues will hardly be affected. Ever heard of Google's maxim? Don't be evil. It is probably just one person within who currently blocks it. Maybe it was Friday afternoon and she wanted to start the weekend break early. Maybe she doesn't know someone who stutters.
If you have any idea or inside contacts to google, let me or Leys know. If you are a self-help group close to the headquarters, go there with a sign post saying STOP CURE ADVERTS! :-)

9 comments:

Ora said...

I'd like to offer a dissenting view.

I don't like censorship of any kind. I don't want empower Google to be the judge of what I can and can't see.

There's a famous quotation by a US Supreme Court judge, roughly: The remedy for bad speech is more speech, not enforced silence.

Censorship is a slippery slope. Today we persuade Google ban ads that promise a "cure" for stuttering. Tomorrow someone else persuades Google to ban ads for birth control. The next day we let Google ban ads for groups that offer abortion information. The next day we let Google ban ads for gay rights groups, or anti-war groups, or ....

The point is: Who decides? What are the standards? I would FAR rather have no standards at all, than to agree to the principle that someone else can decide what I'm allowed to see or not see.

Censorship is a great evil. Google should follow their maxim: "Don't be evil".

Let's let a thousand flowers bloom. A plant that I consider a weed is someone else's rose. Someone else's weed is my tulip.

I want to make my own decisions.

Tom Weidig said...

But Ora you cannot just offer a dissenting view, because I just posted an email from you! ;-)

The ads on cure are clearly false claims not based on evidence and therefore should be filtered out by google. There are laws that forbid companies from selling based on unsubstantiated evidence.

There is no free speech protection in the commercial area. Newpapers can refuse adverts without reason.

There is no evidence to suggest that changing the filter will lead to other filters. And if you do not like the filters, you can go to a different company.

Anyway, I step off here and let Ley (who surely reads my blog) will step in and finish my job. ;-)

Tom

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Sadly the internet is full of bullshit. Try typing "university degree" or "financial" in google, and look at the advertisements.
Everywhere we turn, there are unscrupulous people trying to relieve us of our hard-earned money. Censorship is not the answer. Education is the answer ... maybe some stuttering activists can put some sponsored links on google that give a real picture of the stuttering problem.

Ora said...

Tom -

You wrote: The ads on cure are clearly false claims not based on evidence and therefore should be filtered out by google.

You say that these are false claims. But who are you? How do you think Google should evaluate such assertions by you, and by people like you who might make other claims? How should they evaluate whether an ad makes claims that are supported by evidence? Should Google create a 100-person "Truth Department"? Should they convene a commission of experts every time someone disputes the claims in an ad?

Without considering the truth or falsity of the assertion that "a cure for stuttering does not exist (yet)", I think it's dangerous to encourage Google, as a private, profit-making company, to make or enforce any policies against certain types of ads.

For myself, I want to see any claims of cures for stuttering. Maybe there's none today, but there might be one tomorrow. I don't want anyone - even you :-) - to keep such information from me. I want to read it and evaluate it and make up my own mind.

There are laws that forbid companies from selling based on unsubstantiated evidence.
Yes, but enforcement of the laws should not be Google's responsibility. We have government agencies for this.

(To avoid misunderstanding, let's be clear that we're not talking here about obscenity or libel/defamation, where different principles apply.)

There is no free speech protection in the commercial area.
Right. But the concept of free speech protection usually refers to the principle that the government can't prevent speech, not that newspapers or Internet companies such as Google can't prevent speech.

And the issue that concerns me is not commercial free speech - it's my right to read or view commercial speech. My aim is not to protect the right of advertisers to publish ads; my goal is to protect my right to read the ads.

Newpapers can refuse adverts without reason.
I'm not suggesting that Google should be forced to accept ads. I'm suggesting that it should resist pressure from well-intentioned people like you or me or Ley (or anti-abortion activists or right-wing zealots) who attempt to pressure it to refuse certain advertisements.

You, or we, might successfully persuade Google to "do no evil" by refusing these ads. Our cause may be right, but what about others who might also believe their cause is right? I would prefer not to empower Google to make decisions based on the content of ads.

There is no evidence to suggest that changing the filter will lead to other filters. And if you do not like the filters, you can go to a different company.
I'd prefer to apply that principle at a different level: if someone doesn't like the ads, they can simply not click them.

Anonymous said...

Tom -

Just my thoughts, and who GAF about what I think...

To me, there are "cure" and "false claims" not based on evidence in the vast majority of the regarded "legit" bullsh** therapies out there offered to those of us who stutter by the ASHA/SFA contingency as well the Google adverts concerns.

Worried about Google??? How about those "sanctioned" professional hucksters and the organizations behind them... Why are they any more "legit" than any Google adverts cure? Because ASHA or the SFA say so? PPPPLLLLEEEAAASSSEEE!!!

Cure & Prevent...Prevent & Cure...Practice makes perfect...Yada yada yada...

Let them all say and do what they want. It is we consumers that must stop being dummies...

I'm with Ora in the sense that I want to make my own decisions regarding stuttering and therapy. It's my speech... my stuttering... my decision.

That said, to me, the sales pitch by the professional ASHA/SFA hucksters is every bit as harmful- and more deceitful -- than the Google stuff. ASHA allows for the legitimacy of the professional hucksters...

Lidcombe cures it...SFA prevents it. Practice more... Yeah, right... Just my opinion - They all suck...

Norbert @ BSA said...

I think the argument is not one of free speech, but one of difference: why, if Google will, by their own admission, NOT publish adverts promising miracle cures for psoriasis or schizophrenia, will they not apply the same principle to stammering?

Tom Weidig said...

Do you really want to see ads for good products or any crappy products? I actually like some google ads, because it connects me to products that I might like to have.

Google already refuses cure ads for some illnesses like AIDS. SO where to start and where to stop?

Google search should stay unfiltered, but not Google ads. Running ads on google gives a legitimacy to ads.

>>the sales pitch by the professional ASHA/SFA hucksters is every bit as harmful- and more deceitful -- than the Google stuff. ASHA allows for the legitimacy of the professional hucksters...

>>> Lidcombe cures it...SFA prevents it. Practice more... Yeah, right... Just my opinion - They all suck...


One step after the other. First the most extreme cases and then the others....

Einar said...

I think that a normally educated adult should be able distinguish between ads and unbiased "real" information, but there will always have to be a fraction who cannot and will have to be protected... So definitely the originators of such false ads should be legally challenged...

Ora said...

Einar - Are you suggesting that I (or you or our beloved Tom) be prevented from viewing certain ads in order to protect certain people who may be misled by them?

There are methods to accomplish this goal which are far short of banning such ads. For example, Google's SafeSearch permits people to suppress sexually explicit search results. Google could offer a parallel feature which permits people to suppress ads which Google's "truth squad" decides are questionable. Or to display them but flag them with a legend "read at your own risk" or something like that. Or "read at your own risk, and click here for an explanation of Google's reason for flagging this ad."

I don't favor those solutions, but I think they're less bad than outright censorship, which prevents the normally educated adult from viewing the ad, based on a decision by a bureaucrat at Google.