Could there be a better place for a political smear campaign than the Internet? It’s a fertile wonderland for dubious facts, anonymous accusations and conspiracy theorists. But Google says it will be doing its part to keep things clean this year by banning any ads that include “attacks on an individual’s personal life.” Google’s Public Policy Blog gives the example that “‘Crime rates are up under Police Commissioner Gordon’ is okay, but ‘Police Commissioner Gordon had an affair’ is not.” The same section prohibits attacks on a “protected group,” meaning that race, religion and age can’t be targeted. One blogger notes that AdSense had been running an ad titled “Truth About Mitt Romney: The Secret Mormon Plan Revealed,” but it’s unclear if this ad for a conspiracy-themed book was still circulating after the Google rules were announced. Some worry that Google is positioning itself as a gatekeeper by deciding which attacks are personal. But I can think of one candidate who will be happy if this restriction helps stave off a digital version of the racist fear-mongering that plagued him back in 2000.
—Posted by David Griner