We’ve received a number of notes from readers disturbed to see visible on CDM ads opposing same-sex marriages and endorsing California’s Proposition 8. These were, naturally, not ads run by CDM or meant to imply any endorsement. The ads came from a group that supports a proposition that would ban such marriages, and they apparently purchased massive amounts of real estate on Google Ads. I think these ads only appeared to our readers in California, but as that’s a major center of readership and because there are broader implications, I want to respond.
CDM was one of many sites targeted with ads that were irrelevant to our content and offensive to at least some readers and publishers. To me, this ad is a massive abuse of the trust publishers place in Google. Further, publishers discovered competitive ad filters didn’t block this unwanted content. I have disabled all Google campaigns at least until after the US election, even though Google Ads are a major source of the revenue that pays our server bills.
I hope Google responds to what happened soon. I will say Google is generally to be applauded for being responsive to abuses of their network, so I’m optimistic. To me, this conflicts with the whole principle of targeted ad networks, and I hope we get a remedy. (At the very least, I’m disappointed that the ad filter wasn’t more responsive once we found the issue.)
Google aside, I feel obligated to say something about the politics behind this. If you support Proposition 8 or its principles, I don’t intend to cause offense; you’re entitled to your opinion, and this is an issue to be decided in California. But one thing I really believe about creative communities is that it’s essential to make our first political imperative tolerance and support. There’s a wider community of people here whom I’m sure don’t always agree. But one thing I won’t tolerate is a position that excludes another group or judges any “lifestyle,” whether that’s you choosing to use racks of modular analog synths or whom you choose as your partner. California will make its own choice in regards to its constitution. But for CDM, this is a simple question. And as a matter of policy, whether political or otherwise, my promise is that ads on CDM will not conflict with what those of us who work on the site believe. For that reason, I’m sorry this happened, and the ad interaction is something I’ll look closely at in future.
Update: Google has posted how-to-block instructions. But the results can take hours to take effect, and we’re in a minute-to-minute election cycle. That’s simply not good enough. And it doesn’t answer why these ads appeared in the first place, when they’re irrelevant to content. It demonstrates a single advertiser can game the whole system.