In what is quickly becoming one of the most interesting developments in recent Internet memory, the major platforms are continuing to flex their muscles by denying entire verticals the ability to advertise effectively online. Google announced the decision to ban advertisements via Google Ad Words that would promote payday loans and high interest emergency because the company feels some of those businesses are engaging in predatory loan practices. Bing recently banned ads for third party tech support services, which can sometimes also be fraudulent, or may prey upon people feeling vulnerable to viruses or other digital threats, and Facebook has also jumped in to join Google in banding ads from anything remotely ‘adult’ on its platform.
While many argue that they are private businesses and since they own the platform they should be able to do as they please with it, there is also a countervailing viewpoint emerging with some merit. Google dominates the Search marketplace to levels that at least border on antitrust infringements, and in collusion with Bing and Facebook have the power to not only curtail but to outright destroy the ability of entire verticals to make their products or services available to the public. While you may agree with some or even all of the things they have banned so far, it is important to take into account that these edicts are being issue unilaterally with zero regulation or oversight from any outside entity.
What happens when Google decides not to allow sporting goods to be advertised because they may lead people to engage in activities that can result in concussions? The number of items these monolithic companies may decide to ban are endless, and the fact that few are speaking up when some that are subjectively unsavory to them go by the wayside only fuels the likelihood that the emboldened moralistic forces within tech today will eventually overreach to an even wider degree.
It’s simple to say that consumers can go and choose a competing brand more inline with their own points of view, but that comment holds less and less weight as these companies take measures to further secure their primacy. Recent court decisions granting Google wide leeway to republish segments of entire books without the consent of the authors, lobbying efforts aimed at leading regulatory efforts rather than reacting to them, and 10 figure war chests to engage in legal battles, legislative battles or to buy out would-be competitors are compelling reasons to look a lot more closely at the editorial decisions now being made by today’s most powerful media outlets.