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We don’t like negative political ads, either


November 2, 2010/3.57

You could call me a hypocrite for allowing my own political ads on here during my mayoral campaign and being uncomfortable with ones from foreign countries. But there are underlying reasons.
   Some years ago, we had to turn down Dr Howard Dean’s campaign when it wanted to advertise on this website. Our reason: we didn’t want to seem tied to any one political ideology, though we’d consider featuring Dr Dean if his opponents were also advertising. Further, as we didn’t know Dr Dean’s policies, we couldn’t endorse his advertisements being on this site. Commercially, we were biting the hand that fed us, viz. a US ad network.
   We allowed mine because our team understood and endorsed what I stood for. We also limited them mostly to New Zealand.
   However, we’ve spotted a few a day ago from Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, attacking one of her opponents, targeted at our US audience.
   Let me say now that we have tried to get political advertising off our site and I like to think we’ve been fairly vigilant. Online advertising is a different animal from print advertising, where oftentimes we don’t know who the ultimate client is. There are ad networks dealing with other ad networks, and it all gets a bit murky just who has dealt with whom along the line.
   It has been interesting to observe just how negative the mid-term election advertising has been in the United States. (There are some data from the Wesleyan Media Project to back that up, too, according to Reuter. The Project calls these mid-term elections ‘the most negative campaign in recent history by both sides’.) And it’s not really our style to endorse things that are quite that negative. I’m sure negativity turns people off from voting, and American voter turnout is low enough as it is.
   We only managed to trace which ad network put these up today, and have found that her campaign purchased a flight from October 25 to November 2. In other words, any complaint we make is going to be pretty ineffective as her campaign comes to a close.
   Not being HQed in California (though we have editors and correspondents there), we don’t know the senator’s policies, so we can’t fully endorse them as a publication. She may have some good points, and she may have some bad points. It’s not for us to say.
   Given that Sen. Boxer’s ads run infrequently, we couldn’t penalize others who were advertising here by removing one ad network outright.
   So maybe all that needs to be said in the US mid-terms is that we don’t make any endorsement of any candidate. And we’re sorry if the negative political advertising has upset any of our readers.—Jack Yan, Publisher

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