The Atlantic Mocks Digg For Having BP As A Sponsor... In An Article Sponsored By Exxon

from the pot,-kettle dept

There was some attention last week, to the fact that Digg had apparently allowed BP to step in as a sponsor on the site -- and I do admit that, at a first pass, the image presented does not look good:
bpondigg
The article uses this example to suggest just how desperate Digg has become in the wake of its redesign, which resulted in many users revolting or going elsewhere. However, Chas Edwards from Digg, actually makes a pretty good point in responding to the article, in noting, first that the BP catastrophe is horrifying:
The deaths, the images of oil-soaked birds, and the enormous environmental and economic tragedy they symbolize, are deeply painful. For people above a certain age, they likely trigger traumatic memories of another gigantic and horrifying oil spill, when the captain and crew of the Exxon Valdez tanker crashed in waters off Alaska and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.
However, he then notes that the very same Atlantic article which mocks Digg for taking money from BP... happens to have been sponsored by Exxon:
Edwards points out that there are always issues in ad-supported media, but the mocking tone was unnecessary and somewhat hypocritical given The Atlantic's own sponsorship practices.

At times, we've had the same sort of debate here. Do we take advertising money from companies we disagree with over certain things? There's one argument that says that you should never agree to allow advertising from a company you disagree with. The flip-side might be that if a company you don't like wants to give it's money to you, perhaps you can put their money to much better use. In the end, I tend to view it in the same manner as I view censorship of unpopular speech: I'd rather let everything be out in the open, clearly stated, rather than trying to suppress views.

When I was in Germany recently, speaking at an event, a German guy in the audience got up and read aloud a comment on Techdirt that said less-than-nice things about Germans, and demanded to know why I had not deleted the comment (noting that, under German law, I was legally responsible for those comments). Beyond the ridiculousness of German law that puts the liability on third parties for others' speech, I noted that free speech means allowing free speech for all -- and if that includes ignorant speech, it's better to let that ignorance out into the open where it can be countered and responded to, rather than trying to hide it and delete it. I said that blocking or simply deleting such speech only reinforces the ideas of those who make such speech that they're saying something so "truthful" the world can't bear to hear it. I don't think that pushes the conversation forward.

Now, obviously, advertising is not the same kind of "speech" as discussed in the paragraph above, but there is something to be said for allowing companies to advertise in an open manner, and allowing the discussion to then occur, even about that advertising -- something Digg tends to encourage openly. It's been said that the best response to speech you don't like isn't censorship, but more speech -- and I would argue that applies to advertising as well. Now, I'm sure some will cynically say that, of course anyone who accepts advertising will want to accept whatever ads they can to make money. But I think that sites like Digg, which have been pretty careful not to go down the road of really annoying advertising, show that they won't just do anything for money.

Plenty of newspapers who covered the BP oil spill -- including the NY Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal -- all accepted advertising from BP in the wake of the spill. I didn't see any sanctimonious articles condemning any of them for doing so. It may be tempting, at a gut level, to suggest this is somehow "wrong," but I think I'd rather BP was out there trying to talk to people -- and letting the people talk back -- than being told it can't spend its money that way at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    What's "The Atlantic" ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    It's that blue thingy off the coast that's full of spilled oil...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Nina Paley (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:44pm

    Mimi & Eunice

    Mimi & Eunice grappled with more or less the same issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Chas Edwards, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:47pm

    Your thoughts on free speech and advertising

    Mike--Thanks for the support!

    Chas

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:47pm

    Did you know that most Nazis were, in fact, German?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:09pm

    Re:

    Did you know that most Germans speak... GERMAN?!?!?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    Re:

    And most humans are mammals. Some, however, are more akin to annelids, in the sense that they have no spine and no brain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:57pm

    Re:

    I understand that Bev Stayart is German.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Re:

    It's not really all that blue anymore...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 5:49pm

    BP took responsibility for their spill and is making payments. Exxon tried to shirk it's responsibility and run away from the Valdez spill. Which company would I take advertising money from? BP. Exxon can go pound sand (because they sure didn't want to clean it up).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 7:18pm

    It comes down to power if you pay them enough then you got veto power, if you expend much in political campaigns you start setting agendas and so on, there is danger in those waters.

    People have the right to be upset about those things, and if it shrinks the propaganda capability of a horrible company that showed no respect for the public I think it is a good thing that some get upset about, because that shows it is not going to be that easy to recapture the public confidence.

    BP is not a company that is in the positive side of the hearts and minds of people right now and their actions speak for themselves they tried to cover up as much as they could and to this day people are being harassed for tried to get information, this is not an open company trying to do the right thing here they only did it because of public pressure, this are people who don't believe they should apologize and take responsibility it is not in their culture to do so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Andrew F (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 8:07pm

    Deleting Comments

    One simple reason why you shouldn't delete a "bad" comment is that if you do, all the comments responding to it will cease to make sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Ben, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 10:52pm

    Responsibility

    Did that German who stood up and read the offensive comment go to jail? Because that would be an amusing application of 3rd party liability.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 10:53pm

    BP backing of stories I find questionable

    Small problem Mike. Before during and after the people are not "talking back." at the very least it seems that only one side is being told. I don't know why I followed this story so closely but this may help paint a clearer picture.

    See the following:
    10 Things You Need (But Don't Want) To Know About the BP Oil Spill

    Deepwater Horizon survivors allege they were kept in seclusion after rig explosion, coerced into signing legal waivers

    And its not just BP, even the Whitehouse has there finger in it. White House 'Blocked Gulf Oil Spill Studies'

    And this one... well perhaps deserves a followup. BP buys top Google search result for 'oil spill'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 1:06am

    Beyond the ridiculousness of German law that puts the liability on third parties for others' speech, I noted that free speech means allowing free speech for all -- and if that includes ignorant speech, it's better to let that ignorance out into the open where it can be countered and responded to, rather than trying to hide it and delete it. I said that blocking or simply deleting such speech only reinforces the ideas of those who make such speech that they're saying something so "truthful" the world can't bear to hear it. I don't think that pushes the conversation forward.


    I wish you would frame the above and send it to Jon Newton over at P2PNet. He goes into each set of comments with a mindset of "Let's see what I have to delete today..." On several occasions he's freely admitted to deleting batches of posts that he considers to be worthless.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Jo Deason, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 4:49am

    Nice

    Well that does make a lot of sense when you think about it.

    www.privacy-web.it.tc

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    BP spill advertising

    Couldn't agree more! It is a very small step from not accepting advertising you don't like, to Chinese censorship.
    "One small step for advertising, one GIANT step toward dictatorship".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Vinterdekk, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Sponsors should not be influers

    The important thing is that sponsors like BP or other who have big money and information interrest are able to edit content to suit their message.

    It is also important that developers of content and owners of website are not adjusting their work to suite the needs of their advertisers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 12:51am

    Re: Deleting Comments

    One simple reason why you shouldn't delete a "bad" comment is that if you do, all the comments responding to it will cease to make sense.

    Jon Newton over at P2PNet has the solution for that. He just deletes all the replies as well. All traces of any comments he disagrees with get wiped from the site. I can't even begin to guess how many delete keys he's worn out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    닉슨, Nov 27th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    "해외 토토 즐기실분 없으세요!!

    유럽본사로부터 경영하는 합법적인 운영으로 유럽배당을 기준으로 한국인 회원수 1위를 자랑 하고 있는 유로벳 인사올립니다. 본사는 다년간의 운영 암호화된 보안데이터 처리 그리고 안정적인 자본력을 바탕으로 고급화와 차별화된 영역을 구축하고 있습니다. 100%신용, 24시간 입출금 문의, 매주 푸짐한 이벤트와 보너스 진짜 완벽합니다. 그리고 하시고 않하시고는 모두 본인의 결정입니다. 정말 마음드시는 사이트가 없을때 저희 유로벳 들러주시길 바랍니다. 이상 E G O 23. KR 였습니다

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    pult, Dec 8th, 2011 @ 11:34pm

    "I noted that free speech means allowing free speech for all -- and if that includes ignorant speech, it's better to let that ignorance out into the open where it can be countered and responded to, rather than trying to hide it and delete it. I said that blocking or simply deleting such speech only reinforces the ideas of those who make such speech that they're saying something so "truthful" the world can't bear to hear it. I don't think that pushes the conversation forward."

    - This is so true! And relevant to so much going on in America right now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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