Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Google

According to Leys, google refuses to block adverts with cure promises for stuttering. Though having read his emails to google, he could maybe have been a bit more diplomatic:

Following various email exchanges over the last two weeks, Google have today announced that they will continue to allow advertisers to claim that they can cure or eliminate stammering.  For example, one current Google AdWords ad reads ‘Breakthrough cure takes 9 minutes - 100% guaranteed - eliminates cause’.

As the root cause of stammering is a neurological condition, it is not possible to 'cure' stammering, in the accepted medical sense of the word.  So, whenever they say this, Google advertisers give false hope to those who stammer, and give people who don't stammer the false impression that stammering can be cured very easily.

Respectable healthcare companies carry out independent trials on large numbers of people, over long periods of time before they are allowed to claim any kind of benefit for their products or services.  It should be the same with stammering.

Google AdWords have a general policy against what they describe as 'miracle cure' advertisements.  But, although they check the wording of ads submitted for ‘specific diseases such as cancer, AIDS, psoriasis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, leukaemia, bipolar and schizophrenia’, they do not do so for ads claiming to cure other conditions.  Thus ads which claim to cure stammering will still be approved to run.

Google say that their terms and conditions make it clear that all adverts must not violate any applicable law, regulation or code of practice (including the Committee of Advertising Practice Code in the UK, which is enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority).

These kinds of ads, however, clearly DO violate the UK CAP Code, because the ASA have already taken action successfully against one advertiser who was claiming to cure stammering - and is keen to act against others.

Unlike most advertising mediums, Google take no responsibility for the content of the advertising they feature.

Earlier today, I replied to Google, asking to arrange to speak directly to their Policy Team.

I then emailed the Stuttering Foundation of America and the NSA to let them know the situation.

I then reported Google to our Advertising Standards Authority.

I have also contacted various journalists who have been kind enough to support our campaigns in the past.


Anonymous said...


Jane Fraiser's SFA group offers the "cure" as well...

The NSA's professional board has the "cure" too...

Just a lot slicker in the presentation...

What is the difference between "buying" the "cure" from a Huckster on a Google ad, or "buying" the "cure" from recognized certified professional Hucksters advertised as SFA/ASHA/NSA "experts"?

They all propose to have "a great buy for land in the desert..."

Leys - Don't be a goofus...Maybe the compromise of Google offering to list all the "cures" should be proposed... There all in the same business.

Go Google!

Leys Geddes said...

I've been in contact with Jane Fraser and she has now changed the SFA 'cure' ad. She pointed out that they do say onsite that there is no cure for stuttering. But of course, as with most web activity, more people see and read the short ads than visit the website and read every word.

So I'm undiplomatic?! Go to and see the text of the email to Google and judge for yourself.

Incidentaly, when the Editor first learned about this campaign he remarked that this was a "good initiative, do they have an email address the Google advert team, so I can ask people to write to them?" And as I told him then the answer is yes, they do, it's AdWords Support who are at But presumably they report to Google in the States, who control policy. So, if anyone does want to help, they might contact them or their local Google AdWords Department.

As I see it, Google have a duty to demonstrate leadership and the power to change public perceptions. But, instead, one of the world's most loved brands is happy to sit there, saying that, yes, it does have a no miracle cures rule, but no, it doesn't apply to stammering, despite all the evidence that there is no cure for stammering. So the advertising department will carry on taking the money for ads which encourage false hopes and feed false impressions.

It's not a good day for corporate responsibility.

And it's not a very diplomatic stance for Google to take.

Anonymous said...

Interesting -

Overheard at a recent SFA Social Gathering of "experts"...(Imagine this with the southern drawl!) "Darlin'- If they'd just practice what their told, the stutterin' would stop!"

Leys - The ads don't matter - its what they believe & think! A most difficult challenge to change.

Good luck in your effort.

Leys Geddes said...

I don't agree with you, Anonymous (I wish I knew your name) because, as I see it, there are TWO distinct audiences for these ads.

Yes, I know that when Audience One, the PWSs, go off to therapy, some of them will be hoping to be cured, but none of them will be. And they will be disappointed, and yet most will keep this 'failure' to themselves.

But Audience Two, the Outside World, the 99% of the population who don't stutter, are just as important, because they control the attitude which society has to stuttering. So if we can shift their attitude, by helping them to understand, it would make life a hell of a lot easier for us PWS.

I bet you that many non-PWS probably think we could be cured, if only we would just pull ourselves together. That's why the Outside World needs to see that stuttering cannot be cured. And as long as big companies, such as Google, which help to form society's attitudes, are allowed to go on perpetuating the cure myth, the harder it will be to achieve any real change.

Google are not evil in themselves; they just think they know better. It's a kind of arrogance. But if we could change that attitude, and help them learn, then we would ALL be better off. That's because their attitude is, unfortunately, an exact parallel of the attitude much of society takes to our condition. Which is why campaigning for a big opinion-former such as Google to make that change is so emminently sensible.

However, useful though it is to discuss these issues on this and other sites, the change will only start to come if more people within Stammering World are prepared to speak to the Outside World - and getting coverage in the media is vital to this aim. People who are mobility disabled realised this years ago.

So are you going to join in?

Anonymous said...

Google is like most newspapers and magazines, except that all their income must come from advertising. They do not charge for their service and until they are flooded with willing companies to advertise their products, they can not be choosy. What they should do, is have some sort of disclaimer or like "Good Housekeeping" magazine, have a "Google Seal of Approval".

Leys Geddes said...

AdWords advertisers on Google do not pay for the advertising space, they pay for the number of times people ‘click through’ from an ad to their websites. So they pay for site traffic and thus it costs them nothing to get worldwide awareness of themselves and their claims - on the billion or so computers in the world - which is another reason why they are doing our cause no good at all.

But I reckon that these organisations would still choose to advertise on Google, even if they modified the claims in their ads, because there is no other medium which identifies and reaches a worldwide audience of people who stutter.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting. Google would be wise to let advertisers know they needed to be truthful in their claims and Google would be rewarded with more income if people knew the ads on Google could be trusted.
I rarely click on the ads, not knowing if I'll end up messing up my computer from contact with a dubious web site.

Leys Geddes said...

Well, we are agreed, then! It would be good for Google if they acted responsibly and made sure that their advertisers told the truth.