Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Leys against Google

Leys keeps on trying to convince google to change their policy on allowing advertisement on stuttering cure. It seems like ASHA is a bit timid speaking out and writing to Google, which seems to me unreasonable giving for example that their UK counterpart, Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists, has been far more courageous and decisive. Google seems to suggest that individual complains are more appropriate: see the letter by Leys.

A big issue is a lack of standards in reporting treatment success. For example, such standards exist in finance.

Tom, I thought you might be interested in another update on this story.

As I mentioned, John Bercow, the UK Member of Parliament who has just reviewed and reported very constructively to the Government on the state of speech services for children, has written to Google UK and received a reply from Matt Brittin, Country Director, UK. Mr Brittin’s main point was that if people don’t like these stammering cure ads on Google they should complain about them using the special form available on the Google website. John has asked for our views on his letter and we have responded as below. I’m sure John would be happy for you to publish as much of it as you might want.

You asked about ASHA, and I’m glad to say that we have now heard from them, and they are very supportive of the campaign. However they do not want to confront Google at the moment, so we have asked them to consider how they might lend their weight to this campaign.

Whilst, in our view, ethical standards may be low in several sectors of US advertising, that does not mean that similar standards should be allowed to apply to stuttering. Thus, whilst ’buyer beware’ may be an appropriate maxim for some US products, it’s not suitable for stuttering treatments. It’s worth remembering, too, that we are not just talking here about ads which are aimed at Americans, who are accustomed to advertising puffery, but ads which are aimed at the whole world - in which very few people think and behave like Americans.

We are sure that ASHA will agree that there is a need to tighten up standards, set its expert and well qualified members apart from the fraudsters and encourage a more professional attitude to stuttering treatments. And, in the longer term, of course, this Google issue is just one stop on the way to the greater objective, which is to rid the world of fraudsters. So this is a very good team to be on!



Anonymous said...

Leys...I admire what you're trying to do.

Before ASHA confronts Google, ASHA would be better to address the situation of allowing ASHA CCC'd professionals - with little (or more often none) academic coursework or clinical training in fluency disorders - to deliver treatment for stuttering to children in the public school setting.

ASHA may be the perpetrator of the biggest fraud...

Leys Geddes said...

One of the important factors here is the general perception that stuttering is caused by a mental or character weakness of some kind - and thus, often, stuttering treatment is not even seen as a medical issue. As a result, there are a lot of entirely unqualified organisations and people claiming that they can cure stuttering, without even thinking about doing any clinical trials or getting approval for their claims from an authoritative body. They simply put up a website and write whatever they want on it; then they write an ad, with some entirely unquantified claim, which they bung up on Google and encourage people to click through to their website, where visitors get the Big Sell. Nobody checks anything and Google get money every time someone clicks through. This doesn't happen with treatments for many other conditions, because the companies offering those treatments belong to organisations such as the Proprietary Association of Great Britain which will only approve an ad if it is supported by medical references to full and independent reports on treatment success over long periods. My company produces marketing communications for GlaxoSmithKline and other medical organisations and, believe me, every single word, and every single nuance, is checked exhaustively before any ad can be released to a media owner for publication.

Greg said...

Tom & Leys, you may find this of interest.

I recently wrote an article for the ASHA Leader--which is essentially the ASHA trade magazine.

In my article, I cited stuttering as a medical (i.e., not psychological) condition. They edited that sentence out.

So this is the mindset we're dealing with...


Norbert @ BSA said...

For us in the UK it is clearly not always easy to assess the impact, influence and attitudes of organisations like ASHA.

In his letter to John B, Leys gave a very good sumamry of why it is important to pursue this:
"Thus we - and many other authoritative organisations throughout the world - believe it would be right for Google to include stammering under the Miracle Cure policy because:

1. There is no cure for stammering.

2. As stammering is still thought by many to be caused by a mental or character weakness, it is not seen to be a medical condition, and therefore a lot of entirely unqualified people and organisations are advertising stammering treatments, many of which are claiming a cure.

3. These ads give false hope to those who stammer and perpetuate the false impression amongst people who don’t stammer that stammering is not serious and can be cured quite easily.

4. The number of people affected by stammering is immense - some 720,000 adults and children here in the UK, 3 million in the US and more than 60 million throughout the world. Yet, not surprisingly, you don’t hear much about it.

5. Google can, and should, take responsibility for this situation - especially as they are profiting from advertising impossible cures."

Ora said...

Norbert -
What is meant by the statement "there is no cure for stuttering"? Surely we're not rejecting the proposition that speech therapy is often effective? On that assumption, what do we mean by "there is no cure for stuttering"?

(I don't mean to be argumentative, just trying to understand your point.)


Norbert @ BSA said...

Ora, sorry, only saw your comment just now. I tend not to read the comments very often. There is no cure for stammering in the sense that 'cure' implies a medical model, an illness. And a cure means something administered by an expert which will work for everyone, in every situation; you apply it and you will never stammer again; never need to work on your speech again; never need to use a speech technique again.

So, for an adult stammerer, cure does not mean learning and applying a technique such as precision fluency shaping, costal breathing, block modification- that's a controlling device, similar to a wheelchair which does not "cure" a paraplegic. Others are much better at expressing this than I am and the summary is here: