Within a day of an appeal by The Rights Forum, Google took an Israeli government ad offline. In the ad it accused Amnesty International of anti-Semitism.
Anyone who now enters the search term “Amnesty International” on Google will no longer see the defamatory ad. Until early this morning, it was at the top of the list of millions of results that the search yielded.
The title above the ad had several variations. In addition to an accusation of anti-Semitism, it also branded Amnesty as “hostile” and “obsessive”, among others, always under the slogan “the true face of Amnesty”.
The ad linked to a webpage of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. There it reads that under the cover of being a human rights organization, Amnesty has a “hostile, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda”, and abandons populations in dire need of humanitarian support and protection.
Yesterday, The Rights Forum called on Google to remove the ad. We argued that a government that publicly portrays one of the world’s most prominent human rights organizations as a lurid club of anti-Semites is guilty of defamation. And that companies should refuse such ads on principle, rather than actively help spread the slander.
The quick removal of the ad indicates that Google recognized that it could not pass muster. Open questions remain as to why the company placed the ad in the first place and who is responsible for it. Were the conditions that ads must comply with met, and if not, why not? We urge Google to offer an explanation.
We believe that Google first and foremost owes Amnesty accountability and an apology, and in the public interest should ensure that defamatory ads are consistently rejected from now on. Full transparency about the Amnesty case is important for public confidence in the tech-company, and thus also a matter of self-interest for Google.
We advise Google to be extra vigilant from now on when governments offer politically tinged ads, especially if they come from notorious slanderers. As we illustrated with examples in the article about our appeal, the Israeli government responds to criticism of its violations of international law and human rights by default with smear campaigns. With its ad on Google, Israel did not show the “true face” of Amnesty International, but its own.