More Nader Censorship Schemes

The Associated Press reports that Ralph Nader’s group Commercial Alert has filed a complained with the Federal Trade Commission about search engines that sell search rankings. According to Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert,

Search engines have become central in the quest for learning and knowledge in our society. The ability to skew the results in favor of hucksters without telling consumers is a serious problem.

From the looks of things, Ruskin is a putz with nothing better to do. For example, one of the search engines Commercial Alert complained about was AltaVista (which I was surprised to learn was still around — who uses this anymore?) Here’s a screenshot of a search I did a while ago on the word “automobile.”

Now maybe it goes right over Ruskin’s head, but it was obvious to me that “Partner Listings” is AltaVista-speak for “these people paid to be included here.” Placing the “We found 1,913,925 results” after the Partner Listings further delineates the paid-for listings from the “objective” search results.

The really scary thing about Nader’s groups is that what they really want long-term is for all rules that apply to traditional broadcasting to apply to the web as well. As the Associated Press sums it up,

In its complaint, Commercial Alert alleges that the search engines’ misleading paid listings are equivalent to television infomercials masquerading as independent programming. In the past, the FTC has cracked down on infomercials that weren’t adequately labeled as advertising.

Applying the bloated rules and bureaucracy that governs television to the web would be an unmitigated disaster, not the least of which because it would open the door for demagogues like Nader who made no bones about his desire to use the FTC to censor media — such as the video game industry — that are largely beyond the reach of government censors. In fact, Nader referred to the video game industries as “electronic child molesters” in an October 1999 campaign press release.

Thanks Ralph, but no thanks.

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