Google draws fire from Australian Sex Party over ad refusal

The Sex Party alleges Google hurts its chances in a July election by delaying running its AdWords advertisements

Google is facing two complaints filed in Australia and the US by the Australian Sex Party, an upstart political party that was denied running AdWords for a July political campaign until a day before the election.

The Sex Party alleges Google caused it to receive fewer votes and donations that it would have received if it could have used AdWords, which appear in Google search results and on Gmail, said Fiona Patten, president of the Sex Party.

Patten filed letters of complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sept. 5 and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Sept. 6.

The DOJ complaint alleges Google violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by unlawfully interfering in a state election. The ACCC complaint alleges unlawful interference in violation of Australia's Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Patten ran in a by-election for a seat in the federal state of Victoria, running in an inner city district in Melbourne. She came in third.

"The Melbourne electorate is the youngest electorate in Australia," said Patten, who had allocated an initial AU$3,000 to spend on AdWords. "Newspaper ads are not going to get to this electorate. It is important to have access to online advertising."

The Sex Party, launched in 2009, thought the refusal might have been related to its platform, which revolves around a range of hot-button issues, including the rights of sex workers, access to abortion services and legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. But that didn't appear to be the case, Patten said.

Most of its ads advocated positions such as "24-hour public transport," Patten said. "We weren't saying 'For great sex, click here'."

The Sex Party tried to buy AdWords on July 2. Google refused, saying the ads displayed a donation button, which was not allowed if an advertiser did not have tax-exempt status. Donation buttons are actually allowed by Google's rules for political parties, and all political parties in Australia do not have tax-exempt status although donations are tax deductible, Patten said.

Meanwhile, other political parties, including The Greens, Labour and Family First, were running AdWords advertisements soliciting donations, she said.

The Sex Party repeatedly contacted Google to point out the inconsistency in their policy, and at 3 p.m. on July 20, Google relented. The election was the next day.

"I think [running Google ads] could have had quite a substantial impact," Patten said. "Our members are young and very tech savvy. We were not able to promote our policies like our competitors."

The Sex Party did not place ads through the Yahoo Bing Network, run by Microsoft, Patten said. "I think we'd certainly say we will be considering those outlets in the lead up to the next election." A federal election will take place in Australia next year.

A Google spokesman said the company had been notified by The Sex Party of its complaint but that it could not comment. DOJ officials could not be immediately reached for comment. The ACCC does not confirm if it receives complaints and would only comment after there has been a decision to take action following an investigation, according to a spokesman.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?