The story so far: last week I found an ad I objected to on the website of a leading South African media group. The ad promoted a herbal concoction which, according to testimonials on the website the ad linked to, could be sued to treat the symptoms of AIDS. The ad had been served by Google's AdWords. I then complained to AVUSA, the owners of the site I saw the ad on, Google, who served the ad and to the South African Advertising Standards Authority. This week I learnt that mine was not the first complaint and that the Advertising Standards Authority had acted on a complaint from a Patrick Linzer in 2009. Today I can report some responses. I have learnt that Google has removed the ad. Avusa have also blocked the ad. And I have received an acknowledgement of my complaint from the ASA.
The lesson? Well complaining to 'old' and 'new' media companies seems to have worked pretty well in this case. Whether the ('old' media) self-regulatory system (the Advertising Standards Authority) is working for new media is another question. We will see. There's a lot at stake in this. Yesterday, the French President spoke in Paris to an audience including Mark Zukerberg, Rupert Murdoch and Eric Schmidt about Internet regulation. He said: "The world you represent is not a parallel universe where legal and moral rules and, more generally, all the basic rules that govern society in democratic countries do not apply." But he also acknowledged that national regulation does not work (see this week's story of Ryan Gigg's 'superinjunction' to see just how it doesn't). I agree with the Open Right's Group's Jim Killock that "The idea that the internet resembles a 'wild west' is nonsense," but the Internet does undermine the ecology of national law and regulation and self-regulation that has managed and controlled 'oild' mass media. As online citizens our interests will not always be aligned with those of global Internet businesses or of national governments. Finding ways of influencing how a new ecology develops will be an increasing challenge in the next few years.