Google advertises for the slave trade (Really!)


The sponsored links on the sidebar I just got while reading this Time Magazine article about slavery reparations include this gem:

“Slave Ship: Looking for slave ship? Find exactly what you want today.”

Really. Take a look at the screenshot; this is directly off of my computer screen (click through for the larger image):

Slave ship ad on Google link.

The site advertised ( appears to be a placeholder and generic advertising site. Which brings us back to the Google ad. I’m not sure whether I find it more weird, since apparently someone has forgotten that the slave trade was abolished over a century ago, or whether I should find it more offensive. Google is making a buck from click-throughs to a site that purports to sell a slave ship, on the sidebar to a reparations article! What ever happened to “Don’t be evil”? For now, I’m just shaking my head in disbelief. (And also, weirdly, the Google ad offers to sell “slave ring tones.” Um, yeah.)

I’m a little worried about what kind of sidebar ads Google might be running on articles about the Holocaust.

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2 Responses

  1. cld says:

    I am not a lawyer and have never been to law school but I have a question. Could anyone actually bring a suit against Google for this ad? Could this ad be considered a promotion of Slavery or would a court just view this as an honest and ignorant mistake?

  2. Joske Vermeulen says:

    Please don’t be an alarmist idiot. This sort of advertising sites buy up all cheap adwords (read: uncommon search terms) and then display ads on those pages. Nobody is having a racist motive here and I’m sure that if you would notify Google about this specific term (which you should have done instead of crying wolf here) they’d add ‘slave ship’ to their list of banned words. What do you expect, that Google manually screens *all* search terms that are being used by their advertisers? Or that they lock 100 people into a room for 100 days and they cannot come out until they have *the* *definitive* list of *all* search words that anyone, anywhere in the world in any language might label offensive?