Google Steps Up and Bans Ads from Payday Lenders

054985500_1441013137-google-headquarters-sign-640x0_digital_trendsNew Orleans   Just because we’re chasing them, doesn’t mean that payday lenders are on the run, but recently we got a break that could end up as a fatal blow and perhaps stiffen the backbone and open the eyes of those unwilling to confront the predatory practices that define the business model of payday lenders. Google or Alphabet or whatever they are calling themselves are one the largest tech companies of the world, and they have now announced that forthwith they would no longer accept advertising from payday lenders. Hooray!

A number of consumer advocates weighted in with congratulations, and, surely, this was a win that undoubtedly came after extensive behind-the-scenes meetings, but no matter how the result was achieved, it’s a significant victory. In the highly competitive online advertising world, hopefully, it will be “monkey see, monkey do,” and followed by Facebook, Twitter, and the hundreds of other sites and applications that worship that almighty ad dollar. The payday lenders association, or whatever that gang of hyenas call themselves at the predators’ ball, cried “foul,” and claimed they were doing a public service in stealing from the poor, but they were left with no recourse. Google is a private company after all, and not some politician they can just ply with a campaign donation or sic their lobbyist on.

All of which calls into play whether or not tech companies might be good targets for more and more campaigns, and that’s worth some thought. Even while we praise Google, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that they will be pushovers if the history and ideology of tech companies is any guide.

Apple certainly waged a huge battle under Steve Jobs and his successors to prevent unionization of its contract janitors, and to this day, unless something has changed recently, solved the problem by simply taking the work in-house as direct employees rather than deal with the union. Many of these tech companies and their execs are Ayn Rand fanboys and hard leaning libertarians. The role of Microsoft’s Gates and Facebook’s Zuckerberg in trying to privatize and charter up public school systems is now legendary, where often their main partners are the Walmart Foundation and its conservative crew. Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch coauthored an op-ed recently where they wanted to get their two cents in on the amount of free speech on college campuses where they are afraid that administrators and professors are bending over too far to kowtow to minorities, women and others that might built the power to object to some of the baked in dogma opposing their interests. Austin, Texas voters just had to administer a butt whipping to the ride-sharing Batman and Robin, Uber and Lyft, who wanted to allow their drivers to not be fingerprinted like other drivers in that city. Facebook is taking heat as well for slanting its newsfeed and creating an echo chamber. Amazon seems the most Teflon, since it seems to still be consumer crack.

The good thing is that at their current size, none of these tech behemoths can just hunker down and hide in Silicon Valley anymore. To the degree that public perception and buying power still is a major part of what makes them winners or losers, we may have some collective power to punish the baddies, like payday lenders, that we need to exercise even more by putting tech companies on our “must target” list.


Who Owns Social Media?

HMV-StaffTakeoverNew Orleans     If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to give any of this a second thought, but increasingly social media has blurred the lines between personal, political, and business, and forced the classic question about property:  who owns what?  There are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and god knows what else, and when it’s working, it’s working well, but what happens when there’s a bump in the road, a business disagreement, or a bankruptcy?  The social media companies are very little help and often either obscure or worse, irresponsible, in how they deal with all of this and the courts and lawyers are only recently getting in the game, so it is worth thinking about this now, even though it may already be too late for many.  In the newness of the media, we all jumped in feet first, leaping now, and looking later. 

            Twitter is without a doubt the worse since their communication skills are limited to 149 characters it seems in all transactions.  The number of Twitter users is always suspect because passwords are linked to email addresses, and forgetting one means death to the other and the account, forcing another account with another random email address and starting the cycle all over again for many.  In the early days, some young eager beaver might have seized the opportunity or for that matter been asked by some doddering soul of forty or higher to “yeah, sure, go ahead and open one of those ‘tweet’ things.”  Years later the staffer or volunteer is gone, it now seems more important to actually deal with the account, and no one can remember what and whatnot. 

            We run into these problems frequently with the volunteer armies that keep our noncommercial radio stations on a forward line of march.  We had a great Facebook account for KABF that started as a so-called personal account and hit the maximum of 5000 friends before Facebook changed to “fan” pages.  Eventually, we were able to post on the account, but no matter how many times we entreat them, they will not honor the fact that KABF is the owner of the KABF account, so we can’t administer it, and were forced to start anew two years ago.  DJs, enthusiastic about their shows or leaders enthusiastic about their local groups, start Facebook accounts on their own that sprout up like weeds in the garden.  Does it build the organization or the station or siphon interest and support away into side channels and still bayous off of the mainstream?  Both in all likelihood, and trying to rein them in often breeds the worst results, even though everyone agrees it is important to speak with one voice and protect your so-called “brand.”  Once we even had to fight to get back on own website domain, sheesh!

           To keep up with the sites, a kneejerk reaction becomes to make lots of people administrators in order to feed the beast.  On Facebook that can be a disaster.  Any administrator can suddenly evict any other administrator from the site just on their say so without a nevermind it seems to the entity which owns it all and is responsible for the content.  Yikes!  And, Facebook is no help in resolving this.  We eventually discovered, thanks to our webmaster’s diligent research, that you can have one administrator and give “privileges” to others, so we’ve changed that on all of our sites, but how many know about that hidden nugget of information.

            A gun store owner in Texas recently spent seven weeks in jail because he refused to turn over the business Facebook and Twitter accounts to a partner acquiring the outfit after a bankruptcy, claiming he had used the accounts as a personal soapbox and his speech was being silence.  A South Carolina internet company sued a former employee for taking a Twitter account with 17,000 followers with him when he left, costing them thousands.  In Pennsylvania, a federal court had to get into the mess with a woman and her former employer over who owned the Linked-In account.  Discussions about all of this largely uncharted intellectual property ownership with Doug Young, our Austin-based attorney, give him huge migraines, he reports.

            My advice:  this is a mess, so best straighten it out now BEFORE there are problems.  Just saying.