May 19, 2005

Letter to Consumer Reports about ad violation by SafeEyes censorware

[Lis Riba made some great constructive suggestions, such as that I write Consumer Reports about a potential violation of their ad policy by the censorware "Safe Eyes" (thanks!). This is what I've now sent to Consumer Reports.]

Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 17:27:42 -0400
From: Seth Finkelstein <sethf[at-sign]>
To: nocomm[at-sign]
Subject: Report an ad violation - Safe Eyes website

Dear Consumer Reports:

According to your policy:

"Our Ratings, reports, and information are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports nor any other information, nor the name of Consumers Union or any of its publications, may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose, including any use on the Internet or mention in any press releases or newsletters in print or electronic form."

I would like to bring to your attention that the product Safe Eyes currently advertises on their website (see attached):

"Safe Eyes 2005 Rated The #1 Internet Filter!

Independent and unbiased testing by the leading consumer reporting publication confirms what our customers already knew....Safe Eyes is the best."

In one version of the site (with "Flash"), that passage then refers to the URL:

[see link - omitted from post text because of formatting issues]

Which is the "Ratings: Filtering software" report.

Note again that the use of "Flash" animation, may not be obvious depending on browser configuration (if you see a big blank white area, the browser is not configured properly). The URL for the most elaborate version of the site is:

One version of the text above is in an image, see:

Please feel free to contact me if you need further elaboration in enforcing that "Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials ...".

Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf[at-sign]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on May 19, 2005 05:37 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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Am I missing something? Is this policy a contract that companies have to agree to in order to have their products reviewed by Consumer Reports? If not, then how can CR enforce a policy that a Rating cannot be used in a press release in an advertisement?

If an organization has given you a #1 Rating, that's just a fact, and facts are obviously protected by the First Amendment, in ads or press releases or wherever. You can also use other people's trademarks without their permission as part of a factual statement (e.g. "Coke beats Pepsi").

Posted by: Bennett Haselton at May 19, 2005 06:59 PM

It is mostly enforced in a completely civil-libertarian manner via protest, bad publicity, boycott, etc. Not by legal liability.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at May 19, 2005 09:05 PM