“With great power comes great responsibility not to be reckless and stupid.”
Google recently announced this policy change. See if you can spot what is wrong with it: I shouted, “What???” pretty much through the second paragraph.
At Google, we take seriously our responsibility to help create and sustain an advertising ecosystem that works for everyone. Our ads are meant to connect users with relevant businesses, products and services, and we have strict policies to keep misleading or harmful ads off of our platforms—in fact, we removed 3.2 billion bad ads last year alone. Today, we’re announcing a new policy to prohibit ads that promote bail bond services from our platforms. Studies show that for-profit bail bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years. We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us, including the Essie Justice Group, Koch Industries, Color of Change and many civil and human rights organizations who have worked on the reform of our criminal justice system for many years. According to Gina Clayton, executive director of the Essie Justice Group, “This is the largest step any corporation has taken on behalf of the millions of women who have loved ones in jails across this country. Google’s new policy is a call to action for all those in the private sector who profit off of mass incarceration. It is time to say ‘no more.’” Enforcement of this policy will begin in July 2018. This policy change is part of our ongoing efforts to protect users on our platforms.
Maybe this isn’t as stupid as it appears. Maybe Google is trying to protect its users by ensuring that potential predators accused of crime rot in jail while they are awaiting for trial because they don’t have access to bail. Now that would be sinister and cruel, but not idiotic. Maybe? Perhaps?
No, this is just idiotic.
Prof. Alex Tabarrok, the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and a professor of economics at George Mason University, explains:
Bail bonds are a legal service. Indeed, they are a necessary service for the legal system to function. It’s not surprising that bail bonds are used in communities of color and low income neighborhoods because it is in those neighborhoods that people most need to raise bail. We need not debate whether that is due to greater rates of crime or greater discrimination or both. Whatever the cause, preventing advertising doesn’t reduce the need to pay bail it simply makes it harder to find a lender. Restrictions on advertising in the bail industry, as elsewhere, are also likely to reduce competition and raise prices. Both of these effects mean that more people will find themselves in jail for longer.
And may I add, with respect, “Duh.” You don’t begin reforming the bail system by making it harder for people who need bail to get it….that is, you don’t do that unless you have a cranial vacuum. Moreover, Prof. Tabbarrak has the same message based on his experience with bail bond companies as I did when I had criminal defendants as clients—and when I have had to help family members and friend deal with the bail system: Continue reading