Online search giant Google refused to run an ad campaign against the Finance Ministry's decision to grant huge tax breaks to large multinational companies, due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The ad campaign, led by the opposition left-wing party Meretz, was created to protest a recent decision by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to grant a 40 to 70 percent reduction on corporate taxes on so-called "restricted profits" to large multinational firms – profits the firms have earned in Israel and must remain in the country unless the money is taxed.
Meretz began running an online campaign asking people to sign a petition calling against Steinitz's decision. The party asked Google to run banner ads.
Dice Marketing CEO and representative of Meretz, Nimrod Dweck, tried to buy ad space from Google. His request, however, was denied because Google claimed this is a "sensitive matter," Dweck said.
After reviewing Google's regulations concerning "sensitive" issues, Dweck claimed that it does not prevent running the campaign. Dweck also said that he had never encountered such refusal, which is usually used in cases of racist, violent or pornographic content.
Google said in response that "usually, sensitive matters are a response to unusual global events which cannot be predicted, such as natural disasters or political uprisings, and therefore are not specified on its website."
The company noted that this policy was instituted "in order to protect Google's brand name."
The campaign's website said: "What happens when Finance Minister Steinitz wants to help giant multinational companies not to pay taxes? Restricted profits = robbing the public."
The website also featured a video in which Lior Shefer, who until recently served as an economic advisor to Meretz chairperson MK Zahava Gal-On, explains the risk in the new restricted profits law. In it, Shefer recommends taxing the multinational firms as an alternative to recent tax raises and budget cuts, stating that the treasury's decision is both unjust and socially unequal.
Leading the battle against granting the tax breaks to multinational companies, Gal-On said that "Google, who should make information available and accessible, is limiting the freedom of political speech - the soul of a free society – and appointing itself as a censor in the service of giant corporations."
Gal-On said that "the excuse that this is a 'sensitive" issue is ridiculous and outragous," adding that Google should be sensitive toward the public, which is not entitled to tax breaks, rather than toward "a handful of powerful people who are robbing the public's money."
"Google had justly fought against the communist censorship in China, where in Israel it promotes capitalistic censorship, while using its nearly monopolistic control in the online advertising market," Gal-On noted, adding that the capacity of such companies to infringe the freedom of speech in order to prevent a public and political debate raises grave concerns.
Google responded to the campaign, saying that it has a clear policy regarding its advertisements" and that the search engine does give space to advertisements that come out strongly against organizations, individuals or groups of people, and that in instances where advertisements violate said policy, the company takes the appropriate steps.
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