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You may recall the big brouhaha over the domain registrar Go Daddy supporting SOPA. Stack Exchange agreed to drop Go Daddy as a registrar, and moved all of their domains. As such, you can imagine my surprise when I saw an ad for Go Daddy today on Stack Overflow.

I understand that Stack Exchange needs to make money, but should they be advertising a company that supported legislation the CEO of Stack Exchange has called out for being "life-threatening" to the site and company?

Serious about tech? So are we. GoDaddy.com

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FYI it's also been noticed (with some amusement) on ServerFault. –  tombull89 May 24 '12 at 7:40
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It'd be nice to be able to downvote such ads, like on Reddit. –  Jeremy Banks May 24 '12 at 7:45
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But I don't want to recall the big brouhaha.... *sigh* –  casperOne May 24 '12 at 12:14
    
possible duplicate of Stack Overflow showing advertisements from GoDaddy - really? –  Arjan Jun 7 '12 at 16:43
    
@Arjan Slightly different situation, since that was pre/during SOPA debates. –  Anna Lear Jun 7 '12 at 17:01
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6 Answers

up vote 51 down vote accepted

I believe that if you boycott a company because of a stand they took, you have a responsibility to stop boycotting them if they change their position. Since Go Daddy did change their position on SOPA, the original boycott of Go Daddy is over and is not a reason to refuse their advertising.

The other question is whether or not we should accept advertising from companies that our community has a negative opinion of for whatever reason ... tasteless ads, a poor quality product, or anything else.

On this particular question, my opinion is that Stack Exchange Inc. should not take an editorial position... we can't be in the business of evaluating every advertiser to decide if they are warm and fuzzy or creepy and prickly, as long as the ads that they run here meet reasonable standards for tastefulness.

Even though the company should not take these positions, I feel like the community SHOULD. We are working on putting into place a close button (X) in the corner of ads so that you can close ads you don't like for whatever reason. If we see ads that have an unusually high number of closes we will stop running them. For this feature, we're waiting on support from our ad serving software (AdZerk).

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From what I've heard, the sense was that GoDaddy only vaguely asserted that they wouldn't support it for now. Nevertheless, this seems like a reasonable position. Kudos for not holding a grudge, and for planning a feature to let users express their own grudges. –  nhinkle Jun 7 '12 at 17:58
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This comment strikes me in a negative way, especially "Even though the company should not take these positions, I feel like the community SHOULD" -- the company IS a huge part of the comm; it's odd to me that if you're not OK with someone as a person that you're willing to do it as a business. Also RE "I believe that if you boycott a company because of a stand they took, you have a resp to stop boycotting them if they change their position." -- as other users have pointed out, they still support the idea of SOPA, just when it's politically palatable. Thanks for your openness and work on SO! –  zallarak Jun 8 '12 at 21:14
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I'd like to point out that the very action of accepting advertising money from a company is a small editorial: "This is a company we're willing to do business with." Further, while GoDaddy is no longer overtly threatening the very fabric of the Internet, they remain a very sleazy company: support.godaddy.com/groups/online-file-folder/forum/topic/… Is this the sort of behavior StackOverflow wants to be associated with? –  David Ellis Jun 26 '12 at 21:27
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Go Daddy has not "reversed" their support. They simply stopped outwardly support Internet censorship.

Their exact words regarding SOPA:

It's very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.

The emphasis is mine. So long as they stand ready to support Internet censorship, I will refuse to give them any business, warn others, and recommend alternatives.

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The idea of a boycott (being a type of blackmail) is to get someone to do something that you want by withholding something they want. If they cave to the blackmail and give you what you want (not supporting SOPA) and you don't give them what they want, then they have no incentive to cave to the blackmail in the future. If you give them what they want, then the next time they do something you don't like your blackmail (or even just threats of it) will actually mean something to them. –  Servy Jun 7 '12 at 16:36
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@Servy Fair enough; but they didn't do the thing we wanted, they did something else. So where does that leave us? –  Chris S Jun 7 '12 at 17:02
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"when and if the Internet community supports it". So, never? –  Rocket Hazmat Jun 7 '12 at 17:02
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That's not how I read what they want, @Rocket. The part Getting it right is worth the wait kind of tells me they want things differently, but just cowardly don't dare to say so. But: I might be interpreting it wrongly. (That said: it seems GoDaddy doesn't try to make a clearer statement either.) –  Arjan Jun 7 '12 at 17:05
    
@Arjan: I agree, I'm just optimistic. –  Rocket Hazmat Jun 7 '12 at 17:06
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You wanted them to not support SOPA. They may still agree with it, but because their customers clearly, and very strongly, disagree with SOPA they will not support it. How is that not getting exactly what you want? You know that as long as you and the majority of their customer base doesn't support SOPA neither will GoDaddy. If public opinion changes, then so will the public position of GoDaddy. If you don't support them even when they aren't supporting SOPA then you no longer are a customer of them, and they no longer need to care what your opinion is. You are losing pull by leaving. –  Servy Jun 7 '12 at 17:10
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@Servy Correct, but "You wanted them to not support SOPA" doesn't have a time limit or popularity meter attached to it. I meant never. I do not want any government censorship of the Internet, not now, not tomorrow, not if the public majority supports it, not if it's financial viable or profitable. They "don't" support it now, but they intend to do so and have made that clear. I know expecting a company to act in a morally defensible manor is too much to ask these days, but I still do. –  Chris S Jun 7 '12 at 17:28
    
I don't see the need to boycott a company for something they might, possibly, conceivably do in the future. They have shown that they listen to their customer base, and that if their customers don't support an action neither will they. That's a great trait. While your personal position may not change public opinion as a whole, may or may not change. If it does change, I would expect GoDaddy's position to change as well. Honestly, I'd even think they learned a lesson from this whole thing, and probably won't hold a strong public position on SOPA again for fear of another boycott. –  Servy Jun 7 '12 at 17:35
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As for acting in a "morally defensible manor", everyone doesn't have the same definition of "morale". You may consider it immoral, but clearly everyone doesn't (although in this particular case a great many people do). Generally speaking, I don't consider it every single companies business to define what is morale. I consider it their business to listen to what their customers think is morale and act accordingly. It is up to their customers to define what "morale" is to them. –  Servy Jun 7 '12 at 17:39
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The whole point of the campaign was to encourage GoDaddy to change their mind. They did just that, and I think it's fine for us to forgive them for their original position and move on.

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A better idea would be to support companies that do the right thing in the first place. If they think laws like sopa are a good idea, that's the problem, even if they got forced to drop support for that specific Implementation of the law. –  sth May 24 '12 at 11:25
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@sth Two points. #1: If we refuse to forgive them, what incentive do they (or other SOPA-supporters) have for changing their minds? #2 They're 'supporting' us (with advertising money). I imagine it's partly because of their tarnished reputation that they're doing it. Why would companies that we all know and already love bother giving advertising money? –  Blowski May 24 '12 at 11:32
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The incentive would be that they would have lost even more customers and reputation if they would have been stubborn. If they stayed in the line of fire they would be off worse. That they dropped their support when it cost them too much money isn't really a very redeeming action. If you to bad things and then reluctantly stop, it doesn't mean everything now has to be forgotten and forgiven. When they know that they can just step back in case of a public outcry, and everything will be fine, what is their incentive to not at least try to support the next bill like sopa that comes along? –  sth May 24 '12 at 21:34
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And #2: Well-known companies advertise because you can always be more well-known and more loved and if only the competition advertizes you run the risk that they get more well-known and loved while you stagnate. And they are not "supporting" us, they advertise purely to support themselves. That's the point of advertising. –  sth May 24 '12 at 21:39
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The bottom line for me is that they're a slimy company. Their sexualized ads are as big a part of it as their (former?) legal stance. Seeing their ad on SO made me consider removing SO's exception from my ad blocker. –  Nathan Long May 31 '12 at 12:35
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They changed their public statement after intense pressure - including boycotts. As Blowski notes, that's sorta the goal of a boycott.

Does anyone really think the execs have had some sort of epiphany, and now recognize SOPA as the bad idea it was? Hell no. They responded to public pressure, nothing more. But hey - at least they responded to public pressure. When you're talking about a company whose primary service is to provide access to a public resource, they probably should strive to blow like a leaf in the wind of public opinion.

There are a lot of domains that aren't gonna be moved back any time soon, but if they wanna pay for advertising on the site, after being publicly criticized by the staff and users, then... Uh, I guess I can live with that.

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If I recall correctly, GoDaddy eventually caved to the pressure and reversed their support for SOPA. I can only speculate, but this may have been enough for Stack Exchange to rationalize making money off GoDaddy's ads again.

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What I understood from it they didn't reverse it but only dropped their public support. I haven't read about it after January but at that time they were still silent supporters. –  Niek May 24 '12 at 9:15
    
I don't know that “rationalize” is really the right word there; it has negative connotations in English that don't apply in this case. –  Donal Fellows May 24 '12 at 9:17
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@NiekdeKlein Statement was: "It's very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it." godaddy.com/newscenter/release-view.aspx?news_item_id=378 Interpret that how you will. –  Blowski May 24 '12 at 9:26
    
@DonalFellows - I see that you're from the UK, so your English may be slightly different than mine, but 'rationalize' seems like a fine word. To me it implies that Stack Exchange weighed the benefits (making money) of selling ads to GoDaddy against their previous boycott and used the reversal of support to conclude that it had become acceptable to sell the ads. –  Kevin Vermeer May 24 '12 at 13:42
    
@Donal Indeed "rationalize" (meaning to justify with plausible reasons) and "making money" hint that we're talking about a business decision but Paul is free to phrase his answer as he wishes. –  Alexandre Jasmin May 28 '12 at 16:59
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Listen, comrades, this is a business here. It sells ads. You don't agree with GoDaddy's politics. So what? They pay, fair and square, for their ads, just like everyone else does. If you don't like them, don't buy from them. Don't harass the management here to protect your sensitive eyeballs from ads from people you disagree with.

So my answer is, 'Yes, the management should sell ad space to GoDaddy and pretty much anyone else. It's not scalable or viable to be filtering add sales based on every little bit of political opinion out there"

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This seems like it would be better suited as a comment. –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Jun 7 '12 at 16:29
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How is this any more or less of an answer than all of the other opinionated stuff in all the other answers? I'll none the less edit ... –  Rosinante Jun 7 '12 at 16:30
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SO is a business too. If seeing these ads pisses off SO's customers then it can be more harmful than the revenue generated from the ads. In that case, it would be in SO's best interest to not sell ads to Go Daddy. –  Servy Jun 7 '12 at 16:32
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