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Recently, we've seen SEIU banner ads at the end of many DKos diaries concerning health care reform. I suspect that most people here assume that diarists either have been adding these, or agreed to have them appended, or even worse, as suggested in comments below like here, that the diarist represents SEIU. The SEIU ad appears as part of the diary itself, rather than in the advertising column. When you click on the ad banner, it takes you to a page in which you can "Sign-up now to make sure Congress passes health care reform this year," certainly one of the goals that most of us share, although as discussed below, the health system reform supported by SEIU may not be the same kind of reform that many here, including the diarists who authored the diaries to which the ad has been appended, hope to see enacted.

This is NOT being done with the prior knowledge or consent of the diary authors. I learned this first hand the other day. I respectfully submit that this requires further discussion, and a change in policy about these ads.

UPDATE: Especially after reading that diarists are being mistaken as SEIU reps, I appreciate that this made the Rec List. Some have suggested that this is an overreaction. I'm adding a poll.

UPDATE (during a commercial at the start of the 4th quarter of the Nuggets-Lakers game :-)  I notice that the ads are now gone, but only for subscribers. So, this at least solves the problem that paid subscribers should not be subject to ads. The essential issue remains, though. In fact, subscribers who write diaries now  won't even know the ads have been appended to their diaries unless they log out and check. So, the concerns about consent and implied endorsement remain, but hopefully will be resolved with an automatic disclaimer. Thanks to Hunter and others for working on this.

* * * * * *

I was more than a little surprised to see the SEIU banner magically appear appended to the end of a diary I wrote several days ago. I was not asked for my permission. I guessed that this was automatically triggered by one or more key words in the Tags related to health care or health system reform. This supposition has now been confirmed (see update at the end). You can find many diaries that have the ads, just a few here and here and this diary that was atop the Rec list.

I first wrote that I wasn't necessarily saying this is wrong, but after reading some of the discussion below, I'm now concluding that this is a very bad policy. In particular, I think it is not at all good that the placement of the ads and the wording of the ads themselves have misled some readers to conclude that the diarists were in some way representing SEIU. I suspect that the words, "sponsored by SEIU" found in the ads themselves perhaps facilitates this mistaken impression, even though I'm confident that was not the intent of SEIU.

To be clear: I'm not suggesting anything sinister regarding SEIU, although it is a union that has generated its own share of controversy within the labor movement. (Update:) And a commenter on a thread on this same topic as part of the Moyers diary added, regarding the apprpirateness of the SEIU ads, that this is a legitimate issue "Especially since SEIU is NOT pro-single payer, but is on the Obama/HCAN line of public option in a mixed plan."

If you click on "terms and conditions" of the SEIU sign-up page you land on when click their banner ad, you find this:

The Action Tag service (“The Service”) is provided by Pressflex LLC on behalf of the action sponsor, the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU” or the “Sponsor”).  By using The Service, you are opting in to SEIU's mailing list and your personal data will be shared by The Service with the Sponsor.  If you use The Service in the future,  unless you delete our cookies or un-enroll from The Service,  your data will pre-load to allow you to take action for SEIU or other of our sponsors .

I have to confess to more than a little discomfort about having any advertisement, no matter how ostensibly noble, appear as if it were something that I agreed to, appended to what I've written. A quick search did not come up with any front-page explanation.

I would like to suggest that the more appropriate policy would be to have any advertising tags appended to the body of a diary on DKos only with the explicit permission of the author of the diary, or at the very least, with a prominent automatic disclaimer that the ad was not approved or endorsed by the author, and does not necessarily represent the author's opinion. These ads are NOT the same as ads appearing in the advertising column, as they appear to be part of the diary and suggest the tacit approval or endorsement of the author.

These ads also appear even to DKos subscribers who have paid not to not see the other ads, only adding to the impression that they are part of the diaries. (As a subscriber, I can certify that the ads are seen by everyone.)

Consistent with the ethics of this DKos, there should also be complete transparency about this entire issue.

* * * * * *

UPDATE: The SEIU banner also appears below, now confirmed (both by tag removal and addition, and by SEIU's reply -- see below --) that this was triggered by the tag "health care". Other tags also trigger the ad, as noted by several commenters below, in addition to the ones noted by Mr. tagaris.

This ad does not appear with my prior knowledge or consent. Perhaps every diarist ought to add this same disclaimer until this is resolved.

UPDATE ON SEIU's RESPONSE: Tim Tagaris, the "Internet Director of SEIU", has just posted this diary in response. I invited him to join the discussion over here as well, which he has done, and I very much appreciate his open participation. He confirms that "health care" and "employee free choice act" trigger the ads. But this is also an excellent opportunity for SEIU to clarify it's position on Health System Reform, and whether clicking on the SEIU add will be used to suggest support for a specific position that SEIU is advocating. So far, these questions remain  unclear, even after several hours of discussion here. So, how about it?

I think this can be easily resolved with some additional transparency, such as an appropriate identification that these are paid advertisements, and a disclaimer that the ads do not represent endorsement or approval by the authors of the diaries in which they are embedded.

I also want to make clear: this is NOT an SEIU issue. It's about transparency, and how a site like this that represents a pluralistic community functions. Imagine, for the sake of discussion, that the ads were not placed by SEIU, but instead by AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans).

* * * * * *

I want to acknowledge a very reassuring and greatly appreciated reply by Huner:

It's an ad, yeah.
I'll ask the ad people to pop in and address this if they can, but Markos and pretty much everyone else is on their vacations this weekend, so it may take a while.

The deal is that it comes up according to a story's tags. It's also an experiment of sorts, to see if ads could be better targeted to specific things that readers might actually be interested in, as opposed to just random stuff.

The points about (1) subscribers still seeing it and (2) it not looking sufficiently like an ad are both valid. I think (1) is a programming bug, and I think (2) can be addressed somehow. Like I said, I'm going to ping folks and make sure they know.

Given unanswered questions about SEIU's specific position on health system reform, and the effect of clicking on the ads (apart from giving people a chance to "sign up"), I've just deleted my previous thought that this diary should slide peacefullly into rec-list heaven.

Originally posted to flitedocnm on Sat May 23, 2009 at 01:57 PM PDT.

Poll

Regarding banner ads appended to the end of diaries:

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