Internet

No sale for pro-211 ad buys

Netscape and Excite reject advertisements that promote California's Proposition 211, following a similar move by Yahoo earlier this month that prompted cries of censorship from supporters of the pro-litigation initiative.

Netscape Communications and Excite have rejected advertisements that promote California's Proposition 211, following a similar move by Yahoo earlier this month that prompted cries of censorship from supporters of the pro-litigation initiative.

Yahoo, however, has agreed to run a pro-211 ad later this month, according to Kevin Thomason, the creator of the Yes on 211 Web site that has tried to advertise in Yahoo, Netscape, and Excite.

Supporters of Proposition 211 have had a difficult time pitching their message to Silicon Valley. The initiative would make it easier for investors to sue companies over misleading financial statements. But most of California's high-tech companies have seen Proposition 211 as a guarantor of frivolous shareholder lawsuits and have threatened to stop providing investors with financial forecasts if the initiative, on the state's November ballot, is approved.

Netscape and Excite publicly oppose Proposition 211, showing their disdain for the measure by posting "anti-211" icons on their heavily trafficked Web sites. The icons link to the Web site for Taxpayers Against Frivolous Lawsuits, a group that is spearheading the opposition to the initiative.

Netscape representatives said today that they felt no obligation to accept an advertisement for an initiative they oppose. "We treat our site like a publication, not a broadcast station," a Netscape spokeswoman said today. "We can pick and choose what we want to put up."

Excite officials could not be reached by press time.

But Thomason--whose firm, Seamless Website, designed the Yes on 211 site for the Los Angeles-based Citizens for Retirement Protection--Web sites, like television networks, should adopt fairness policies and offer ad space to both sides of a political initiative.

"Between Yahoo, Excite, and Netscape, they're the most popular Web sites," Thomason said. "They almost have a monopoly on Web traffic because most people go those sites to get around. If some of these companies don't have a fairness model in place, they may stifle political discussion."

He added that Yahoo will run its pro-211 ad on October 28, but he fears that its impact will be lessened because the date is so close to the election.

Yahoo officials could not be reached for comment. However, the company has issued a statement saying that it has offered both sides of the 211 initiative ad space on its Web site.