Iceland’s Christmas Ad Causes Controversy

No matter what Clearcast did, doxing is never the answer

Benjamin Jacobs, Contributor

A PSA can serve as a powerful medium to spread a message, as long as they don’t get preachy. Of course the public does not have to agree with the advertisement’s message, but there is a line between what is considered criticism and what is considered harassment. In early November, Clearcast, a UK-based company that pre-approves ads for television, removed an advertisement involving the origins of palm oil, and how it affects orangutan habitats. Clearcast faced an enormous amount of backlash, causing the company to remove all contact information from their website and delete their Facebook page entirely.

Of course, free speech is important for everyone. However, there are limits, such as abusive comments. This is not an example of freedom of speech, but rather harassment. Yes, individuals have the right to criticize the company, but that does not excuse those resorting to outright harassment.

The ad itself is narrated in the form of a poem, telling of an orangutan hiding in a little girl’s bedroom looking for palm oil. The orangutan then explains how the industry is hurting the environment, and that he needs the humans’ help to stop them. All in all, it seems fairly harmless, however, Clearcast deemed it to be in violation of advertisement regulations, and that it couldn’t be run because, “it fell foul of the rule on political advertisers,” since the ad had been created by GreenPeace, as the company explained. The beration that followed was in excess, including the sharing of employees photos and contact information online.

It is important to acknowledge that these responses are valid forms of free speech, but that there is a fine line between what is considered valid criticism and what is considered harassment. This is a form of doxing, or publishing people’s personal information online without their consent, and therefore a form of harassment. Yes, taking down the ad could be considered a mild form of censorship, but there needs to be some understanding of why they did it in the first place. Their reason was not because of the message, but rather that it went against the regulation that does not allow political ads.

Unfortunately, the good intentions of the commercial did not outweigh the fact that it was clearly political. Of course, this law could come off as ridiculous to some, after all, a political message is an expression of free speech as long as it doesn’t impact others freedom. However, if this didn’t happen, Iceland would potentially be facing some legal challenges. Clearcast was just trying to avoid a legal confrontation.

It would seem that the removal could not have been helped. If the ad had gone through, the company would have faced backlash from legal corporations. So, Clearcast did have a valid reason to remove the ad, while there is never a valid reason to dox.

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