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In Harm’s Way: the not-so-nice side of internet advertising.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | November 9, 2008

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

During the last week of the Presidential campaign, AVVO, the lawyer rating web site, sent an email newsletter pointing out that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, both admitted to practice law in Illinois, had pages on AVVO. Like many lawyers, though, they hadn’t “claimed” their pages. The information contained in the websites had been posted by AVVO from other sources. AVVO often does this, relying on law firm websites and similar internet posting for information.

This does not reflect any special treatment, positive or negative. Every lawyer, living and dead, who is or was licensed in the states covered by AVVO has a page. Abraham Lincoln, who once was an Illinois lawyer, too, has a page on AVVO.

However, if you went to the Obama pages, at least during the campaign, you would have discovered a McCain campaign ad on the right hand side of the page. However, the ad doesn’t say positive things about McCain, it contains negative comments about Obama. Yes, they call them “attack ads.”

AVVO didn’t authorize these ads, by the way. They came by way of Google advertising. Most of the time, the Google ads on the sidebar are just a list of classified-type ads. However, someone who wanted to spend the money could purchase all of the available space on the page and run a display ad. That’s what the McCain campaign did.

AVVO says that it is going to replace Google advertising with its own sidebar advertising in the future. When it does so, we urge AVVO to reject placing advertisement next to a lawyer’s AVVO page that attacks or criticizes that lawyer. This would be especially important when the AVVO page has not been claimed.

Since it is impossible for a lawyer in a state AVVO covers to have his or her unclaimed page removed, it is only fair to prohibit others from running negative advertising about the lawyer on the same page. That should apply to public figures and politicians as well.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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