About that Mail Order Bride Ad

Jul 01 2009 Published by under Gender, General Politics

It was spectacularly bad timing. We were trying to wrap up the end of the first month of the Silence is the Enemy campaign, spearheaded by Isis the Scientist and Sheril Kirshenbaum, to focus on raising awareness of sexual violence against women. Then we managed to send what amounts to a mixed message.
In recent days some of you may have noticed an ad for Russian Mail-Order bride services on the righthand sidebar around and about on ScienceBlogs. I certainly noticed it. My mental process went a little something like this:


MailBrideAd.jpg
the offending ad
Huh. That's funny. I don't know all that much specifically but isn't that whole mail-order bride industry kind of exploitative of women? Aren't the "brides" often desperate women from economically depressed areas of the world looking to come to the developed world for a better life? Doesn't it result in some nasty exploitation by the "husband" in some cases? FFS, haven't I heard about some of these things being nothing more or less than the less-than-willing trafficking of human beings. In a word: slavery?
As I said, I really don't know jack squat about this whole industry apart from the occasional media reports over the past few decades. So I went googling. I thought you might be interested in The Protection Project and in particular a 2004 Testimony given to the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Relations.

The practice of pre-arranged marriages, or mail-order brides, conducted through a third party, is not new to the United States, and can be documented as far back as the Revolutionary War. The practice was further developed during the California Gold Rush and the pioneer move west when pictures of available women were distributed to men in isolated regions.

So it is an old tradition. How big was it in the US in 2004?

The simplest Google search for "mail-order brides" yields a minimum of 500,000 web page entries with names such as "The Natasha Club", "Brides4U", "Plant-Love", "Goodwife", and "LoveMe". Out the first twenty entries on the Google search, only one entry deals with the possibility of abuse and negative outcomes of matches arranged on line. The majority of the entries are dedicated to Eastern European, Latina and Asian women profiled as mail-order brides looking for husbands. On an average Google page, firms offering Russian brides comprise about 30 percent of all advertisements.

The testimonial talks about the unregulated nature of the "industry", the directionality of under-developed world women being shipped to developed world male husbands and then goes on to cover Informational, Economic, Cultural and Legal vulnerability of the women. It then ends with a brief overview of some of the cases of exploitation including:

Physical Abuse, Threats of Deportation, Restriction of Movement and Murder: In the most famous mail order bride abuse case, Anastasia King from Kyrgyzstan married Ingle King, Jr., who strangled her to death in September 2000. It has been reported that in her diaries, Anastasia wrote that he she was sexually and physically assaulted by King, that he withheld her college tuition, restricted her freedom of movement, and threatened her with deportation and death.[*xvi]

Okay, back to business. I offer my apologies to those of you where were shocked and offended to see the Russian-Bride ads next to this blog. As most of you know, we are indeed an advertising-supported medium and that brings certain consequences. What you probably don't realize is two things. First, that ScienceBlogs does not sell each and every ad placement individually and review the content. In some cases a bulk purchase is made with an ad company that places the actual ad copy/imagery. The people in the ad-selling part of this operation do have rules and guidelines for what they do and do not want on Scienceblogs but, as you might imagine, things slip through now and again. The second thing you probably don't realize is that there is a robust tradition of the bloggers raising hue and cry over objectionable ads. In my time here, this has mostly been in the nature of woo-peddling on the medical/anti-denial type blogs or similar. Placement of ads that are more or less for things that the bloggers themselves rail about as harmful practices, products or whatnot. This has almost always resulted in positive action to remove the offending adverts, albeit perhaps not always immediately.
Well, as Grrl Scientist alluded to in her post, we probably should be a little less aggressive about our objections in the current financial climate for ad-based media. We may have to hold our noses a little bit. But there will be things that nevertheless go over a critical line, no matter what the financial climate. I think this Mail-Order Bride stuff qualifies.
I'll end with the plea to you, DearReader, that if you ever have a serious objection to the ad content at ScienceBlogs, let someone know. Email your favorite blogger. Screen capture if you can. Don't just assume that nobody cares about this stuff. We do.
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*original source : http://www.digitas.harvard.edu/~perspy/issues/2002/nov/mae.html and I googled up this: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/59387_king22.shtml

30 responses so far

  • Anon says:

    I did screen capture--as fate would have it, the Russian Mail-Order Bride ad popped up on "Thus Spake Zuska"; I took the screen capture with the understanding that this was a sure sign of the coming apocalypse.

  • becca says:

    I hadn't noticed the ad until you pointed it out. They aren't doing anything google-style creepy and targeting some ads to some readers, are they? Cause when I had a babies r us window open, that was the ad I saw on SB (incidently, there isn't a way for readers to influence this in the positive direction, is there? I'd be happy to write to babies r us and tell them scienceblogs ads = profit!; maybe they could give Seed more money so they don't have to take it from Russian mail order bride companies).

  • Alex says:

    The corporate overlords would probably not be pleased if one were to explain certain things you can do in Firefox to never see an ad.

  • whimple says:

    The ads are targeted to your previous browsing history. If you're getting ads of a questionable nature, it's because you have willingly visited questionable corners of the internet.

  • becca says:

    "it's because you have willingly visited questionable corners of the internet." Like CPP's blog?

  • Adam says:

    I don't really know how the ads work, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if ads were placed next to articles which contain certain relevant key words (I know google does this). The idea is to give you ads relevant to your interests, but the algorithm is rather stupid, so it only notes that the article is discussing woo medicine or imported women, and doesn't pay attention to whether or not the article is for or against those things.

  • Alex says:

    I read another blog where ads for mail order brides always show up next to any article on Eastern European politics.

  • theroachman says:

    Mr whimple
    That is not in slightest bit true. Much less good reasoning.
    As already pointed out it is a simple word combination/count algorithm. There is a very easy experments you can do to prove this. Put blue pill word combonations together and see how long it takes to get male enhancment ads.
    furthermore
    The corporate overlord making any money on these is not the penny made for scienceblog it is the dollers Google makes selling the ads in the first place

  • Jdhuey says:

    It isn't just the women who are being exploited:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/14/eveningnews/main688311.shtml

  • The idea is to give you ads relevant to your interests, but the algorithm is rather stupid, so it only notes that the article is discussing woo medicine or imported women, and doesn't pay attention to whether or not the article is for or against those things
    Yes, this is how it works. The best is when SarahPAC ads show up next to Wonkette posts about how completely nutjob insane Palin is.

  • llewelly says:

    Well, as Grrl Scientist alluded to in her post, we probably should be a little less aggressive about our objections in the current financial climate for ad-based media. We may have to hold our noses a little bit.

    That's a fool's bargain. Successful bloggers are successful because they empathize with their audience. If the blogger is offended by an ad - chances are most of their audience will be as well. Some of that audience will be more offended by the ad than the blogger, as there's always a significant portion of a blogger's audience that hold more extreme versions of the blogger's views. Thus - whenever a successful blogger finds an ad offensive, chances are, they are losing readers, and thus page views, and thus revenue. Keeping the ad is unlikely to be a net revenue gain.
    In hard economic times, mistakes that would be trivial during good economic times can be fatal. Allowing an offensive ad to play is such a mistake. These 'mail-order bride' ads may drive away more revenue than they will bring. They're not good for you, for Seed, or anyone.
    It's time to talk to whoever the ads come from, make them dig into whatever semi-automated process they're using to select the ads, and get rid of these ads.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Yes, llewelly. I guess I didn't make it clear enough that some of the bloggers complained and the Overlords quickly said it would be pulled. I haven't sen those ads since so I assume they are gone. My point about holding the nose has to do with the closer calls. Cosmeceutical ads at Terra Sig, anti-feminist books advertised at TSZuska... Things where the ideas are routinely bashd by the blogger but aren't really *offensive* per se.

  • Scrabcake says:

    Actually, the exploitation can go both ways here. Sometimes the guys getting mail order brides are lonely, socially awkward nerdy men who want someone to dote on them. My great uncle had a mail order bride. She persuaded him to send a large chunk of everything he earned to her relatives in the Philippines. They lived together for 30+ years on his meagre salary as a rancher, with her relatives(whom I'm sure he never met) taking a significant cut of the family funds, and a couple of years ago, he came home to find himself locked out of the house. At 90 years old, he was too poor to hire a lawyer, and too poor to afford a nursing home. Eventually, a second cousin footed the bill for the home, but legally he didn't have the resources to do anything about it. He passed on soon after.
    It was obvious that while he considered her to be part of the family, she had no such affection for him, but was happy to live as a complete parasite, pretending to care about him until his usefulness had faded.
    So yeah. Mail order brides are a bad idea not only because they put women in a vulnerable situation where they can be easily exploited, but also because sometimes the vulnerable ones are the ones who are desperate enough to get an arranged marriage, and these people can be exploited, too.

  • Juniper Shoemaker says:

    Thank you, DrugMonkey. I did notice those ads. Afterward, I quietly installed AdBlocker Plus for Firefox without saying a word about the ads to any Seed Blogger; I did indeed assume that either no one cared or no one could do anything about it.

  • becca says:

    "The idea is to give you ads relevant to your interests, but the algorithm is rather stupid, so it only notes that the article is discussing woo medicine or imported women, and doesn't pay attention to whether or not the article is for or against those things
    Yes, this is how it works. The best is when SarahPAC ads show up next to Wonkette posts about how completely nutjob insane Palin is."

    Well, this is how it usually worked. Apparently the advertisers are getting more innovative. They're now using demographic info (race/age/income type stuff) to target marketing. Or so NPR told me this morning.

  • becca says:

    *edit: that is, they are using demographic info derived from your browsing and somehow getting at more information than just "this person looks in A, maybe they'll be interested in *quasi-related topic*"- they've obviously been using plain demographic info ("people looking at this type of media tend to be this demographic group") since forever.
    I should also note that it was in the news because the Internet Advertising Bureau created voluntary guidelines to let you know that information may be used in behavioral advertising, let you opt out, and let you know how it works generally. Ultimately, offensive advertisements that nobody spends money on are a failure from a marketing side as well.

  • I read this blog regularly for interesting discussion going on here, and actually didn't bothered to look at the ads anytime until you mentioned. I read the blog and move away, these ads don't bother and detract me.

  • Eric Lund says:

    Well, this is how it usually worked. Apparently the advertisers are getting more innovative. They're now using demographic info (race/age/income type stuff) to target marketing.
    I've seen some of this myself. I regularly look up weather forecasts on a certain site, and it results in my seeing certain ads on other sites based on what they think my location is. There are still a few bugs in the system, though; I've seen at least two distinct errors crop up. One incorrectly assigns my zip code to a neighboring town (which used to be part of my zip code but got split off into its own zip code a couple of years ago). The other gets the name of my town correct but confuses it with a much more famous town of the same name in another state.

  • DSKS says:

    Heh. I remember seeing that banner and assuming is was an ad for a clothes store (nice print on that outfit); didn't even register the text.
    They need to work on their marketing.

  • Geds says:

    As already pointed out it is a simple word combination/count algorithm.
    This.
    Even easier than the blue pill lures, though, is to spend some time at blogs that mostly discuss Christianity. Whether it's positive, neutral, or negative the Google ads that accompany the site will be filled with ads for getting your free Bibles or the inside scoop on the real Christian doctrines that those misguided popular churches have forgotten about. Visit Slacktivist on a Left Behind Friday, wherein he deconstructs and rips apart fundamentalist eschatology and you'll mostly see ads for books on Bible prophecy and how the world is going to end in 2008 (that's...that's not a typo).

  • Anonymous says:

    I've seen some of this myself. I regularly look up weather forecasts on a certain site, and it results in my seeing certain ads on other sites based on what they think my location is. There are still a few bugs in the system, though; I've seen at least two distinct errors crop up. One incorrectly assigns my zip code to a neighboring town (which used to be part of my zip code but got split off into its own zip code a couple of years ago). The other gets the name of my town correct but confuses it with a much more famous town of the same name in another state.

    To a certain extent, this isn't actually possible. Information doesn't just fly freely between all sites and advertisers - the browsers know very well that this would be a serious security threat. Your previous browsing history, for example, is NOT known by other sites (except through a relatively ingenious CSS-based hack, but that only tells you if *specific* sites have been visited recently). Nor are your cookies set by one site.
    Anything that tries to guess your location is going off of your IP address. You can backtrace most IP addresses to a rough physical location which is usually accurate, though different sources for this information vary, and not all people have traceable IPs.

  • whimple says:

    Information doesn't just fly freely between all sites and advertisers - the browsers know very well that this would be a serious security threat.
    That's why many advertisers, including SEED, use services such as doubleclick ( http://www.doubleclick.com ) to track users across multiple sites. Doubleclick puts a coookie on your browser with an id number to identify you. Look at the ads on this page: most of them are served by doubleclick. If you click on one of the ads, doubleclick notes that whatever the ad was about is something that interested the id number of the cookie they gave you. That kind of ad will then be served up to you with increasing frequency from all sites that use doubleclick, for as long as you keep your cookie. If you delete the cookie, it's a do-over for doubleclick, so if you're tired of seeing Russian Bride ads, delete your cookies for a fresh start at advertising.

  • Geds says:

    That's why many advertisers, including SEED, use services such as doubleclick ( http://www.doubleclick.com ) to track users across multiple sites.
    And that's why Noscript is our friend...

  • Cashmoney says:

    uh-oh.
    http://layscience.net/files/sbads.png
    This is not getting better...

  • As I leave this comment, DrugMonkey is topped with an ad for Thai Brides, and the right side-bar has two women in thongs.
    Seed themselves should remove the advertising space until the problem is resolved.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Alex@#3, and crossposting a response to a WCU comment
    Have you heard the argument that you shouldn't use adblocker because advertising dollars paid for the content you are reading, so you should conscientiously expose your eyeballs to the inanity? roflmao!
    Have you heard the argument that for an ad-supported media outlet if those who might place ads conclude that they are not getting value for their outlay they will stop supporting the medium? And eventually that medium will fold?
    I recently became aware that AdBlocker is not totally transparent to ad metering so using it decreases at least one metric by which advertisers judge the usefulness of advertising with online media. So I turned mine off for ScienceBlogs reading. Naturally, I have greater interest than most readers in seeing Sb continue to succeed but I will remind that I was a reader like anyone else long before I was invited on board.
    Look, nobody likes ads. online, tv, radio, you name it. Technologies like TiVo and ad-blocking software are great. In the long run, and with broad enough use, well....these have consequences. Each reader will just have to decide for her or himself where to put the balance point for their browsing pleasure.

  • Donna B. says:

    The blogging and commenting is producing even more ads now! My suggestion is to click on them. They pay Google, but they also pay SB. Each click ought to cost the stupid advertisers some money.
    Of course, most readers here are going to be completely grossed out by the content behind those ads, which I suspect are also selling pr0n.
    I'm one of those who would never have seen the ad and I don't use adblocker software, I'm just really good at ignoring them.

  • Infophile says:

    Look, nobody likes ads. online, tv, radio, you name it. Technologies like TiVo and ad-blocking software are great. In the long run, and with broad enough use, well....these have consequences. Each reader will just have to decide for her or himself where to put the balance point for their browsing pleasure.
    I've certainly thought of this myself, and I avoided Adblocker for a while for that reason. But eventually, what did me in were animated ads (which hog up computer resources and annoy the eye much more than static pictures) and worst of all, ads that play sound. If the advertisers would respect a few limits, I'd be much less likely to just block everything out (haven't bothered to check yet if there's a way to selectively block only certain ones).
    ScienceBlogs has typically been safe, with only "good" ads, barring a few exceptions which were quickly handled, but too many other sites I visit don't care about their readers so much and just go for whatever will pay the most money, which is typically the most annoying ads. Will the advertisers learn that this type of ad just turns people off? History says no, they'll just blame the technology that allows ads to be blocked rather than blaming the ads that make people want to block them in the first place.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Hang on....
    DrugMonkey @ #12
    ...anti-feminist books advertised at TSZuska... Things where the ideas are routinely bashd by the blogger but aren't really *offensive* per se.
    Right, just out of curiosity, since when are anti-feminist books "not really *offensive* per se"? Everything that I have ever seen advertising itself as "anti-feminist" has been outright misogynistic on several fronts, even when written by women. Why would it be considered less offensive than, say, anti-gay polemic or anti-minority rights?

  • bill says:

    If the advertisers would respect a few limits, I'd be much less likely to just block everything out
    What infophile said -- sort of. I don't use ad blockers, because if the ads bother me, the site simply loses my "custom". When a site sticks to relatively unobtrusive adverts, I figure letting 'em load is just my part of the bargain. I'm pretty good at not seeing ads any more -- I never even noticed the mail order bride ones until they were pointed out to me.

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