Shajar Abid, a former senior engineer at IBM and presently the "chief visionary officer" at Nubius Technologies LLC, has filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that the online ad giant has suppressed his freedom of speech and religion.
Abid, who goes by the first name "Shaq" on LinkedIn, claims to have developed "a divine cure for cancer" consisting of "only honey herb and spice." Google, he insists, will not allow him to advertise the product through AdWords.
He is seeking $10 billion for what he believes is a violation of his First Amendment speech and religious rights, for loss of business, and for pain and suffering. Also, he wants the opportunity to advertise on Google when people search for cancer cures.
In addition, he has asked the court to nullify the $88 bill Google presented to him for ads run prior to the cancellation of his Google advertising account. And he would like Google to pay his court costs, which should be minimal given that Abid is acting as his own attorney.
Had Abid hired an attorney, he or she might have explained that the First Amendment restricts the government from making laws that limit freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, and of assembly. Private companies like Google have a lot more latitude.
In his complaint, filed on Thursday in US District Court in Greensboro, North Carolina, Abid claims that he left work at IBM to "work on and solve the problem of cancer..."
To bolster his bona fides, he notes that he is the son of a chemistry professor, in addition to being an independent researcher, inventor, and entrepreneur.
Abid acknowledges that he is making "an astonishing claim," and says the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would not give him the opportunity to verify his claims "since their feeble-minded protocol" stipulates only one purified chemical. Disparaging NIH as "the bastion of state science stupidity," he says honey contains more than 50 natural compounds.
Abid managed to run ads through Google for about a week, but the results were disappointing. For $50, he received 500 visitors to his website and 5 emails, but made no sales.
That's not entirely surprising given that one pound jar of honey advertised on his website, mightyhoney.org, costs $47, seven times more than the average retail price of a pound of honey in April, according to the National Honey Board.
Then again, not all honey includes "the exotic spice, Secret of the Pharaohs" – probably black cumin seeds – or the "ultra-rare herb Soul of Kashmir" – whatever that is.
Also, honey isn't typically marketed as a cure for cancer.
Google doesn't allow such claims, and told Abid he could not use "divine cure for cancer" in his ad copy. Abid maintains he should be allowed to say as much because it's his "sincerely held religious belief."
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Register also reached out to IBM to confirm that Abid's employment history is as he presents it, but we have not heard back.
Abid also objects to not being allowed to advertise in the New England Journal of Medicine. "They stated upfront, only big pharma, not you," he says in his complaint, which does not actually name the NEJM as a defendant.
In closing, Abid suggests there's a conspiracy at work. "It is for the wise judge to decide to investigate who is controlling these cancer keywords, and what connections are between the pharma and the knowledge sources ... I am sure there are conspicuous collusions here," he says in the complaint. "This should be looked into under antitrust laws."
Google, as it happens, is presently fighting against antitrust claims from European regulators. The company settled US antitrust charges related to its ad business with consumer watchdog agency the FTC in 2013.
The FTC has taken legal action numerous times over the years against companies selling unproven cancer cures. No one from the agency was immediately available to discuss honey, spiced or otherwise. But on its website, the agency says this about products marketed as miracle cures: "Be skeptical: Lots of these are scams, and when you're battling cancer, the last thing you need is a scam." ®