Friday, November 27, 2015

Google Adsense vs. free speech

I wasn't making a lot of money from this blog anyway through Google ads so it was no big deal for me to take down the ad in response to Google's ridiculous anti-free speech policies. And I'm not the first Google ad user to find Google ridiculous. As techdirt said:
Nearly a year ago, we wrote about an absolutely ridiculous situation in which Google AdSense threatened to cut off all of our ads (which they had just spent months begging us to use) because the ads showed up on this page, which has a story about a publicity rights dispute concerning a music video that includes someone dancing suggestively around a pole. The morality police at AdSense argued that this news story -- which was about a legal dispute concerning the video -- somehow violated AdSense's terms against putting the ads on content including "strategically covered nudity" and "lewd or provocative poses." Apparently, the AdSense team has no "newsworthy" exception to these idiotic policies.

After that story was posted, we heard from people inside Google who insisted that they were pushing the AdSense team to deal with similar situations in a much smarter way: such as simply turning off the ads on those individual pages rather than killing entire accounts. But, frankly, even that is pretty pointless. Why not fix AdSense's terms so that having ads appear on a news story about such content doesn't trigger the threat to shut down AdSense altogether?

It appears that the AdSense morality police still haven't figured this out. Last week a similar kerfuffle arose when the AdSense team threatened because it had an article (from a while back) that posted the infamous photos of US soldiers mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Those photos are famous for their newsworthiness, and yet Google AdSense said they were a terms of service violation for being "violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images."

And as ZDNet says:
It's also now clear that few Internet users know just how much their news websites and local blogs are censored by Google, as well.
When this crucial element of free speech and expression is minimized (and in some cases, removed or prohibited altogether) because the utility controlling the content -- in this case, Google -- simply doesn't like the topic, we find ourselves mired in a new, deeply insidious flavor of censorship.
Well I found out how Google censors. I received a notification today from Google:

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.
Affected website:
Example page where violation occurred:
Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.
Current account status: Active

Violation explanation

Why was this action taken against my account:
As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with violent content. This includes sites with content related to:

  • Breaking bones
  • Getting hit by trains or cars
  • People receiving serious injuries
  • News about freak or tragic accidents

Now please note the page where the violation occurred lists my entire blog URL as the location of the offensive content. Also note that the URL has .in on the end, which means Google has outsourced its censorship team to India. 

Since I received this warning now, I assume that it refers to something currently on my blog's current content rather than an archive. There are two possible blog post candidates - maybe both tripped the censor-wire:
Both of these blog posts refer to legitimate news stories about violent events, but I'm certainly not promoting or glorifying violence. These things happen in the world, and Google is absurd to refuse to allow references to actual events occurring in the world. 

Time to find an advertiser who does not censor stories about current events. I found a list here.