Re: Google AdSense ad serving has been disabled to your site

Date: Tue Mar 22 2011
Dear Google, this morning I found an email with the subject "Google AdSense ad serving has been disabled to your site". It said that a review of my account "found that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our program policies". What a way to get my attention. Unfortunately you offer zero methods for me to respond to you leaving me very unsatisfied with you as an organization. It leaves me with one resort for making any reply, and that is this open letter to you, in the hope that you will see it.

At issue here is the sheer size you, Google, have grown to encompass. I live a miles or so from your campus in Mountain View and know one effect of your growth, namely the huge number of buildings now bearing your name. I suppose a side effect of your growth is this impersonality where you send me a letter which threatens the lifeblood of my business, and offer no zero zilch nada methods to contact you to discuss with you the specifics of this case.

Fortunately the problem was pretty straight-forward and I was able to work out a solution on my own, but I want to communicate with you to let you know what I have done and how I feel about this. But you, Google, as a massive machine apparently don't have time for me, an individual human who is usually very happy to use your services.

You were nice enough to give me the link to an example page you found to be in violation, and went on to tell me about "ADULT/PORNOGRAPHY: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with pornographic content. This includes photos or videos which contain full nudity or sexual activities. More information about this policy can be found in our help center"

What I want you to know, dear Google, is that this was not a direct choice of me to host the page you found to be adult pornography. What happened is that I publish a website about Reiki and several years ago had chosen to use to host a video channel. They have a feature to automatically search for videos and automatically add them to a video channel. I was never terribly satisfied with the service and neither did it ever turn into anything more than a few pennies a day of revenue. One of the videos it automatically found and added was by a slight stretch of the imagination pornographic, in that the first scene showed a naked woman orgasming to what they described as a tantric massage. It was obviously time to shut down that video channel because their autopilot system had found something I didn't want to publish much less being something which triggered the massive Google machine into action against me.

On the one hand I am in awe that you, Google, found that page. Out of all the zillions of pages on the Internet how did you find it? A possibility which comes to mind is that because the video was hosted on a video sharing service, once you found that video you could find all pages which displayed that video, and then threaten any adsense publishers who are displaying that video alongside adsense advertisements.

That's where I find myself in this... a serf being threatened at whim by a massive feudal overlord.

Now I turn to you other serf's who may have found yourself receiving a similar letter. Perhaps Google will never deign to see this letter or acknowledge the information I want to share with them. Their stereotype is after all to drive their machine on algorithms rather than humanity, and that's how their email to me reads. An algorithmic machine with human oversight spitting out a threatening letter with no chance for recourse.

This tells me a couple things which I want to share with my fellow digital serf's.

First, is not a good service at all and the autopilot feature is dangerous to your adsense account.

Second, it behooves us digital serf's to have multiple streams of income. That way Google can't crush our business out of existence on a whim like this. In my case my business won't see any difference from shutting down my channel, but it's clear from the letter that "please note that our team reserves the right to disable your account at any time" is a veiled threat that if I (or any other adsense publisher) don't fall in line and kowtow to their policies, that they will disable an adsense account taking a chunk of revenue out of ones business.

The video in question may be a great example. It was made by a Brazilian center for "Tantric Massage" and they made an overly explicit video demonstrating their service. It's possible that Brazilian culture isn't as alarmed by the content in that video as American culture is, and it's possible there is a culture clash behind Google's decision to shut down ads on that specific domain. There's also a possible misinterpretation in that there are some who offer what look like sexual services but straight faced claim that it's a healing service. A search for "sex therapist" will turn up many people claiming to be doing therapy work around sexuality. The Brazilian website associated with that video claimed to be doing sex therapy, however the presentation looked a bit like it might be a brothel painting itself as a sex therapy place. From the distance of several thousand miles I'm not going to try to defend them or the video that triggered this email from Google. It's just that there is potential for misunderstanding that could cause Google to threaten the business of a digital serf like me.