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Why I’ve Removed Google’s Ads

It’s a Matter of Control.

This is True went online in the first half of 1994, so True has been in business longer than many big names in the Internet biz, including Google (1998). As a classic feature column, I received (and turned down) syndication offers from two different newspaper syndicates, including one of the biggest in the business, because I wanted full control of True’s publication rights — including its online presence. And as of today, I’ve turned off Google’s “Adsense” service on this site for the same reason: to assert my control.

Because I’m sick and tired of Google sending me warnings that my content doesn’t “comply” with their “program policies” — such as their ban on “strategically covered nudity” (um, isn’t all clothing a strategic way to “cover up nudity”?!),“content that may be sensitive, tragic, or hurtful,” or “descriptions of sexual acts.”

Which may sound perfectly reasonable until you realize just what kind of editorial material it is that they’re sending me these warnings about.

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.First, realize that every actual story featured in This is True is a stylized, rewritten summary of an article from a “legitimate, mainstream news outlet” plus our editorial commentary — not tabloidy garbage but real news articles, mostly from daily newspapers and TV news stations reporting about real issues.

What’s So Objectionable?

Google sent me a warning about a news story I reported on about Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, an actual medical condition which, the story notes, causes a woman to have as many as 200 orgasms per day, which as you might imagine was causing her real issues. (As far as I can tell, the word “orgasm” triggered their system.)

Sure, maybe that’s a “sensitive” topic, but it’s a real newspaper story that I felt was interesting and informative to discuss, in large part since a doctor was studying the condition to help women who couldn’t have any.

(Another story Google warned me about, apparently because it included the word “orgasm”, is here.)

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.The same thing happened with my hard-hitting commentary about an ongoing dispute between China and Japan. What triggered the story: China was giddy over the sexual exploitation of an 11-year-old Japanese girl. Yes, on my page discussing this, I included the cheesecake photos of the girl, which were authorized by her parents for release. Still, Google demanded I either “comply” with their “standards” or remove their ads from the page with my rant on the case. Rather than be censored and take down what I considered an important topic to discuss, I removed their ads, which meant no income came in from the tens of thousands of people who clicked through to read about the topic.

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.The same happened with my story of a war protestor who picketed topless (which was legal where she did it) with the sign “Breasts Not Bombs”. My story page didn’t even include a photo, but the very idea that a woman would protest the killing of innocent civilians by showing her boobies was just too much for Google to bear.

And it has happened with my Jumbo Joke site, too, for instance on an item warning teens to be careful with fireworks (because, Google says, it’s “sexual content” to show the results of the subject’s obliviocy: his firework-burned butt).

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.As well as the entire Mugshot Museum site I used to run, because showing mugshots of criminals who got caught and arrested, Google said, was “hurtful” to those poor, poor criminals. No warning that time: they just banned the entire site from their program. Rather than fight it, I gave up, deleting the site completely and selling the domain, even though the site got huge traffic.

(And let’s not even discuss my page that criticizes the police that actually does have a topless photo specifically to drive home just how hypocritical the police were in one specific controversy, which Google labeled “pornography”!)

Pot Calls the Kettle Black

In the meantime, literally at the same time Google has been scolding me for such “sexual content” and “strategically covered nudity,” they’re been showing ads on my site that I find objectionable: ads using sex or scantily clad female bodies to sell products or games. They’re the ads shown along the right side of this essay: those are actual screen shots of ads that Google has shown on this site that seem to violate their own content policies — at a level I consider much higher (read: significantly more exploitative) than my summaries of actual news stories that use proper medical terminology. In other words, all the sexy images on this page were originally placed here by Google, not me! I suspect that if their ads were still here, they would send me “warnings” about showing their ads on the same page as these illustrations of “strategically covered nudity”!

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.I used to spend significant amounts of my time trying to block such ads in Google’s publisher interface, but the advertisers would just switch their domain or account name, and they’d appear again.

Every time I’ve received such a “warning” from Google, I’ve removed their ads from the page rather than be silenced in my discussion of real-world issues. Yet the more they “warn” me, the more likely it is that they will take stronger action, such as deleting my account entirely, keeping me from using Google ads on other sites to raise money to help keep them free.

My Google ad account interface shows multiple 'warnings'.

The money Google pays out for showing their ads is just not worth it to continually go through this back-and-forth hassle. I’m giving up on these battles, but I’m declaring victory in the war by the action I took today.

Declaring Victory

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.Well, I’ve had it. As of today, I’ve removed all of Google’s ads from this site in favor of sponsorship from companies that have the guts to support True’s thoughtful exploration of the human condition — even if the topic is, at rare times, “sensitive” in nature.

Note I’m not demanding that Google not have standards. It’s their product, and their name, and I’m sure there are sites trying to make money with Google’s ads on actual sexually exploitive content. But this sure as hell isn’t one of those sites, and they don’t seem capable of discerning the difference between sexual exploitation and actual editorial discussion of real-world issues, nor do they follow their own rules when they put objectionable images on my site.

So: What, Then?

Actual ad Google has shown on this site.Yes, True needs money to operate, but readers have stepped up to support the content they like without being bombarded with ads: via Patreon, the crowd-funding site designed specifically for independent creative endeavors. See full details here how you can be a True Patron.

The first level goal defined there — $1,000 per month from the collection of Patron pledges — had the “reward” of removing all outside ads from this site. We got there thanks to your support in December 2016. Such outside ads will remain off these pages as long as the Patreon support exceeds that level. Thanks!

This is direct support from readers who appreciate my frank discussion of thought-provoking issues. We certainly can’t run this whole operation on $12,000 a year, but it’s a vote of confidence that makes a big change possible. We have other goals as support continues, so I hope you’ll consider joining them. See the Patreon page for full details.

To support this site, you can also make a contribution here, or better yet, use the form below to upgrade to our paid newsletter, and fully enjoy True’s brand of Thought-Provoking Entertainment without censorship — and without any third-party ads!

Since 1994, True has been an online pioneer, and I simply refuse to let an upstart site like Google dictate its best practices, no matter how big they are!

Randy Cassingham
Founder, This is True
Thought-Provoking Entertainment Online Since 1994

- - -

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35 Responses to Why I’ve Removed Google’s Ads

  1. John, U.K. April 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    Just upgraded to help keep you going.

    Thanks, John: I’ve been waiting to see what the reaction to this would be, and that’s a pretty good start! -rc

  2. Paul - Ma April 11, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    Good for you, Randy!

    I’ve been with you for many moons, first on the free edition and now the paid version and I’ve always admired your integrity. Unlike “Alphabet” (aka Google), you continue to stand for fair and honest reporting and commentary without selling out to crass and despicable comments or advertising. Keep up to great work! If I had a company, I would be proud to advertise on any of your sites.

  3. Sherry, Alabama April 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Good for you! I’m tired of the faux sensitivity of google and facebook. Neither of them is in a position to judge.

  4. Elizabeth, Ohio April 11, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    Google has been trying to shape the Internet to their own vision (easier for them to return the results searchers want while taking a cut of everyone’s business for themselves) for some time now. We’re done with them too.

    An early (and unofficial) Google slogan was “Don’t be evil.” That was part of their Founders Letter when they first were going public (being listed in the stock market), so it clearly was embraced by the bigwigs there. They quietly dropped the motto some time ago. -rc

  5. Ray in Albuquerque April 11, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    Yours is an example of the problems with the on-line ad industry and the failures of “big data”.

    The on-line ad industry is unlike any previous advertisement industry. When newspapers and magazines ran ad in their print editions, they had to look at them and ensure they would fit, both on the page and for their customers. The same is true for radio and television even today. On-line ads are obtained instantly from third-party vendors who exercise no such oversight. This leads to both inappropriate or even offensive ads and, eventually, to ads that attack the viewers of web-pages. Recently Forbes magazine started a policy of rejecting viewers who use ad-blockers — at the same time as a malware breakout was traced to the very ads that Forbes wanted viewers to not block.

    A long time ago, I was taught that data is the raw measurements of some phenomenon. Information comes from correlating data — starting to make sense of why the measurements are what they are. Knowledge comes from intelligence applied to the information to understand what has not been measured but must be true if the information is to be believed. Big data uses a lot more data but does not use any better information correlation algorithms and, because of its size, does not have any knowledge generation.

    Thus, Google’s vaunted expertise in “big data” results in stupidity like you experienced even as their own advertisements give their home audience the impetus to block all ads.

  6. Bryon - Connecticut April 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    It takes courage to do what you did and I have great respect for standing by your principles. Instead of giving in to “Do as we say not as we do” you essentially said “You can’t fire me, I QUIT!” And you didn’t even flinch. I hope it doesn’t hurt the financials too much. Although I would like to do more please subscribe me to the free edition as well so that I can at least help with click through.

    I can’t add you to the free edition: you need to do that. That’s how I ensure I can say that all circulation is “double-opt-in” and not inflated in any way. That said, I prefer you subscribe to the edition(s) you want because you want them; artificial click-throughs don’t really help. If you want to see the ads so that you can click on the ones that interest you, great! But clicking just to click is fraudulent, and harms TRUE’s reputation in the long run. -rc

  7. Marcy, Rolla, MO April 11, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    I like that you aren’t afraid to take a stand and really admire your moxie! Frankly, I’m appalled at the ads that Google put on your site with the anime-type scantily clad women. I find them an offensive way to sell merchandise, so I’m squarely in your corner. Since I don’t quite understand the ins and outs of ‘making money through ads’, can you tell me where I can ‘access’ your pages through a vendor who is paying you? I will gladly go there to click on your site and generate you some money each time (if I’m understanding the payment process correctly-sorry, I’m just not savvy with this type of internet income). BTW, I already have a premium subscription and a stash of Get out of Hell Free cards too. 🙂

    Thanks for your support, but this is the only place you can get my stuff, by design. Without ads (for now, at least), I won’t be making money from your visits here, but it hasn’t been a significant part of the publication’s income for some time anyway: Premium subscriptions and sales of “stuff” (such as the GOOHF cards you purchased) is. -rc

  8. Marsha, Virginia April 11, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    I have to say as I was reading this, looking at the “ads” to the right, I was thinking, “Has he lost his MIND??” That right there should tell you *exactly* what I think about the difference between YOUR standards and Google’s. Because looking at them, even out of the corner of my eye, those are not ads you would ever choose to run. And the stories you referenced — the absurdity of that lies in the fact that I had seen those same stories on other “reputable” news sites (including HuffPost, for example) although their coverage was nowhere near as interesting or informative. So why try to force you in line? I don’t know, but I doubt they sent out a “cease and desist the orgasm discussion” letter to HuffPo.

    I know you’re angry, and rightfully so. But the very basis for everything you’ve done since you began this “little venture” was to represent truth, integrity and honesty in what was essentially a modern-day Wild West. And you’re one of the few who continues to hold that policy. I truly believe there are too many people who want to see you continue to succeed, and honestly, Adsense is obnoxious anyway, so good riddance. Google can go play “hypocrite” to someone else — you’ll be just fine.

  9. Traci, Guatemala April 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    Integrity. You have it, Randy. As a long-time premium subscriber, I applaud your stance.

    I used to assist with several “video of the day” sites. I managed content for a site about healthy eating, and had to field the complaints from subscribers when Google’s ads were for unhealthy fast food joints. The sites’ owner lived in constant fear of a Google ban, as the Google ad revenue was the primary source of income for several people. Your model seems to be working much better.

  10. Evan, Hilo, HI April 11, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    Good for you! Great meeting you when you visited our island. Glad I upgraded to Premium!

  11. Bonnie, Florida April 11, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

    What jerks they are! First of all, I am a master of not even seeing ads that are placed near what I am reading. But the obvious “men only” ads on this page were embarrassing. I raised boys and they didn’t go for this stuff (couldn’t keep their hands off the real thing I suppose). I quit watching TV altogether and to this day do not have a TV subscription due to the late night nasty ads for men, for women, for the undecided but trying everything and so on folks. However, in all the time that I have been reading True, I have never seen a topic that was anything but thought provoking, educational, and yes, pretty darn funny.

    It’s got to be entertaining, or folks won’t stick around for the educational parts. And yeah, the Real Thing beats online graphics every time! -rc

  12. David, Illinois April 11, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    Well done, sir. Hypocrisy has become a systemic plague in this country, and those at the top are most definitely not setting a good example. Kudos to you, and I will forward this to a couple of small business friends who are interested in internet ads.

  13. Alan, Chesapeake, va April 11, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

    Adsense drives me nuts! I will bomb out of a page before it finishes loading! I hope others see this and take a stand too. Maybe goober — i mean Google — will notice.

  14. Ray L, Cincinnati, OH April 11, 2016 at 8:37 pm #

    Thanks for not only having principles, but standing up for them even at the cost of a (few?) bucks. I can’t tell you how much I admire your willingness to “stand up”, and how much I enjoy both the free and Premium versions every week!

    Thanks, Ray. -rc

  15. Henry, Santa Clarita, CA April 11, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    It’s their ball and you sent them home with it!

  16. Micha, Israel April 12, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    An ad network I’ve heard good things about is The Deck. One of the only ones that’s actually tolerable, and doesn’t spam your site with flash spam and malware.

    I’ll take a look. Thanks. -rc

  17. Mike, Pompton Lakes, NJ April 12, 2016 at 12:55 am #

    Good for you! I thoroughly applaud your position & support your stance. It seems like there comes a time in every work-battle where you have to go “I’m done with you” or “I surrender”. I for one am *very* glad you chose the former.

  18. Tom in the Carolinas April 12, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    Absolutely great! I know that everything runs on money around here, and for some folks, money is the new communications media. That means that you could probably send Google emails and letters about it all day long and not get through, but I guarantee you that someone at some point at Google will look at the AdSense performance numbers this month. Maybe the numbers won’t meet expectations.

    I hate this, because it means folks may have to stop using a product, and then find out later that it improved after they left. But that’s just the way it is.

    (The above all ignores the other possibility — that we all just print up this particular page and send it to the CEO and Board of Directors at Google. I have done that sort of thing with blindingly fast results. The worst part is the ten minutes searching out the names and addresses.)

    Again. Good for you, Randy!

    I don’t have any illusions that my drop in the multi-billion-dollar Google bucket will be missed, but I do hope that some attention is paid to the real issue here: the outrage of lumping medical stories into actual “descriptions of sexual acts” while simultaneously posting sexually themed ads onto the very same pages. -rc

  19. David, location currently Florida; usually Canada April 12, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    For some time I have been intrigued with the meddling busybodies that seem to come out of the woodwork. Most are government, elected or appointed, and what is more worrying, from largish corporations. I upgraded to premium to avoid the ads (I really get ticked off at these while trying to read and look at stories on the WWW). Nothing wrong with standards, as long as there is consistency, and they do not infringe on others’ rights.

    I have long wondered about some people’s desire and compulsion to mess with other peoples lives when there is no possible intrusion or impact on anyone else. Some need for conformity, perhaps, some notion that they are their “brother’s keeper”, the same drive that pushes door to door religious sales persons to keep coming to my door, the “need” to fix other people. The owners of commercial enterprises seem likewise affected and use their corporate might to impose, or try to, their ideology, dogma and will on others.

    Freedom is at risk with these people.

    Stand your ground, but remember you, and I, belong to a minority in this world of ours.

  20. Patricia, Montana April 12, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    I hope you update with how you end up going. I went to try these ads on my blog but was given a warning about not promoting drugs. I figured out it was a blog about the switch to over-the-counter birth control, as opposed to being prescribed by a pharmacist. I gave up and kept the topic on my blog, figuring I’d just make it a hobby instead of an income source.

    Amazing. -rc

  21. Mercy, Ohio April 12, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    I can’t imagine a world without True! Wait…yes I can, and it’s ABYSMAL!!!! Keep on going Randy! I can’t even remember how I found True, or even how long I’ve been a Premium subscriber, but I know it’s been a LONG, LONG time. Your Google Ad-Sense rant really chaps my mule! (Don’t want to trigger any filters!) Thanks for a really great eye-opening news magazine, & I really admire you for sticking to your guns!

  22. Bergman, Seattle WA April 12, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    I suspect that if their ads were still here, they would send me “warnings” about showing their ads on the same page as these illustrations of “strategically covered nudity”!

    I’d be very curious to find out if that was in fact true. After all, if their own ads violate their advertising policy, could you report them to themselves and get them to ban themselves? =P

  23. Deborah, Washington April 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

    Google NonSense is a more accurate name.

  24. Doug, Falls Church, VA April 12, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Sorry to see the obliviots win once again and I’m disappointed that they’re letting policy preside over reason.

    I’ve also been with This Is True for quite awhile and am proud to support your efforts to shine the light on the foolishness that surrounds us daily. My only question: How can we work Google and obliviot into a single word.

  25. Brian, CT April 12, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Well done, Randy! The “upstart” comment almost made me choke (literally) with laughter.

    As for the rest, well, I have no doubt you’ll pull through. I’m proud to be part of the 85%.

  26. Dan, Washington state April 12, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Way to stand up, Randy.

    I was going to let my subscription lapse (for financial reasons) but am sending my renewal immediately. Keep fightin’ for reason!

  27. Ray L, Cincinnati, OH April 12, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    Doug in Falls Church–How about “googliviot”?

  28. Chris B - Cape Town April 13, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    It’s quite bad enough that The Evil Empire is the 800 lb gorilla, but the total lack of humans that you can speak to there is the hardest part for me to stomach. You can’t appeal to reason if you are only able to talk to a robot!

    I get that they are highly advanced in various AI fields — self-driving cars, for instance — and are using their own tech in managing their business. But being a completely faceless drone company just (to me, anyway) makes them the start of SkyNet. Judgement Day looms!

  29. Bob, WA April 13, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Sic ’em, Randy. 😉

    It’s just not worth the headaches.

  30. Calvin - Cambridge, Ontario April 15, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    Google has always been very hypocritical in their policies. I complained to them years ago about their search results. I was searching for a part number that started with “DP”. The first few paid results all related to porn site’s versions of DP, without the integers in my search. As I had been doing the search with my 6 year old daughter beside me, I wasn’t very happy. It took me almost half an hour to find a way to file a complaint, and then they never ever responded at all. If there’s a buck for them in it, they will do it, but if there’s a buck for you in it, all bets are off.

  31. Robert, Madison WI April 15, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    Just wanted to compliment you on standing up to Google. I use Gmail (though their changes to the compose window and contacts suck), but don’t like companies functioning as the PC thought police.

  32. Paul, West Australia April 15, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

    Well done Randy, there seem to be fewer and fewer of us who still have some integrity left and who won’t capitulate to the low standards or PC rubbish around, I’m pleased to be a subscriber to a site written by yourself. Keep up the good work.

  33. Andy, Johannesburg April 16, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Read The Adventures of Sir Randy as He slays the Goomorongle Dragon and rejects Mammon with His Mighty Pen in Hand, plus many other acts of Derring-Do. New episodes weekly……only available in This is True….. Get your copy now……..

    Well done, an advance for personal and press freedom everywhere.

    Not a knight in shining armor — just a guy trying to do a job: getting people to think more. This is merely Yet Another Example of what happens when someone doesn’t. -rc

  34. Andy, Johannesburg April 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    It was not my intention to be facetious in my comment but merely to look at the actions you took in a more poetic way. I can see by your comment that you saw it differently. As a longtime reader who eagerly awaits True every week I am mortified to think that I have caused any offence no matter how slight so please accept my sincere apology. I thought it may brighten up your day a little to get a comment that was not along the usual lines (and maybe slightly humorous?) and my final line, press freedom etc. was truly meant, though I can see it could be taken otherwise. I was going to add, at the end “from small acorns large oak trees grow” maybe that would have put a different slant on it for you — maybe not. In the part of the world I am in now it would appear that from small rumblings bigger things are going to happen — what? remains to be seen.

    So in conclusion no offence intended, simply — Well Done, that man.

    No, that was clear enough by your concluding sentence. I just wanted to be clear that I’m not taking this too seriously — I’m not trying to say “poor me” but rather just pointing out the hypocrisy. No offense taken. -rc

  35. Craig from Honolulu April 18, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    Considering “oblivious idiot” = obliviot, it seems logical that you might combine “foolish Google” into “Fooglish”. Not quite as elegant as obliviot, but still….

    Heh! -rc

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