Forbidden content includes "graphic depictions of... masturbation; genital, anal, and oral sexual activity"

This week Google Inc. (GOOG) sent out a notice to its advertising partners letting them know that any ads peddling adult entertainment would be promptly beaten off of Google's advertising networks.

I. Google to Porn Industry -- Prepare Your [Selves]

Google had already maintained safe search algorithms that helped parents to prevent children from seeing adult themed content. The new policy change is far different though, in that it is designed to censor these kinds of ads from appearing in the search results of adults who want to see this kind of content.  The policy bears more similarity to Google's decision to ban adult POV content from Google Glasses.

The internet giant wrote of the hard decision:

Beginning in the coming weeks, we'll no longer accept ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts including, but not limited to, hardcore pornography; graphic sexual acts including sex acts such as masturbation; genital, anal, and oral sexual activity.

When we make this change, Google will disapprove all ads and sites that are identified as being in violation of our revised policy. Our system identified your account as potentially affected by this policy change. We ask that you make any necessary changes to your ads and sites to comply so that your campaigns can continue to run.

And it just posted a set of guidelines of what kinds of content it finds unacceptably naughty:

Google AdWords doesn't allow the promotion of some types of sexual content on the Google Network. You may not do the following:

*  promote graphic depictions of sexual acts
*  promote content with underage or non-consensual sexual themes, including child
   sexual abuse content
*  promote services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for

We don't allow this content regardless of whether it meets applicable legal restrictions around this kind of content.

The ads seemingly forbid not only ads with nudity and images of people engage in sex acts, but also more sedate, censored ads promoting sites that offer adult entertainment.  Here's a list of "examples" Google has compiled:

Google bans sex ads

Some industry members and their fans fear the decision could penetrate deeper into Google's other businesses.  One fear is that Google may start to manipulate search results to decrease the rank of pornographic content.  In total the keywords "sex", "porn", "free porn", and "porno" accounted for 351 million searches, according to Google Adwords Keyword Planner.  Such an approach could tie up a key source of the adult entertainment industry's web traffic, which estimates indicate accounts for a third of the world's web traffic.

II. Decision Titillates Some, Frustrates Others

Michael Fattorosi, the principle partner at Fattorosi & Associates (a law firm specializing in representing adult entertainers), states:

This is another example of a mainstream company turning its back on the industry that has supported it.  The question now becomes: Will they block adult content from their search results?

Some were shocked by the policy change.  The Chairman and CEO of the AVN (Adult Video News) Media Network, Theo Sapoutzis, told CNBC in an interview:

I was caught by surprise.  I was one of the very first advertisers for AdWords back in 2002. It's something that's been [untouched] for 12 years, so you don't expect change is going to start happening.

Morality in Media (MIM) -- "faith based" anti-pornography activists -- claims that the change is due to their criticism.  On their blog "porn harms" they write:

In May, we had a productive meeting with GOOGLE about how they can help protect individuals, families and children from exploitation.
Today, we are seeing the fruits of that meeting.
BACKGROUND: We listed Google on both our 2013 and 2014 Dirty Dozen List because of their involvement in and profit from pornography in Google Play, Google Ads, YouTube and more.
We are celebrating a HUGE VICTORY! Please take a minute to take it all in with us.

Did the group do what the Republican National Party wanted to, but could not do -- take America a step closer to banning porn on the internet?

Porn hurts
The "faith based" group Morality in Media claims Google's decision was triggered by its critical campaign.  The group's goal is to "cleanse" the internet of porn. [Image Source: Kelly Manning Photography]

MIM's innuendo implying that it forcibly thrust this policy in through the back door is somewhat questionable.  While it is true that the "porn harms" campaign was responsible for admonishing Google very few people seemed to be aware of it.  Further, as MIM itself points out, Google quietly decided to erect this new censorship policy back in March 2014 before it met with MIM (in May).

And MIM was far from the only group looking to push Google towards morality censorship.  The Parents Television Console (PTV) famously slapped Google's smartphone operating system -- Android -- with the title of being a "porn phone".  Late Apple, Inc. (AAPL) CEO said that his platform -- iOS -- was offering the public "freedom from [Google's] porn" in an angry rant.  (Ironically China recently accused Apple's iPhone of being a "porn phone".)

III. Will Google Go All the Way With Porn Censorship, or Will it Pull Out?

Questions remain about how far Google and its competitors (e.g. Apple) will go in policing their users' morality to placate these vocal minorities.  And there's also many remaining questions and ambiguities in their current policies, as well.

Google has been silent on whether it will start restrict advertising from adult novelty stores and adult entertainment industry news sites will also be pounded by the ad ban.  While they don't directly "promote... sex acts", such sites do sometimes show "graphic depictions" of them.

handcuffed typing
Will the internet rebel against Google's censorship effort? [Image Source: Mashable]

Google's decision to pound the porn industry with these new financial restrictions is not alone.  In April JP Morgan & Chase Comp. (JPM) began to close the bank accounts of adult entertainers.  The next month, Inc. (AMZN) began to delete adult film stars' Wish Lists without warning.

However, for Google might be wise to take note of the outcome of Chase's prudish, puritanical policy -- customers went elsewhere to competitors who welcomed them.  The drama climaxed in May with Chase's banking rival Wells Fargo & Comp. (WFC) offering a helping hand to the adult entertainers.  In a statement to to TMZ it wrote:

Of course we encourage these industry workers to come to us with their business and we will gladly help them.

If Google chooses to increase its censorship there's a legion of competitors like anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo waiting to take its place.  These more laissez faire competitors are all to happy to tag team the gaping holes in the advertising business left when Google decided to abruptly pull out.

Sources: Google [1], [2], CNBC, Morality in Media [blog]

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

Latest Blog Posts

Copyright 2017 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki