Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” Policy Doesn’t Apply to Adsense??

If you’ve been following the site for long, you probably know a little bit about my history with Google and Adsense. However, there’s still a lot that went on behind the scenes that I feel needs to be shared, and that an injustice has been done.

I started creating content on YouTube in December of 2009, and started monetizing that content through Adsense and the YouTube Individual Video Partnership program near the end of January 2010. Additionally, I placed ads on this website, linuxserbia.com. In the following months, my video views kept rising, subscriber counts as well, and at the end of June 2010, I was accepted into the YouTube Partner Program, which enabled me to add “revenue sharing” to all of my video content on YouTube (barring any copyright-protected material, of course). This meant that a small advertisement could be placed at the bottom of each video, and to the right of each video played directly on YouTube, and I even ended up with the option to enable pre-roll advertisements (15-30 second commercials)  to run before each video.

For nearly one year, I created content as a YouTube partner on my main, Linux-related channel, http://youtube.com/thisweekinlinux, and my second, vlogging channel, http://youtube.com/twiltalks. I started earning a bit more revenue as the video views increased and things were, in general, very good. That is, until just a few weeks ago.

On June 15th, 2011, at about 8:30am, I received an email from “adsense-adclicks-noreply@google.com” that you can see below.

According to that email, as you can see, they say my account “poses a risk of generating invalid activity”. From what I gathered there, it doesn’t say I actually did anything wrong, just that my account had the potential to do something wrong.

I quickly filled out the appeal form, tweeted several times asking if anyone could help me, and waited…

A short while later, a nice man named Tim Shey, President of NextNewNetworks, a recent Google/YouTube purchase, replied to one of my tweets, asking if I still needed help. I gave him all the information I had, he spoke to the people in Adsense, and they gave him the same runaround I had received. They told him I needed to read the disabled account FAQ and file an appeal if I hadn’t already.

Needless to say, my appeal was denied…

And, according to the disabled account FAQ, “once we’ve reached a decision on your appeal, further appeals may not be considered, and you may not receive any further communication from us.”

It’s now been three weeks since my Adsense account was disabled. My YouTube partnership has been taken away, my channels stripped of any branding, and I can never again have an Adsense account or be a YouTube partner. Even though the disabled account FAQ says “We’re always willing to work with you to resolve any issues you may have”, I haven’t received anything but automated replies from the Adsense program, which leads me to the crux of the issue.

Even though Google’s own “Our Philosophy” page clearly states that the company wants to “Focus on the user and all else will follow”, “Democracy on the web works”, and “You can make money without doing evil”, it’s very clear to me that those policies only apply to their advertisers, not to the actual users.

For a person who has worked thousands of hours over the last year generating content to be turned away blindly by the Adsense program, with nothing but automated replies, is inexcusable. It is deplorable. It is, you could say, EVIL. And how do they get away with it? The fine print in their terms and conditions.

“Google may at any time, in its sole discretion, terminate all or part of the Program, terminate this Agreement, or suspend or terminate the participation of any Property in all or part of the Program for any reason.”

What does this mean? It means that, on a whim, they can decide to terminate ANY account, whether they’ve actually done anything wrong or not. It means that if someone who doesn’t like your content wants to, they can repeatedly click on the ads, and rather than taking action against the attacker, Google will just disable your Adsense account, and you can never participate in the program again (note: This is what I believe happened in my case, even though Google will NOT give me any information).

So please keep this warning in mind before you consider signing up for Google Adsense: they don’t care about you. They don’t care about your content. They don’t care about the “end user”. They care about the advertiser, and nothing more. They can, and will, kick you to the curb without a moment’s notice, and there’s really nothing that can be done about it.

 

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else you think might be considering using Google Adsense as a potential source of income.

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  • http://about.me/technoticracoon TechnoticRacoon

    Well, i’ve heard that microsoft has a good revenue program :) Great article though, you should try and expand the whole this week in… thing to an actual tech site and not just weekly videos :D

  • Swmiller6

    I posted this on my facebook page… That really sucks. I will assume you continue to supply your interesting and informative videos regardless…

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    lol.
    To be honest, if I had more time to devote to it (and more writing talent), I would definitely like to do more written content on the site. As it is, 1-2 videos a week is difficult. I have a 2.5 year old son, a full-time day job, and household duties to keep up with. :/

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    I’ll do my best. I’ve been posting the news videos exclusively to blip.tv since this all started. Nothing really changed here on the site, because I had been using blip.tv’s embeds for months (no, that’s not against the Adsense TOS, hehe).
    By the way, thanks a lot for posting it on Facebook. :)

  • anonymous

    Without trying to sound insensitive to your situation, would you ever consider posting your videos to Youtube without the promise of renumeration?  I understand you must have some degree of equipment and time costs, but the service you provide is not dissimilar from many other youtubers out there who don’t rely on advertising schemes.  Youtube was and largely  still is a collection of user content, uploaded without any thought of revenue generation.  Is it the worst thing in the world if Google’s ad policy prevents would be entrepreneurs from turning the site into an advertisement-laden, corporate media distribution hub?  

    With that being said, I understand your frustration with Google, and I will continue to watch your videos even if they are not uploaded to Youtube, I’m just wondering what your take is on the more general issues behind all of this.  

  • Sushi Dude

    Posted this everywhere I could, even to my irc bot. =)

  • http://about.me/technoticracoon TechnoticRacoon

    Well you could always find some people to assist you ;) . In all seriousness though, i do think microsofts ad networking isnt half bad

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    I can’t say that I absolutely wouldn’t post there, because who knows what will happen in the future?
    Here’s the way I see it, at this point… If I started volunteering to program for the Ubuntu project, then later got hired by Canonical to do the same work, then later got thrown out by Canonical with no reason, I wouldn’t necessarily want to keep working on Ubuntu. I’d probably go try to find work with Red Hat…
    The only problem with that scenario is the community. There are almost 20,000 people on YouTube who are hanging in the balance. I wish there were a simple solution, I really do.
    For the time being, I think I’m going to go back to posting the vlogs on the second channel, because they take literally minutes to make. Every single video on the main channel is a minimum of 3-4 hours invested — time that I could, and should, be spending with my family.

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    Thanks, dude. :)

  • http://www.iheartubuntu.com iheartubuntu.com

    I would A) find other avenues to appeal B) complain complain complain C) call out Google publicly on twitter, facebook, etc and D) sign up under a different account name..  such as “thisweekinlinux2″ or something like that.

    Ive watched your videos for a long time now and love the content. What Google is doing is deplorable. This should also be our cue to offer different ad content on our websites without cluttering up the pages. It can be done with class I believe and protects us from these sort of problems.Good luck and thanks for keeping us all informed!

  • William Bean

    Jordan,

    That really sucks man…I’ve been watching your videos since Ubuntu 9.10 came out. 

    I think your doing a really great job.  Brian from Linux Action Show thinks so….

    And I know the Google $$$$ helped out….

    The central point is Google really needs to reevaluate their customer service department. 

    At the time they started they were like most IT companies support (email only)…but now I think they have the resources to provide a full 1-800-Google support line or something better than a auto-responder email…

    Good luck with the other videos man…

    Hope all goes well…

  • http://karolis.pocius.lt/tweets/adsense-smagumynai-httpwww AdSense smagumynai http://www…. | @Karolis čiulbesiai
  • http://twitter.com/thehobnob Daniel Stott

    This really does suck. I like your videos – I think they are well produced, and your tutorials (particularly the CLI one) are really clear and easy to understand.

    That said:

    “once we’ve reached a decision on your appeal, further appeals may not
    be considered, and you may not receive any further communication from
    us.”

    The use of “may” rather than, say, “will” here suggests you might be able to try again?

    Either way, best of luck with whatever you end up doing; I will happily watch your videos no matter what site you use to host them. (It may well be a placebo effect, but I think blip.tv’s videos look a bit better quality-wise anyway. That said, I watch youtube in 360p :P )

  • wkromer

    Jordan, 

    This is completely absurd.  You did all you could to prevent invalid activity on your account by banning IP addresses that seemed malicious.  

    Personally, I’m going to start contributing to you in hopes that it will offset the Adsense revenue (at least partially).

    Best of luck. 

  • Jimi

    I have also been kicked out of the adsense program because people targeted my website and spam clicked the ads in order to get us removed. They were not willing to work with me even though I had proof. What’s worse is that the only support you can actually get is a VOLUNTEER FORUM. That’s right; support for Google’s main money-maker is ran by volunteers that can’t do ANYTHING for you because they’re simply a volunteer.

  • Fredde

    This really really do suck!
    I all way’s watch your videos and think that you are doing a great job.
    20.000 subscribers, and rising, is not bad, not bad at all.
    How about keep posting a short notice on the main YouTube channel when there is a new video on linuxserbia.com?
    I mean could you sell space for ads on your own site and make some money that way…?

    Regard’s from Sweden  

  • http://steinbitglis.myopenid.com/ Fredrik Ludvigsen

    You could always start accepting bitcoin and settle for something else than advertisement financing. I would really love that, as a subscriber/customer :-)

  • andamat

    So you never got any explaination whatsoever? I for one am really curious as to why they would do this to you. Hope you find other ways of supporting your video making. I wouldn’t even bother with uploading anything to YouTube if I were you, they don’t deserve it after this treatment. I’ll personally very much continue to enjoy your videos as long as you keep making them no matter where they’re served from.

  • http://www.celsius1414.com/ Celsius1414

    It’s stories like this and other shenanigans that caused me to remove all Google-based advertising from my sites a couple of years ago. Sorry for your continuing trouble, Jordan, and best of luck.

  • Kiddsock

    Did Tim Shey ever get back to you??

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    I’ve spent so much of this last month in a funk that I haven’t even bothered looking into alternative ad networks yet. :P

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    I agree, a direct support line would be nice…

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    You know, I hadn’t even paid close attention to that “may”… every google employee I’ve seen talking on the subject makes it sound like it’s a one-time affair, no 2nd chances.

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    I’ve been posting notices on YouTube about the new content, but people seem to be very upset with that. I’m actually about to upload a new video to the YT channel with some thoughts about things (it’s a good one).

    I haven’t even thought about changing to a new ad provider for the site. I’ll have to look into that when I have a few minutes.

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    Nope, not a word. I’d be willing to bet it was a clickbomb of some sort. Since the adsense was disabled, I’ve noticed that I’ve had a surge of spam accounts registering on my forum. Hundreds per day.

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    He did, sadly. I thought I mentioned that in the post. maybe not. They just told him to have me read the FAQ for disabled accounts and file an appeal, no more word than that. :/

  • Zeddyfree

    It is true. The advertiser is the customer. Users are just a product…

  • Anonymous

    That was obviously written by a lawyer. They tend to be very good at leaving wiggle room. “May” means that just as whimsically as they were able to terminate your account they could reinstate it, it also would lessen their legal risk of reconsidering one case while not reconsidering a million. 

  • Anonymous

    Since your W-9 would be the same I wouldn’t even bother with creating a new account.

  • Anonymous

    I just tweeted about it. I would blog about this, but I have someone who keeps trying to spam my blog. I had DISQUS block his IP, but I don’t want to give him ideas. Of course, considering I haven’t seen any money from Adsense yet, I wouldn’t lose much.

  • http://simon.kisikew.org/ Simon L’nu

    many years ago i tried getting an adsense account. i never got it, and ended up in the same position as you on that account (i don’t have an adsense account at all, just so you know). why? because i had second thoughts, and cancelled the transaction process. was my first time in a very long time i had done something like that, and it was really counter-intuitive the way the application and so on was formulated, to me. ever since then, i haven’t even been interested in trying to re-apply or appeal or any such thing.

  • http://simon.kisikew.org/ Simon L’nu

    that’s quite true. to big business, whether it be “your” “government” or google, we are just fodder to make money from.

  • MK500

    Not to flame anonymous; but I don’t think that’s a very reasonable request at all. Jordan invested a LOT of money in cameras, computers, lighting, mics, etc. That’s one reason his videos are so enjoyable; they have high production value. When he invested all that money he reasonably assumed he would be getting a little income from the ads; which seems quite fair. When YouTube pulled the rug out from under him for NO REASON; I think they deserve to lose his content. Why is it fair for YouTube to make money off Jordan’s labor and Jordan to get nothing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/padraigfahy Padraig Desu Fahy

    Google…. Y U EVIL? 

  • jano

    It seems google really like their /dev/null

  • http://www.linuxserbia.com Jordan

    well, the funny thing here is, in turning my adsense and partnership off, YouTube won’t be making any money off my content anymore either. It was actually to their benefit to try to help me, but they didn’t. They just directed me back to the Adsense people as well.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of many many MANY reasons and examples of Google truely being Evil and lying directly to so many people. RIght to their faces. It is why I do not use Google Chrome, its why I will be changing to WebOS away from Android as soon as, and its why I am trying very very hard to find a secure web based email company that is NOT self centered and who practices SMART security instead of only fixing security problems when there is a hacking attempt. Gmail has been hacked so many times and they are so idiotic with how they force you to have a Gmail account for your Android phone and you can not change that account without totally resetting your phone to factory defaults.

    So in my opinion we should all say BYE BYE Google!! Cause big companies like them don’t care how much feedback we give them. But they pay very close attention to what people are buying and where they are making money. If they are not making money with their adsense cause we have Adblock plugin’s, we stop using Android phones ( I know that is a hard one cause the many features it has over other platforms is why so many people use it now ), and stop using the various Google services ( maps, gmail, Doc’s, and even Google search ) then they would realize that it doesn’t matter what services you offer or what you say, you can get away with Evil business practices will not be tolerated by consumers.

     So lets speak with our wallet and get Google’s attention!!!!!

  • http://youtube.com/kiddsockTV Kiddsock

    Oh yes you did mention that. but no other commetns back. hmmmm. He maybe our way in. You should bring it to the Google/YouTUbe Forum under Partners.

  • celes’Knight

    Jordan, you are really a cool dude and doesn’t deserve what google did to you. I religiously check each day for any videos or blogs since they are really good(obviously) and i am a GNU/Linux user. Hope you are rewarded for your  hard efforts. I will continue to watch your videos and gradly watch the ads as they help you. Cheers. 

  • Sebastian Cortes

    anonymous what you say does not make mutch sense, “I will continue to watch your videos even if they are not uploaded to Youtube” Why is so important to have the video on youtube. I dont see many people paying anything to Jordan for his time and work. If he can make some money in blip.tv or other site I sure support that.Jordan keep the good work. Do wish there were anything I could do.Feel frustration and powerless when big companies do unjust things like this.

  • Elemento Cero

    It’s a pitty, but big companies don’t care about people. Their main goal is money; customer support is just wasted time. I like your videos and your website, and I think that a guy like you don’t deserve this treatment. But, as I said, “money” is before “persons”, and Google is like any other company -no difference at all-. We have to be careful with the untrue image that Google tries to sell us. It’s another devilish company, of course. What did you expected?

    Greetings and good luck. Keep doing the good work.

  • Anonymous

    UGH!! I hate Google!! I have shared it on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ :) I wish I could do

    chmod -x google.network
    rm -rf /var/www/*google

    and end them!!! Seriously… if AnonymousIRC / LulzSec hacked the (Insert word) out of them, I would not care, infact, I would throw a party!

    If I could, I would do it my self. (Actually, I take that back, I don’t want the FBI banging down the door on my house…)

    Google… you despise me!! (But I am actually liking Google+)

    P.S. Jordan, I added you on Google+ :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacksoneyton Jack Eyton

    Jordon, this does indeed bite but may, there’s that word again, be a good lesson. The internet is fantastic in the regard that if you’re willing to put some effort into something you can most likely make some money out of it as well. In the financial world it sounds like you had all your eggs in one basket and the bully took your basket. As I think you have concluded persuing other avenues of revenue is the best course of action right now. Technotic also poses a great point here, expanding ThisWeekInLinux also sounds like a great direction. I know you are thinking more time, but if there is someone you trust you could start accepting content from other producers (I know I would get into it) and have this friend or partner of yours be a type of editor to sift through content and allow what is up to par. There are TONS of news websites that have multiple writers but these are all corporate puppets. What you have sir would be a movement of open source video news production. Just a thought….

  • Esben Dissing Bregnballe

    Just wanted to say, I think this is an amazing idea. We do realise that, you don’t live solely to satisfy your viewers, but as someone with a reputation of making great, high-quality videos you have a fantastic opportunity of making something great!

  • http://www.facebook.com/TroyFoxxin Christopher Clark

    I think if i ran a system like Adsense, The automatic systems would be tweaked differently. when it comes to invalid clicks in some cases they cant really say its the users fault or not. unless the system is design to match the IP with Log last login From IPs. I think i would of set it up to when flooding is detected to Ban that IP every time. They System just keep on baning them for invalid clicks between time limits. unless it detects that IP was logged into the account within a given time. then its more clear when the user maybe trying to steal. then kick them on there ass. I had this happen to me. i had a account with them, after my first check they closed my account. I never clicked my own ads. traffic on my sites are slow. it built up slowly for couple years, and they still said it posted a risk. Funny thing is let it sit for about 5 months without dealing them them. you can oddly get the auto system to re allow you the account. but later on they just boot you again, and then you can wait little bit again. then it allows again. but so far it hasn’t booted me. but then i haven’t created any ads. whats the point?

    There system is just not properly set up to wast time with.

  • Akuma

    Hallo Jordan,
    first of all I honestly wanna thank you for your great work especially for reviewing a lot of Linux distributions!
    Since I guess that the last thing you need is someone who pities you or someone who tells you that Google has always been not userfriendly in its policy, I won’t do that.

    I have to admit that I was and am surprised that Google decided to end their contract with you since you’ve got a lot of fans over there and in my experience it has never turned out to be advantageous for a company to arbitrarily discriminate popular members of their own “community”. Still, apparently a lot of companies do that for reasons best known to them…(that is arbitrarily discriminating popular guys on the net).

    I hope you are not discouraged to keep on doing your great job because of that unlucky incident. I wish you best luck in everything you do!

  • http://www.facebook.com/george.from.georgia George Maghlakelidze

    Jordan! Thank You so much for Your effort!
    I want to say that monetizing the videos You make is not selfish like many other people say! You’ve been doing this for quite a while and spend thousands of hours on us, viewers…
    You deserve some money for Your great effort! Even more since You went ahead and invested gained money in the camera, again.. for the show :)

    You’re doing a great job! Keep it up and let Google go die in an alley…
    Not long ago I’ve came to realize just how EVIL Google is… Still, I’m using Gmail because it’s the most reliable, ever-evolving system ever…

    It simply boils down to information race… Google, Facebook, Twitter can provide the Governments or CERTAIN organizations with detailed information on almost any person on earth. Even what they like or dislike, their psychological characteristics and so on…
    Remember when court made Twitter (and I guess FB?….) give out all the information on people from WikiLeaks?? Now You could imagine what happens behind the scenes…

    Google has everyone’s business emails and documents. Facebook – their relatives and lives.
    Facebook goes ahead and introduces FB email…
    Once Facebook got people’s tel. numbers, Google went ahead and introduced double-protecting google accounts with a secret SMS Code… it it absolutely clear why they did that…
    Now Google wants to overpower FBwith G+ and +1… If it happens, kiss Your freedom bye-bye… :(

    They compete in a race to provide most information on biggest amount of people…
    Like we’re cattle or something…

    You know the ironic part is that people willingly give up their freedom like that… 
    and they are HAPPY about it…

    ===
    Sorry for the spill of emotion. It has been brewing in my head for quite a while now…

    Anyways… 
    Good job Jordan! Keep it up and ood luck with blip.tv!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Risenburg/100000355748641 Jason Risenburg

    I have told you thisis a tragity what they did. It is also a damn shame.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2JBZDFMGNZP5W66R4NU3ALVITU baja california sur sinaloa

    im a huge fan of google and all of its products….its really a shame that they are being evil with you…i hope they stop being evil i dont want they to be as facebook or microsoft or apple

  • xrtwriter

    I have to agree with you 100%. This has happened to me as well with Adsense. What is most frustrating is that I know I never clicked on any of our own ads (we had installed a script to not display any google ads when accessing our own sites), there was no violation of any of their TOS either. It was all totally legit and above board.   And  then one fine day without warning  they banned us and incredibly also forfeited the last  month and a half’s  earnings  - just over a  thousand dollars!  The shock and outrage at this gross injustice are hard to describe. And we got the same stupid, algorithmic, robotic run around and sterile responses.  Their appeal process is a total joke and a  farce.   You cannot  talk to a human being (try and find a phone number for adsense support – it does not exist!),   So all this time you, dear user, have been enriching this megalithic corporation with your blood and sweat, filling their coffers with thousands of dollars, And what do you get in return – a pathetic, automated,  email. This company that derives 99% of its 30 billion dollars of revenues from just such ads and the hard work of users just like you and me, just dumps you and doen’t have the decency to give you a fair chance to be heard.  And not only that – guess what, they also  ban you for life!    Seriously how incredibly arrogant and yes – evil!  Even criminals and murderers actually  get a second chance in the civilized, democratic world, for crying out loud! And you are banned for life in spite of not being guilty? Leaves one speechless. 

    So yes, they can say whatever they want to on their corporate philosophy page, and repeat their “Do not be evil” motto ad inifinitum. But just saying so does not make it so – even if you are Google.