So what happened?
On June 6th I read in Venture Beat that special interest group Morality in Media (MIM) had declared a great victory in its war against adult entertainment. Having never heard of MIM, I visited their sounding board, PornHarms.com.
The post read, “Google…will be implementing their new advertising policy which eliminates pornographic and sexually explicit ads. In addition, it seems Google will also no longer link to sites that contain such materials, no matter how benign their advertising… In our meeting with them, we specifically asked for these two updates to their policy and Google has complied!”
Is MIM’s statement factual? Google lands on their Dirty Dozen list two years in a row, then bows to their heavy-handed fear mongering? Porn’s out! Out of Ad Words! Out of results pages! Morality is making a comeback!
And MIM scored a meeting with you guys this past May? As the CEO of a large adult Internet company, that’s irritating. We’ve spent millions on Ad Words pay-per-click campaigns. (That alone is a salient point: if Google users were not looking for the legal product we provide, those campaigns would not have cost us millions.)
Meanwhile, I can’t even get a Google rep on the line to explain the substantive meaning of the term ‘graphic depiction.’
When an organization as visionary, powerful and dominant as Google starts kowtowing to shrewd, faith-based special interest groups with federal lobbyists like Patrick A. Trueman at the helm, it’s a sad day for freedom, and a sad day for IT.
The email you dispatched, and MIM gloated about, referenced a policy that was posted on Google’s Advertising wiki this past March. However, I saw nothing about a policy decision to remove links to pornographic content in your search results.
Realize, this letter I’m writing you now is only partially self-serving. I’m baffled as to why you’d elect to take so “moral” a tack, which is, in and of itself, morally suspect. As the pornographer in this conversation, I should be the one surrounded by an air of moral turpitude.
Your policy on Sexually Explicit Content reads:
Google Ad Words 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 compensation
- We don’t allow this content regardless of whether it meets applicable legal restrictions around this kind of content.
To me, what’s most disconcerting about this policy is summed up by that last sentence, about legal restrictions being largely irrelevant. Google, old friend, you’re better than this. As one of the most powerful and influential companies on the planet, you are on surest footing when laws, not ambiguous moral precepts, shape policy.
Let’s face it: the latter is a slippery slope that lathers up groups like MIM, and reminds us that the notion of building a steely moral compass on thoughtful, enlightened ideas is a fool’s errand. What’s that sound? Why it’s the squeaky wheel getting the grease again.
Further, it’s reckless. You are a monopoly. You control and propagate more information than any other entity on Earth; so by ignoring applicable legal restrictions and going your own way, aren’t you pretty much making your own laws? Isn’t that just inviting more antitrust suits?
And you know all this, Google. You have to. You employ some of the smartest people on the planet! Are the slings and arrows you’re suffering at the hands of EU antitrust regulators not enough?
Speaking of Europe, aren’t you the Google that’s presently fighting censorship by waging a PR war against the European Court of Justice, and their ruling that supports de-indexing of links on-demand by private individuals?
One thing’s for sure: your policy change gives the MIMs of the world plenty of grist for their respective mills; they’re feeling expansive and vindicated, and you know, better than anybody, how many of theses groups there are.
Small-business owners can’t help but grow wary; is Google still committed to “making money without being evil?” That’s certainly a tough row to hoe once you’re a monopoly with a $400 billion market cap. Or is the gig finally up? Should we resign ourselves to Orwellian fears, that our old friend Google has now become IT’s very own Deus ex machine?
It just doesn’t make sense. This is the same Google that stood up to the Chinese government in 2010, right? The Google that sacrificed a revenue windfall of the highest order to take the higher ground, refusing to censor results in mainland China?
And while magnitudes smaller, your decision to drop porn from Ad Words demonstrates your willingness to sacrifice revenue for a cause, as well. But why this cause?
This latest policy change has an onerous effect on a multi-billion-dollar industry. Is that the effect you’re aiming for? Do you stand alongside MIM toasting what good this policy change does for society, jobs, and choice be damned?
And it’s not just Ad Words. When Team MIM high-fives their supporters and declares, “it seems Google will also no longer link to sites that contain such materials, no matter how benign their advertising,” the statement smacks my industry like a tidal wave–though I must confess, it’s not really news to us.
Our SEO team had a fit just last week about Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs) relative to the BaDoink brand. The SEO lead threw his hands in the air and said, “I’ve really never seen anything like this. It would appear that someone at Google has some kind of vendetta against BaDoink.”
This statement left us all supremely vexed. And, in light of our ambitious re-launching of BaDoink, rather shocked. You see, almost exactly one year ago, we rebranded BaDoink as an online magazine with a focus on Sex, Technology and Lifestyle, a Playboy for the 21st century. We hired dozens of writers from the US and Europe, brought in an Editor-in-Chief, redesigned and redeployed everything.
Go to BaDoink.com now.
Try to find a graphic depiction of anything X or even R-rated. Heck, take the Nipple Challenge: If you stumble across so much as a nipple in that magazine, I’ll give you a year’s access to our VIP members area for free.
To date, the BaDoink magazine team has posted more than 3,000 articles, with subjects running the gamut. Today, I see an opinion piece arguing against voter apathy, an interview with 100 Balls game designer Giedrus Talzunas and a list of the 10 worst standup comedians in the English-speaking world.
In the past three months, to promote the magazine and the brand, we’ve raced a trophy truck in the Baja 500, and even earned a profile in Forbes which, as you can imagine, is an accolade we’re particularly proud of.
However, where Google is concerned, we don’t exist. Go to Google.com, and search for BaDoink.
Next go to Bing.com or Yahoo.com and search for BaDoink. The difference is striking.
Is that what’s in store for my colleagues and competitors? Is “Don’t Be Evil” still a mantra around the campus? Where does your latest policy move live relative to Google’s mission statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful?”
That said, I do not wish to be perceived as conspiratorial. The fact the Morality in Media says you’re shedding all porn-related results from your search engine, and the fact that you’re willfully blocking our results does not mean that MIM is correct. Let’s get back to what we know is real: the policy.
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 compensation
Is child sexual abuse legal? No. Child sexual abuse is horrific and criminal. It goes without saying that such ads should be forbidden, and further, that any Ad Words account-holder seeking to profit from such horrors ought to be investigated.
Prostitution and graphic depictions of sexual acts? Depends on the geographic location, I reckon. If prostitution is legal in Austria, let the brothels there advertise away. If graphic depictions of sexual acts are illegal in Thailand, shut them out.
For the record, and as stated previously, I don’t even know what your definition of a graphic depiction is. The best I can do is refer to Webster’s Dictionary, which gives me five definitions of graphic when used as an adjective.
Google, I implore you: Take refuge in the law, and resist the urge to pander to zealots. Whatever your decision, nobody is ever going to mistake you for Silk Road. Save yourself from shouts of hypocrisy, and an ancillary rash of youngsters sporting Google is Evil and/or Google Über Alles t-shirts.
Those of us working in adult entertainment are not saints, but we’re not pretending to be. We’re in the business of entertaining adults, and we don’t expect any petitions for canonization. But then, nor do mortgage lenders, agro giants or even, dare I say, search engine pioneers at the top of the e-commerce food chain.
There will always be nuances, and you will doubtless be pleased to know that I’m not going to scramble up on a soapbox to compare my industry’s negative impact on society to that of a banking system that brought a global economy to its knees.
Nor am I here to raise academic arguments about the use of sex to sell everything from soda pop to BMW’s on cable TV, and even your YouTube. Is using porn to sell porn more morally culpable than using sex to sell sneakers? It’s a question for the philosophy wing at any local university.
Pornography exists in the darker corners of the free markets, but that’s got more to do with religion than reality. As an industry, we are tightly regulated and law-abiding.
Before pivoting away from religion, though, I can’t resist the urge to ask you this: Why is it that the god hates fags numbskulls at Westboro Baptist Church are easier to find than we are? How much darker than them can one get?!?
We are convenient, easy scapegoats for any number of society’s ills. Parenthetically, did you hear the one about the porn industry being behind the Anonymous attack on MIM’s website? Absolutely untrue. I’m sorry to say it, Patrick A. Trueman, but the Anonymous group does not like the porn industry, either.
While willful disseminations of untruths courtesy of the likes of Trueman are irritating, it goes with the territory. You’ve got to have a thick skin in any business.
Google, maybe it’s time you checked your skin. Take a minute and stop worrying about all those antitrust and privacy watchdog headaches. Look in a mirror and ask that face staring back at you, “Am I being evil yet?”
All the best,
Todd S. Glider.
CM Productions, LLC, and BaDoink