WELL, I guess it was inevitable. After sending me 199 ‘Google Ad Violation’ notices – pretty much one a day over the last few months – it finally happened. TCW Defending Freedom was served notice that Google ‘ad serving’ had been disabled on our site:
This message is to alert you that one of your sites is not currently in compliance with our AdSense Program policies and as a result, ad serving has been disabled on your site.
Ad serving has been disabled on: www.conservativewoman.co.uk
Action required: If you have modified your site to be in compliance with our policies or you feel this violation is in error, please visit the AdSense Policy Center to view this violation and request a review.
Current account status: Active
“Unreliable and harmful claims”:
We do not allow content that:
· makes claims that are demonstrably false and could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process.
· promotes harmful health claims or relates to a current, major health crisis and contradicts authoritative scientific consensus.
As a matter of form we did remove the Google code from the offending pages appeal. As expected, it got nowhere.
Let me explain why this matters (before I rip apart the ignorant Big Brother-style accusation about our content) and before readers tell me that we are better off without Google or their ads, which of course in an ideal world we are.
Online news comment or opinion sites such as ours find it hard to be commercially viable, due in part to the way Google ads has come to control the major part of online advertising. It puts us between a rock and a hard place.
It’s several years now since Alphabet Inc’s Google Ads succeeded in crushing almost all its competitors in the world of digital-advertising technology. Its trick has been simultaneously to operate the leading trading venue, as well as the leading intermediaries that buyers and sellers go through to trade. In short, it has dominated advertising markets by cutting out all other middle-men and engaging in conduct that is prohibited in other electronic trading markets. (Alphabet Inc comes under scrutiny elsewhere in these pages today, in the article headed ‘The master plan behind the Covid crisis’).
But selling our space to Google Ads was our only option while we built our readership and encouraged reader support.
That dependency (across the online advertising board) has given Google a cosy base from which to censor and censure. They have their clients by the short and curlies. Charmingly, whenever they don’t approve of what you write (who is reading it all puzzles me – it more than an algorithm at work) they give you a choice – keep your ad revenue or take the offending page down. Imagine buying space in the direct ads section of newspapers and saying to the editor take your editorial down or we won’t allow you to sell space! And you cannot appeal against this. You just have to use Google’s systems to block ads on the pages they don’t like. We have done that for all the 199 pages they have blacklisted, individually, and then asked them to review the site. The bottom line is that we are still blocked from running ads as we have not taken the pages down.
Hence the inevitability of the final notice. And an end to our Google ad revenue. It’s not a total disaster, given the generosity of our readers, and there are other advertising routes we can and will explore.
But when the end notice finally came we decided it was high time to name and shame this Big Tech company and highlight exactly what it was of our output that they deemed to be so ‘unreliable’ or ‘harmful’. No prize for guessing. Our Covid articles lead the list. More surprising was which of our writers had offended Google most – no ordinary bloggers but the two most experienced and qualified journalists writing for us. Neville Hodgkinson, former medical and science correspondent at the Sunday Times, and Sally Beck, an experienced freelance writer for national newspapers and magazines, both trained in examining data, testing arguments to see whether they stand up and checking the reliability of sources, were the writers who succeeded most in upsetting the Google checkers.
It is in large part thanks to their expert reporting that TCW Defending Freedom scaled new readership heights this summer. They are providing the service that the MSM is so signally failing to deliver. And that made us think.
We need and want to provide more of this high-quality reporting and investigation that so terrifies Google, taking over the territory that was the failed MSM’s domain. Comment may be free, but inquiring intensively into and seeking to expose malpractice, the miscarriage of justice or other controversial issues, simply is not. It takes time and hard work and requires specific skills.
If readers want us to do this, we call on your further generosity. We are deeply grateful to the many of you who with either your voluntary ‘subs’ or donations are making our operation (still largely voluntarily run) viable. But we need to be on a firmer basis to realise these ambitions. If you would like to help us achieve them, please do think about cancelling your MSM subscription and your BBC licence fee and instead sending that money in our direction. One thing we promise you is that we won’t waste a penny.