Censored for AdSense

Toward the beginning of the year, I started including advertising on this blog in hopes to earn a little extra income. My autocorrect changed the word “earn” to “eat” in that last sentence, so before proofreading, it had me hoping to eat a little extra income. That statement is probably truer than I’d care to admit. My son is hoping I become a full time writer someday so that I can spend more time with him, and adding advertising was the first step in that direction. Thankfully, Google’s AdSense made it easy to implement and maintain. Before I forget, this is also a shameless plug asking you to click on an ad or two while you’re here. It’s appreciated.

Now imagine my surprise when I received a harshly worded email from Google threatening to suspend my AdSense account for violating the terms of our agreement. “This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies.”

According to the email, I published something offensive. What could it be? Is it because I used the F-word multiple times when writing about Chester Bennington’s suicide? I get how people might not approve of my intentional use of profanity, but is that enough to catch Google’s attention? Nope. According to my warning notice, I published something “sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse.”

Wait, what?

That was also my response. Because I would never share something pornographic. I have a strong distaste for pornography, although not for religious reasons. I have ethical/moral objections to the industry because of how thrives under the evils human trafficking and child abuse. I also know a bit about how on-screen talent is paid, how it is structured to be demeaning to the women involved, and how so many are trapped there due to drug addiction, disease, misogyny, and systematic economic prejudices. I don’t want that kind of filth on my blog. Not to mention how it doesn’t remotely fit the theme of fatherhood, faith, and geekery.

Yet, for some reason I can’t explain, Google believes I posted something that was pornographic or sexually gratifying. They provided a link as an example demonstrating where I violated the policy. I followed it and it led to a post I wrote in June about the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is talking about how we should react to those who mistreat us.

A blog post about Jesus supposedly violated Google’s anti-porn policy.

Is it because I mentioned streaking, strip clubs, or nudist resorts? Or because it included the biblical story of King David dancing while practically naked? Or because I described ancient culture’s aversion to nudity? Nope. It was because of the picture. A man walking through a crosswalk wearing only a pair of sneakers.

To be clear, there was nothing sexually suggestive about the image, nor was it intended to sexually arouse. The photo was taken from behind and from a distance. In efforts to be extra careful, the posterior was pixilated to avoid the exposure of anything offensive. Yet for reasons beyond my comprehension, the image was deemed inappropriate.

There are two bits of irony we have here. First, the post was published in the middle of June. It sat for five months before Google sent me notification requiring action. Which means someone complained. Which means that someone probably wasn’t offended by the picture, rather they were offended by what I wrote. The second instance of irony is the nature of AdSense’s ads compared to the image I used. I’ve seen ads from AdSense that were far more sexually suggestive than the picture in my post. Which means I had to edit my non-sexually suggestive photo to continue using advertising that might actually be sexually suggestive.


Regardless, I have great respect for Google’s policy against pornography. I oppose the porn industry so I have no objections to revising my content to comply with Google and AdSense, even while their methods are a tad hypocritical.

If King David was willing to become even more undignified to be held in honor, then I’ll be willing to censor myself to achieve the same goal. Because the picture doesn’t matter. It’s the message that counts.

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