The rules say Google ads may not be placed on web pages with material that harasses others or threatens harm. Content that incites bigotry is another big no-no.
Fortunately, most websites don’t publish that kind of objectionable content. Unfortunately, the internet is rife with trolls who set up anonymous user accounts to insult other people.
That means publishers need to be mindful of reader
comment sections that may degenerate into mosh pits of hateful rhetoric.
Google provides examples of what it considers dangerous or derogatory. But the descriptions are broad enough to invite all kinds of objections.
The company has a rule against content that advocates anorexia. Couldn’t that rule be applied to the website of every fashion magazine since the dawn of the commercialized internet? Google also objects to “content that singles out someone for abuse or harassment.” That basically describes what passes for political discourse these days.
Another rule doesn’t permit “content that suggests a tragic event did not happen, or that victims or their families are actors, or complicit in a cover-up of the event.”
Perhaps this one should be called “Alex’s Law” to make an example of
conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify this year banned his podcasts for violating their rules, and inadvertently gave him much bigger publicity.
Free-speech advocates object to such “de-platforming” and worry that a handful of tech titans are restricting what people see on the internet. Arguments about censorship have been around since the dawn of civilization. Google’s policies won’t be the end of that debate.
But as a practical matter, publishers that want to collect checks from Google AdSense need to follow its policies and remove any user-generated content that violates those rules.