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article imageOp-Ed: AdSense rips ads from antiwar site because of Abu Ghraib photos

By Ken Hanly     Mar 19, 2015 in Business
Mountain View - The antiwar site,, has been informed by Google Adsense that all ads on its website have been disabled. The site claims that this is because it has a page that has photos of the abuse by US troops at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The page of Abu Ghraib photos had been up for 11 years and during all that time Google Adsense had been running ads on the site. The page can be found here and has had two million hits since posted. The letter sent to the site can be found here.
The author of the editorial at the site, Eric Garris, sees the timing of the removal of the ads as significant since Washington is now expanding its presence in Iraq saying: " Washington gets ready to re-invade Iraq, and in bombing, killing, and abusing more civilians, they suddenly decide that their "anti-violence" policy, which prohibits "disturbing material," prohibits any depiction of violence committed by the U.S. government and paid for with your tax dollars...To say this is an utter outrage would be an understatement: it is quite simply the kind of situation one might expect to encounter in an authoritarian country where state-owned or state-connected companies routinely censor material that displeases the government. As some commentators point out this response rather jumps to conclusions — the facts hardly support that strongly.
One commentator claimed to have had a site with the same issue after 10 years with no problem and the site had nothing to do with politics. The letter sent to the antiwar site makes clear that the photos violate AdSense policy: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images.
The photos of events at Abu Ghraib surely violate this policy. It is understandable that advertisers would not want their ads beside those photos. Of course Islamic State recruiters might think that it was an ideal place for them to place ads. Google's own AdSense blog violated its own policy rules by showing explicit sexual material from the French video website and was roundly criticized for doing so.
Compliance with policy is obviously not closely monitored so that notices such as received are no doubt the result of a complaint or complaints. This complaint could have come from the government or from someone else at the urging of government, or it could just be an individual who has it in for the site and wants to deprive them of revenue. The site has not removed the link to the photos and is using the disabling of ads as a fundraising issue since they receive significant funds from their ad revenue. The commentator mentioned earlier suggested that the site could simply ask that the ads be removed from the offending page with the photos and be reinstated everywhere else. There is an appeal process as mentioned in the letter. The site is libertarian to a degree and so tries to tie this event to big government censorship. However in this case it is a corporation Google, that owns AdSense, that is doing the "censoring" and using its power, not the government. In the first quarter of 2014 Google earned $3.4 billion or 22 percent of its total revenue from AdSense.
Of course big corporations such as Google often have cosy relations with government. The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt along with head of Google Ideas a Google-sponsored think tank , Jared Cohen, interviewed Julian Assange back in 2011 while he was under house arrest in the UK. Assange describes the meeting and also the relations of the two to the US government and its policy in a fascinating article in Newsweek. Jared was a former employee at the State Department. As Wikipedia notes: Google Ideas has come under scrutiny for its links with the US State Department and its 'regime change' activities.
Google has profited from its government connections. In 2004 Google took over Keyhole. This was a mapping technology startup that had been funded by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the CIA. Google further developed the technology that resulted in Google Maps, a version of which was sold to a number of federal and state agencies in multimillion dollar contracts. It also helped launch a spy satellite: In 2008, Google helped launch an NGA spy satellite, the GeoEye-1, into space. Google shares the photographs from the satellite with the U.S. military and intelligence communities. In 2010, NGA awarded Google a $27 million contract for “geospatial visualization services.”
There is no doubt that Washington is keeping its eye on and would be happy to see its demise, so it is possible that the AdSense move is meant to help kill the site, but it could be an action by someone who wants to see the site punished for publishing the Abu Ghraib photos. The site could simply appeal the decision or suggest that the ads at the one web page be removed as suggested in a comment. Maybe this will be done after the fund raising campaign has finished.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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