Welcome to UNKNOWN NEWS "News that's not known, or not known enough."
Helen & Harry Highwater's cranky weblog of news and opinion.

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Google refuses our ad

For a few days, this tiny ad appeared whenever anyone searched for "peace stickers" or "anti-war stickers" from Google's homepage:

Who would Jesus bomb?
anti-war bumper stickers
from Unknown News

Then someone from Google visited our site and decided that our opposition to attacking Iraq was based on "emotional arguments."

According to Google, this means that Unknown News is a "Hate/Anti" site, which they define as "sites that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization."

Google doesn't sell ads to hate sites, so they dropped our ad.

If you're new here, let's state the obvious: Unknown News HATES hate, violence, and racial intolerance. There's none of that here. We are "anti" hate — that's why we're against this insane war -- we "advocate against" killing thousands of Iraqis.

When we explained this to Google, they said they would reinstate our ad ... but only if we edited this site to their approval, to "show both sides of the argument" over attacking Iraq.

Of course, we will not do this. We have always published opposing viewpoints in our comments section, but we publish what we choose, not what Google tells us to publish.

When we explained this to Google, they replied that an ad for our 'Who would Jesus bomb?' bumper sticker would be OK after all ... but only if we'd remove the words 'Who would Jesus bomb?' from our ad — and from our website.

Of course, we won't do this, because it's absurd. The question is important and apropos, and anyway, we believe in freedom of speech. And also, it's hard to sell a bumper sticker if you're not allowed to mention it.

We were pretty sure you'd never see a little ad for our anti-war stickers on Google.

But then, Google surprised us. They apologized and reinstated our ad.

Thank you, Google, and handshakes all around.

Since we had their attention, we left them with a few words we hope they'll remember, as we're still troubled by the implications...

But for now, the matter is settled to our satisfaction.

Our sincere thanks to the several people who wrote Google to suggest that their stand could stand reconsidering. :)

Who would Jesus bomb?

The bumper sticker, by the way, costs $3, or two for $5, post-paid anywhere. All proceeds help keep this website going. Selling one sticker keeps us on-line for about ten hours. Click here if you'd like to order a sticker or see our selection.

  —Helen & Harry
the proprietors, Unknown News


We're not about to become anti-Google activists, and we still think Google's the best search engine. We're happy Google accepted our ad ... and still, we're concerned that it was a problem at all.

It's not about bumper stickers. The underlying question is far more important: Is it Google's mission to provide information, or to prevent information from being provided?

For a few days, Google's ad department decided we didn't exist, so we sold no bumper stickers. Anyone who has an on-line presence — a business, a club, a personal site, a mailing group, anything — should understand the dangers in that.

But we're not sure Google understands the dangers.

Some related resources

Gagged by Google
An internet giant threatens free speech.

Google and the Maoists
All of the Maoist Internationalist Movement's ads are cancelled, with the same form letters from Google.

Google Watch
A look at how Google's monopoly, algorithms, and privacy policies are undermining the Web

Meet Mr. Anti-Google
Daniel Brandt has spent a lifetime questioning the secret machinations of people in positions of authority, and he's taking on Google in that same spirit.

Google and hate speech
Google confirmed on Wednesday that the sites had been removed from listings available at Google.fr [for French users] and Google.de [for German users]. The removed sites continue to appear in listings on the main Google.com site.

Google and news
It has become apparent that Google News is inventing excuses to not index popular alternative news websites, including Infoshop News.

Google and what's unacceptable
Google rejects ads from Nazis selling "unacceptable products." The same Google policy will, of course, prevent anyone from advertising any product the staff at Google deems "unacceptable."

Booted for Dissing Dubya

Google must have found out that we're 97% Evil... they've suspended our Adwords adverts!

Google and advocacy
Google rejects an anti-gay groups' "advocacy" ad. The same Google policy will, of course, prevent anyone from advertising any advocacy for any cause.

Google and boycotts
Google rejects ads calling for boycotts. In this case, it's a pro-war group urging people to boycott French products. The same Google policy will, of course, prevent anyone from advertising any boycott for any cause.

Google and poetry
"My ads were then disapproved and my campaigns were suspended."

Google and politics
Google refuses an ad for a political sticker. The same Google policy will, of course, prevent anyone from advertising any political cause. (In light of this, I'm re-astounded that an ad for *our* sticker was accepted; presumably Google just got tired of our emails...)

Google and AdWords
Frequently asked questions

Google and Scientology
The Church of Scientology's Supremacy over the search term "Scientology" on Google
Also: Good articles from Microcontent News: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Google's panel of experts
"Since you deleted everything, (see below), how can you feel right about charging me a 50 cent posting fee?"

Google and the vomitous worm
"I still think Google's policy of not allowing political advocacy ads is misguided, impossible to administer with any kind of fairness, and a scary step toward restricting the free marketplace of ideas."

Google and exclusion
Search results which may otherwise be shown, are deliberately excluded. The suppression may be local to a country, or global to all Google results.

Google vs. Evil
The world's biggest, best-loved search engine owes its success to supreme technology and a simple rule: Don't be evil. Now the geek icon is finding that moral compromise is just the cost of doing big business.

Google and love speech
The weblog for fans of Google

Like the URL says, this website is about unknown news.

Our news comes only from mainstream, professional journalists or (rarely) other sources we trust entirely, with no nuttiness and no interest in the same news you see everywhere else.

What we believe

We believe in liberty and justice for all, so of course, we oppose many US government policies. This doesn't mean we're anti-American, redneck scum, pinko commies, militia members, or terrorist-sympathizers. It means we believe in freedom, as more than merely a cliché.

We believe you have the right to live your own life as you choose, and others have the equal right to live their lives as they choose. It's not complicated.

We believe freedom leads to peace, progress, and prosperity, while its opposite -- oppression -- leads to war, terrorism, poverty, and misery.

We believe it's preposterously stupid to hate people because of their appearance, their race or nationality, their religion or lack of religion, how they have sex with other consenting adults, etc. There are far more apropos reasons to hate most people.

We believe in questioning ourselves, our assumptions, each other -- and we especially believe in questioning authority (the more authority, the more questions). We believe obedience is a fine quality in dogs and young children, but not in adults.

Like America's right-wingers, we believe in individual responsibility, hard work to get ahead, and stern punishment for serious crimes. We believe big government should not be blindly trusted.

But unlike most right-wing leaders, we mean it.

Like America's left-wingers, we believe in equal treatment under law, war as a last (not first) resort, and sensible stewardship of natural resources. We believe big business should not be blindly trusted.

But unlike most left-wing leaders, we mean it.

Like libertarians, we believe it's wrong and reprehensible to arrest people for what they think, believe, look like, wear, eat, smoke, drink, inhale, inject, or otherwise do to themselves.

But unlike many libertarians, we're not obsessed with the gold standard, we don't believe incorporation is humanity's highest achievement, and we don't believe everything in life comes down to dollars and cents. We've read and enjoyed Ayn Rand's novels, but we understand that they're works of fiction.

We're skeptical, and we're sick of so-called 'journalists' who aren't skeptical at all.

A reader asks, what are our solutions?

We propose no solutions except common sense, which is never common. We like the principles of democracy, and the ideals broadly described as 'American'. The US Constitution is a fine and workable framework for solutions, when it's actually read and thoughtfully understood by intelligent statesmen and women. So, no manifestos from us. We don't dream that big, and if there's one thing the world doesn't need it's yet another manifesto.

Our suggestion is: think.

A fact-based instead of faith-based approach leads to solutions for most of the recurring issues of our time, from abortion to global climate change, pollution to universal health care, careful but real regulation of industry and economy, hunger, war, terror, human rights for humans not for corporations, science not religious doctrine in public schools, equal protection and prosecution under law, etc. Approach problems without glorifying stupidity, without demonizing intelligence, and answers usually come into focus.

These pages are published by Harry and Helen Highwater, happily married low-income nom de plumes and rabble-rousers from Madison, Wisconsin (with a few friends scattered around the world helping out).

We try to spotlight news that hasn't gotten enough (or appropriate) attention in American media, along with our opinions and yours.

We bang our keyboards against the wall, because it doesn't hurt as much as banging our heads.

March 17, 2003
The first email from Google:

Thank you for advertising with Google AdWords. Our goal is to help you create high-impact advertising that reaches your target audience and maximizes your investment.

After reviewing your account, I have found that one or more of your ads or keywords does not meet our guidelines. These results are outlined in the report below.

In order to ensure your ad's success and relevance, our AdWords Specialists review each ad and keyword for compliance with our Editorial Guidelines. We disable keywords and temporarily suspend ads that don't meet our guidelines.

If a keyword has been disabled, your ad(s) will no longer be displayed for searches on this keyword. If an ad has been suspended, please edit it based on our suggestions below. Save your changes to automatically resubmit it for review. To log in to your account, please go to: https://adwords.google.com/ select/

Campaign: 'Campaign #1,' Ad Group: 'Ad Group #1'

Who would Jesus bomb?
anti-war bumper stickers
from Unknown News

Action taken: Suspended - Pending Revision
Issue(s): Unacceptable Content

-> Content: At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain "language that advocates against an individual, group, or organization". As noted in our advertising terms and conditions, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising we accept on our site.

Read below for definitions of the issues we discovered:

Unacceptable Content: Google believes strongly in freedom of expression and therefore offers broad access to content across the web without censoring search results. Please note that the decisions we make concerning advertising in no way affect the search results we deliver.

We're confident these changes will improve the performance of your ads and increase the return on your investment. For more information on performance tips and ad requirements, please see:

Optimize your ads:
https://adwords.google.com/ select/ tips.html

The AdWords Editorial Guidelines:
https://adwords.google.com/ select/ guidelines.html

Please feel free to email us at adwords-support@google.com if you have any further questions or concerns.

  —The Google AdWords Team

Our first reply to Google:

Dear Google,

Based on your note, I have no idea what you're talking about or what you're objecting to. Are you seriously suggesting that our bumper stickers or website "advocates against an individual, group, or organization"?

I've never heard anything (except from Google itself) to suggest "Google believes strongly in freedom of expression." I'd love to believe it, and maybe you'll show me that it's true. I have heard accounts involving strange, petty, or simply bizarre Google policies and pronouncements — kinda like this one — that would suggest the opposite.

I hope you'll explain the problem with something other than a clearly non-applicable form letter. If so, I'll try my darndest to understand. If not, please ring up the $7.85 in charges incurred for this ad and we shan't bother you again.

Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News   

March 19, 2003
The second email from Google:


Thank you for your email. I see that your ad has been disapproved for content that is 'Hate/Anti.'

Google AdWords does not allow the advertisement of sites that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization. Ad text, site content, or keywords should not be hate/anti related.

We will allow analytical arguments to run advertisements, however,these arguments must not be emotional arguments. They must show both sides of the argument even if they support one side more heavily.

Please edit your ad text and site accordingly. We appreciate your cooperation and participation with AdWords. We would like to offer any support we can to help you continue running on Google.

Please feel free to email us at adwords-support@google.com if you have additional questions or concerns.

Thanks again for your message. We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.

To access your AdWords account, please log in at: https://adwords.google.com


Kenji The Google AdWords Team
  —Kenji at Google

Our second reply to Google:


May I quietly ask: Have you *visited* our website?

If so, could you point to the parts that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization? There's none of that here.

We are "anti" war. We "advocate against" killing thousands of Iraqis in the next few days.

Is *that* what's not allowed to be said? Or is it OK to oppose a war, but not with "emotional arguments"?

If I understand your position, Google will take our money and run our ad, but only after we "edit" our site, only after we present arguments we oppose — arguments that *do* "promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization" unlucky enough to be in Baghdad.

Cordially, I cannot in good conscience do business with a company that would ask us to do that.
Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News   

March 21, 2003
The third email from Google:

Thank you for your email. I have discussed the content of your site along with other team members and see that you are offering interesting articles and services that are discussed with a shade of humor.

If you would like for your ad to be reviewed once more for approval, I would like to suggest that you remove references to 'Who would Jesus Bomb?' from your site and your ad text as it may be potentially offensive to some religious communities. We appreciate your effort to advertise on Google. Please know that we will work with you to gain the exposure your site deserves. Thank you for your patience throughout this process.

Please feel free to email us at adwords-support@google.com if you have additional questions or concerns.

Thanks again for your message. We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.

To access your AdWords account, please log in at: https://adwords.google.com

The Google AdWords Team

Our third reply to Google:

First you said Google wouldn't sell ads to sites that "promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization," and I wondered what that had to do with our peace-and-freedomesque site.

Now it's the bumper sticker you object to, and — lemme get this straight — if we'll just remove all reference to the bumper sticker from our ad and from our website, you'll let us buy an ad for the bumper sticker?

How do we sell stickers if you won't let us mention them?

"Google believes strongly in freedom of expression," your first email said. In subsequent notes, though, you're worried that our ad, our website, and our bumper stickers "may be potentially offensive to some religious communities."

Freedom of expression is always "potentially offensive." But we've been selling "Who would Jesus bomb?" stickers for a month and a half (mostly to Christians, judging by customers' comments) and nobody's yet told us they're offended. The Christians we know are generally intelligent and thoughtful, and whether they agree or disagree with our position, they recognize that the question is apropos when a predominantly Christian nation goes to war.

We strongly believe in freedom of expression, so your *repeated* suggestions for how we should change our ad, alter our bumper stickers, or edit our website to Google's satisfaction are just silly. Freedom of expression means *we* decide what appears at unknownnews.net, and what our bumper stickers and ads will say.

It also means, of course, that Google decides what appears at google.com. If you think it's offensive to ask Christians about Christ, you have the right to refuse our $7.85.

There's a war on, and it's already been condemned by the Pope, but Google won't allow us to ask what the deity would do. *Wow*... I think it's *bonkers* to say you believe strongly in freedom of expression, but I will defend to the death Google's right to be bonkers.

I say this with a smile, as I'm really too busy to be angry: If Google will take our money and run our ad, please do so. If you won't then don't.

But if you seriously imagine we'll rework any or all of our message to please Google, you're mistaken. We're not changing squat. We're going to do what we've been doing for five years: We're going to say what we want to say, for an audience of open-minded adults who really do believe in freedom of expression.

Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News   

March 22, 2003
The final email from Google:

Thank you for your email and your strong, clear arguments. As mentioned in our previous email, we do strongly believe in the freedom of expression. I have discussed your site and your ad with other team members after reading through much of your site and it has been determined that the slogan, 'Who Would Jesus Bomb?,' is used in a way and supported in a way that would not be offensive to others. In addition, you are running on relevant keywords. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication during our recent dialogue. I hope that you can accept our apologies. Please know that I have approved your advertisement to run on Google. Please contact me if you have any further problems or concerns with your advertisement.

Thank you for your patience throughout this process.

The Google AdWords Team

Our final reply to Google:

Apologies cheerfully accepted, and all is forgiven with no grudge. Thanks for reinstating our ad.

While the matter has your attention, though, I'd like to add a quick closing comment: Please, remember what happened here.

It's not about us, and never was. We just run an amateur news and commentary website, and sell bumper stickers to try to make ends meet (which they never do). Being "disallowed" by Google was only a minor inconvenience for us.

For a lot of people, though, it would be a much bigger problem. And it has implications that seem worrisome.

Certainly, Google needs to screen out ads for child pornographers and hired assassins and so forth. I just hope Google's ad screeners are encouraged to have a very  b r o a d  understanding of freedom of expression.

When more and more people are allowed more and more freedom to express themselves, that's a good thing — even if someone somewhere is offended, as someone somewhere inevitably will be.

Freedom is what I love about America, and about the internet, and I hope Google stands for freedom.

Thanks for your open-mindedness in this matter,

And — peace,
Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News   

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