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GrnEyedDvl's Desk

Why Google still sucks!

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
I am most likely going to violate my own Terms of Service here, and I really do not care. Moderators, leave this post alone!

In 2013 TWC was banned from Google Adsense for three policy violations. That's right, three. On a site that at the time had more than 2 million posts and 60k members. And just what were these flagrant violations?

1. A picture posted in a mod forum of a woman in lingerie in 2005 with the title "Obligatory babe shot" before the information about a mod. Obviously that was a clear violation of our Babes Thread policy and nobody caught it because it was in a mod forum. But honestly I have seen more revealing swimsuits. There was no nudity.

2. A thread in the Basement from 2011 about how to download a YouTube video by going into your browser cache. Now they ing make apps to do that that are advertised on Google AdSense, and for a while there was even a button on YouTube itself to "Download this video". They removed that button once they figured out that downloaded videos would not show ads, but it was there for probably at least a year.

3. An f-bomb with creative spelling that got through the censor and was missed by moderation. Shame on us. It was removed as soon as it was reported.


We were banned from AdSense for eight years because of those three violations. Every 3-4-5 months I would post in a forum about it because you cannot ever talk to a live person at Google. I gave up asking about it years ago because nothing was ever going to get done, and miraculously when I looked a couple of days ago we were no longer listed as "Restricted".

All of our old stats and reports were gone, and a note in their place that information now expires after 3 years. So I submitted the site for "Review" and it came back positive, and said it was ready to show ads. I had pulled the ads from TWC several months ago because of bad ads and stuff like that, so I figured what the hell I will give Google another try. I wish I hadn't.

I put ads in 2 spots on the vBulletin side, and 1 spot on the Wiki side, and capped the number of page views they could generate on the main site. I was still leery of Google. We have an Banner Rotation plugin installed on vBulletin that I can control stuff like that with. On the wiki side I just let it run because it gets much less traffic and has far fewer people that have created pages. The ads were active on the site for just under 24 hours and for a very limited number of posts. For today (Tuesday) we have served a total of 1700 ads and earned 9 cents. That's a CPM of about 5.5 cents per thousand ads which is less than half what we were earning with Sovrn when I took those ads down.

Yes, we earned 9 freaking cents. And this is the disaster that comes with it. This is what 9 cents gets you.

As you can see we have a site-wide restriction on twcenter.net for 5 policy violations.





And just what are those violations and where are they? Well let's take a look.



1. Valuable Inventory: No Content on this page.
Its a ing subforum index! And there is plenty of "content" to read, its all just descriptions of what is in the other forums. Why the hell is this OK on the main forum index, or in every other forum index, but not this one? AdSense has never complained about a forum index before. Ridiculous!


2. Copyrighted Material (DMCA) on this page.
Hey dumb ! That is ALSO a forum index! You just told me that forum indexes have no content! How the hell can there be a copyright violation if there is no ing content? Or are you saying one of the thread titles is a violation? Well show me which ing one. I call BS and there isn't anyone I can call BS to because of how you run your business!


3. Copyrighted Material (DMCA) on this page.
Well at least this one is a thread. You know, one of those things that actually has content. Its a 9 year old thread that predates our first AdSense ban by a year. Funny how it wasn't a problem in 2013. The last several posts dating from 2015 to 2018 are about how the download links are no longer valid. Which isn't good, but also means there cannot possibly be a ing copyright violation as the content is no longer there. Its just a bunch of text talking about the mod without the actual download being available. Furthermore, the creator credited everyone as he was supposed to do and there was never a copyright notice attached to this post before, either in our onsite moderation NOR in the regular DMCA notices I get from Google when someone posts something that someone else created. The content in that mod was all created on TWC to begin with, and compiled by another member of the community specifically so it would work on a Mac. I see no foul here, but try telling that to the ed up Google automated system.


Would you like to see some content that is definitely copyrighted material, and is also much more vulgar than anything posted on TWC, and has been serving AdSense ads for 15+ years and 3.7 million views? I thought you would never ask. Google also cannot claim this one was never reported, I reported it myself in 2013 when we got the strike for the bikini pic. I also mentioned this video on TWC at the time. How the hell they allow this video to be monetized on YouTube for 15 years without a DMCA violation is beyond me. I seriously doubt the World of Warcraft creators ever intended their characters to spout the line "Grab your dick and double click! The internet is for porn!" or to flip the bird. The original video is also monetized on the FilePlanet site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRgNOyCnbqg
The double standards here are amazing, and it has finally totally pissed me the off.


4. Site Behavior: Navigation on this page.
Well wtf? It navigates for me just fine in all 3 major browsers. Anyone else have a problem viewing that page or is it just Google?


4. Violent Content: Gore on this page.
This one I might have had a small bit of agreement with, except for 2 things. The ing violent content is on a Google owned site: YouTube. You have to sign into YouTube and verify you are over 18 before you can even watch it. That's problem number 1.

And problem number 2? YOU CANNOT VIEW THAT ING THREAD! I moved all of Radious's forums to the Cemetary after a dispute about how he posted on TWC. The Cemetery cannot be viewed unless you are a registered member on TWC (or a Google AdSense bot obviously, somehow they get around it) and even received complaints about it not being visible. Obviously admins and moderators can view it, and so can Google it would seem even though they do not have an account on the site. I dont remember if standard members can view the Cemetery or not, probably they can. But any unregistered member who visits that page gets thew standard "You are not logged in" screen, and Google does not have an account on the site:

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	adsense3.jpg 
Views:	28 
Size:	138.8 KB 
ID:	365139


That begs the question of how Google knows what is on that thread. The obvious answer is that Google piggybacks on your cookie when you log in, so they can see everything you see even though they do not have an account. Basically they use your credentials to intercept the information after it leaves the server but before it gets to you, read the page, and then insert the ad. All the Google processing is done AFTER the page generation but BEFORE you see it. This means that any hidden forum, any private message, any webmail you send, on any site you visit that has Google ads on it (maybe any ad) is stored in Google's servers and that information is no longer private. If you have ever sent a password via private message on any site that has ads on it, Google has that information. If you have ever sent a compromising photo on a dating site, Google has it. If you have ever lost your cool and ranted at someone in what you thought was a private setting, Google knows about it. If you have ever talked about your latest new widget invention, or the book you are writing, or your mother's favorite recipe; Google knows about it.


I could buy that excuse even though I think its a complete breach of privacy, except for one thing. If we take the scenario described above and apply it to the Radious mod thread, then someone would have had to visit that page on one of the very few times I had Google allowed to serve ads (1700ish out of 200k views) in order for that page to be intercepted and then deemed to be inappropriate. That did not happen.


One of the advantages of being me (other than violating the ToS I guess) is that I can access server logs. I can go in and see how many times a page was accessed and by what IP at what time. This is not a function of vBulletin but rather of lighttpd and Ubuntu. Logs are stored daily and purged after 7 days. Searching for a term like "Radious" or "685204" (the threadid for that thread) is an easy grep command and literally takes longer to type the command than it does to get the results. And since I tend to get a bit anal about tech stuff sometimes I took a look. Guess what I found?


Not one single member of TWC viewed that thread in the last 24 hours until I viewed it in response to that Google report. Furthermore not one single member has viewed that thread in the last 7 days (as far back as I keep logs otherwise they get ridiculously huge) and I suspect not too many have viewed that thread since I moved it in 2019. After all, the reason I moved it is so that nobody would see it. Not without specifically searching for it at least. Ironically now tons of people are going to go read it. Such is life.


So how did Google read it? And why? They read a cached version they had stored? Maybe. I honestly do not know, but I would like to.


The AdSense platform is reportedly the best paying one, though we have gone back and forth over the years with various ad companies. And I have no problem with there being rules. TWC has rules too for many of the same reasons as Google. The difference is that we don't turn our moderation over entirely to automated systems and then leave no possible way to communicate with a live person when there is a problem. We do not do things that cause people financial harm not just on one side, but on both sides of the equation.


And what do I mean by that? Gmail is the most spam ridden piece of garbage ever created. Of the hundreds of thousands of accounts we have banned, 99% of them are from Gmail. Of the hundreds of thousands (possibly millions in the last 10 years, I didn't bother to look) that are denied registration, 99% of them are from Gmail. One of the tools we use to prevent spam is made by Akismet. We pay the $50 a month because we get so many registration calls. And it works. But if Google would clean up their own email we wouldn't need it. There are scripts out there that you can run server side and sign up for literally thousands of Gmail accounts per day, then use them to spam whatever you want to spam via another script. Here is one that is old and I don't mind posting a link to it because I doubt this one works anymore. Its based on old Gmail captcha tech. The irony is that in the comments posted to that article, the first one is about how full of spam Gmail is and that was in 2008.

We spend $600 a year to protect us from spam via Gmail and when we make 9 cents we get reports that make no sense and have our ads shut down!


Updated June 29, 2021 at 04:17 PM by GrnEyedDvl

Categories
Managing TWC

Comments

  1. Gigantus's Avatar
    While an automated system is only as good as it's parameters one would expect a company the size of google to refine them to the extent that you won't get flagged 'no content' on an index page and then 'copy right violation' on the very same page. Getting flagged for a video link that goes back to an affiliate where it has been up for years is simply the cherry on top. Ridiculous as all that may be of way greater concern is the issue of access to information on pages restricted from public access, apparently even when no one has accessed that page.

    Being able to do so isn't helping my 'big brother is watching you' paranoia.
    Updated June 29, 2021 at 09:17 PM by Gigantus
  2. Emperor Commodus's Avatar
    I want to believe caching is the cause of their strange insight. If they're hopping along people's registrations, you've offered more reason to use blockers and never, ever ever turn back.

    May as well spruce up the patreon pitch or hope the other business is a touch more savory...
  3. Cookiegod's Avatar
    Welcome to the AI dominated future. I wonder why sci-fi dystopias almost never feature half baked bot "support".
  4. alhoon's Avatar
    I am very annoyed by the privacy thing too. Unfortunately, I am aware of it. When I tried to register to a site for a conference the other day, and did it from Chrome, google kindly filled EVERY tab for me, including real name in Greek and English, my address - the new one, not the old one I have in most forms submitted - my city, my landline number and my cellphone number. And my yahoo email address. Since I nearly never use gmail as they have a worse privacy approach than yahoo.

    Here's something that happened a couple of years ago: A man was missing for 20 years. Nobody knew what happened to him as he left one night with his car and disappeared. His family didn't have a clue and were paying investigators but nothing came up.
    Until someone asked google.

    Google knows. Trust in google.
  5. alhoon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod
    Welcome to the AI dominated future. I wonder why sci-fi dystopias almost never feature half baked bot "support".
    Because it is a touchy subject none of us wants to watch. It belongs to horror movies, not sci-fi.
  6. Cookiegod's Avatar
    I mean, the main reason why I used to rail against SJW (you know, the babies, not the actual ones), is that I find them to be quite intolerant to humour and stuff, forcing the rest of us to walk on eggshells simply to give themselves some false sense of superiority.

    But compared to AI they are absolutely nothing. AI can identify everything except context and nuance, and it will never identify those two, in addition to truth, simply because there's never going to be a statistic metric for either.

    So I've seen Shogun-2-gamervids being demonetised/removed by Youtube because in those 30 mins it had a few seconds of Trump photoshopped into a samurai suit. That was literally the reason.

    Same with customer support. I really hate the first dance around a bot one often has to go through to finally reach a human. I'm not 90 years old. I know how to google. If your crappy bot could help me, I would have found it by myself before.

    It's quite bizarre to think that market forces mean that as a consequence people are inevitably pressed out of their digital spaces.

    I'm also quite convinced that at some point there will be service providers with human customer support as primary selling point, with the AI driven stuff for the cheap, poor and Kafka fans.
    Updated July 10, 2021 at 11:24 PM by Cookiegod
  7. Kilo11's Avatar
    This sucks to hear GED. I mean, every aspect of the experience just sounds like a crap-show. But to echo Commodus' point, have you considered having a patreon, or doing everything for site (monetary) maintenance via direct donations, and just skipping the whole ad business? I mean, I would imagine you'd cover the monthly costs by the first day of each month, and if you have an open progress bar everyone can see, then many people would be well-motivated to pitch in. Just as an example, here is another forum I use, which is similar to ours in setup, but possibly even more niche (https://www.cartographersguild.com/forum.php), and they get their monthly costs met every month without fail, usually with a healthy extra bit to cushion in case there are lean months, and theirs is all via direct donations to the site.