The Google “Gag” Order
Editorial Note: This article was originally published in 2003. Google Adwords has changed significantly over time and based on Jared’s expertise and advice in technical matters, we no longer use their advertising program. And although we sincerely appreciate the tremendous allegiance with the cause of truth many have demonstrated, no particular action on your part is necessary at this time regarding this matter (i.e., phone calls or letters to Google.).
Several months ago, we started a teaching campaign using the Google Adwords mechanism. Last week, all of our ads were removed because someone at Google became incensed with our opposition to homosexual conduct.
Google AdWords is an advertising program promoted by the Google search engine enterprise (www.google.com). The Google AdWords program allows a client to target content on its web site directly to a select market. It accomplishes this by allowing the advertiser to purchase key words in their search engine. When the client’s key word is typed into the search engine, thousands of results are returned. But on the right-hand side of the page, a special ad with a link to the customer’s web site, article, or product is displayed.
The advantage of this program is that for a very low cost, you can target the content of your web site very effectively to people who are especially interested in a particular topic.
This past summer we started using Google Adwords to promote various articles on our web site. This strategy was, in our opinion, very successful in driving traffic to our web site. For instance, more than 12,000 people interested in Catholic traditions read our feature article on What Is Sola Scriptura? and more than 4,100 people, interested in the Left Behind series of books, read our article on Examining Premillennialism.
Our latest attempt at an AdWords campaign was to target those concerned about human cloning. With the recent news of the alleged first human clone being born, we anticipated that many people would be intrigued by this topic. And so, we purchased this ad:
When an ad is submitted, it becomes effective immediately. However, Google will review the ad and subject it to its own moral filter.
Google.com: Promote Sodomy, Yes — Promote Righteousness, No
There are a number of reasons why an ad might be disapproved. For instance, certain characters in the title — like the exclamation mark (“!”) — will put a stop to your ad. Google wants their ads to appear attractive. Who can blame them?
Another reason Google will ask to you revise your ad is if there are explicit “calls to action” like “click here!” — although the call to action “chat with hot guys in your area” is acceptable!
A third reason that is certain to get your ad rejected and your account cancelled is to have an article on your web site with the title "The Progressively Aggressive “Gay” Movement". That is exactly what happened in our case, last Monday.
Google Puts the “Gag” in “Gag Order”
Although we have used the AdWords program successfully during the last year, our recent attempt to promote our article on “The Ethics of Human Cloning” landed on Theresa’s desk. Theresa is a member of the Google AdWords Team. She wrote the following.
Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2003 12:35:12 -0800
Subject: Your Google AdWords Approval Status
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
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:
Campaign: ‘Campaign #9,’ Ad Group: ‘Ad Group #1’
Ethics of Human Cloning
Is human cloning ethical? How does
one evaluate the ethics of cloning?
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:
The AdWords Editorial Guidelines:
Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have
any further questions or concerns.
The Google AdWords Team
As noted in this letter, the reason cited for the removal of our ads on cloning, was that our web site contained “Unacceptable content.”
I was puzzled. Surely this was a mistake. What “Unacceptable content” could they be talking about?
I wrote the following note.
“Please clarify as to why the following ad was
More boilerplate was forthcoming. Then, this was added:
“At this time, Google policy does not permit the
advertisement of websites that contain ‘anti-homosexual content.’ 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.”
Now the pieces of the puzzle were coming together.
In our article on cloning, a link to another article "The Progressively Aggressive “Gay” Movement" appeared on the right-hand side of the page in the “Related Articles” section. The two articles were “related” in our system because the both dealt with issues of morality.
Seeing this had hit a sore spot, I altered the links on the right-hand side and resubmitted the ad. After all, it was recommended that “these changes will improve the performance . . .”
Last Monday, I received this response.
Date: Tue, 07 Jan 2003 07:26:38 -0800
Subject: Re: AdWords user feedback: Please clarify [#1431874]
Thank you for your reply.
As my previous message stated, “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.”
And, as to why your ads have been disapproved, the following statement was
taken from your webiste [sic]:
“At the same time, though, we must uncompromisingly affirm: This will not
pass! Homosexuality is a moral evil, and we will oppose this sin without
yielding any ground.”
We value your right to your opinions however, if they are against an
individual, group or organization, we do not allow them to be advertised
Google AdWords Team
This policy, of course, means that Google refuses to accept advertising from those who are against anything — although, they certainly are selective in how they apply their self-made moral standard. (In fact, in a recent lawsuit, they vehemently defend their own content as “commerical free speech” having first amendment protection. However, according to this policy, their clients must relinquish theirs.)
And so, all of our ads — on baptism, premillennialism, restoration, etc. — have been cancelled.
If you want to get an idea of what kind of content Google finds acceptable, just type in the words “gay,” “sex,” “homosexual,” or some similar combination (although we really can’t recommend it). You will see what a great variety of absolutely filthy, degrading ads Google does accept and from which they make their living.
So the lesson learned is this: you can promote debauchery on Google, but not righteousness. You can extol the “virtues” of sodomy, but not godliness. You can speak against purity, but not against sinfulness. Such a distorted view of ethics boggles the mind.
What are we to do? We don’t have the time or interest in mounting a campaign against Google. I did, however, send a reply.
Thank you for clarifying. I’m sure that in your editorial discretion, you feel that you have done the right thing in removing all of our ads in accordance with your personal feelings about the issue of homosexuality. However, I note with some interest that we have used Google services for months now and this is the first time this issue has surfaced.
Be that as it may, your personal interest in aggressively exercising editorial control of this unpublished policy is a perfect example of "The Progressively Aggressive ‘Gay’ Movement,’ the article you find so offensive. You obviously have used your position to make your personal statement in regards to our content. So much for tolerance.
We could remove our articles that address homosexuality. Such a compromise would be practical in the judgment of some. But we would rather suffer this injustice than withhold the whole council of God. We must obey God rather than be intimidated by evil men.
“If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (John 15:18-21).