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The Scourge Of Google

Richard Bartle indulges in understatement on contextual advertising.

When my book first came out, there were ads for gold farmers on its Amazon page and there were also ads for them that popped up for Google searches on my name. My name was being associated with a service of which I disapprove. Was there anything I could do about it? No, there wasn’t. Well, I guess I could have retaliated by buying ads for their names, but there wasn’t enough room to write BUY GOLD AND DECREASE YOUR SENSE OF SELF WORTH YOU LOSER LOSER LOSER in them.

He goes on to condemn the practice of contextual ad placement in general. It is fairly blipverty and the MMO community in particular has long struggled with the inability to filter advertising for things that their members violently disapprove of (yet still manage to stay in business anyway). Much of that is due to Google’s effective monopoly of affordable Internet advertising. There’s no alternative “MMO friendly” advertising network, simply because there’s not enough money in it. Not many really want to buy advertising on your guild’s web site… unless they want to sell you gold, that is. And the amount of money that changes hands is so ridiculously low that most reputable sites simply don’t bother selling advertising any more.

Ironically, it’s quite easy to ensure that Google Ads meet community standards. Your community merely has to be an authoritarian dictatorship! Failing that, you have to reach Google Ads’ bar for Things They Don’t Like. Their policy, which they apparently inherited from Youtube, is somewhat arbitrary. Cheating on your schoolwork reaches that bar, but cheating on your online game does not. Google Ads DOES explicity prohibit “e-gold”, but that’s not online RMT, but more direct money laundering. And, of course, nothing to prevent someone from advertising on a Miley Cyrus video with a “Buy the clothes Miley likes!” tag line. In fact, that sort of “targeted advertising” is what Google explicitly sells. And in such volume that, of course, they can’t be expected to police that, can they?

This wouldn’t be an issue if you (yes, you) would actually pay for content on the Internet. But all evidence empirically states that you (yes, you) won’t, so Google teaches us that we can’t have nice things.

“Don’t be evil.”
— Google’s mission statement