03 August 2006

This is a Public Service Announcement

Well, you live and learn.

I'd been asking myself recently why my dinky Google ads down the right-hand side of this page had turned into ugly slabs of public service announcements (PSAs). Thanks to this article in the East Bay Express, I know why:

[I]n 2003, Google developed "sensitivity filters" to periodically scan the Web sites of its partners in search of violence, mature content, or other unacceptable material. "They detect sensitive content that we probably don't want to be showing advertising beside, and show public service announcements instead," says Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's business product manager for trust and safety.

The concomitant loss of revenue worries me not a jot: basically, I earn enough per week from my Googly ads to buy myself a cup of coffee, if I'm lucky. What does worry me - as it does the original East Bay Express piece and Techdirt, is that it will have a stultifying effect on journalism, as titles and reporters avoid subjects that might trigger this advertising limbo.

Since I don't write much about violence or mature content, I must be pressing the "other unacceptable material" button - wicked things like criticising governments, large companies, existing and proposed legislation, that kind of stuff, I presume. Which means that PSAs on these pages are a badge of honour, a sign that I've hit home.

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