GooglePrudery: Booted for Dissing Dubya

It’s official: We’re Too Hot For Google. has been suspended by Google Adwords for having ‘Unacceptable Content’. We’re pure evil we are. I just hope me ma doesn’t find out about my alleged google bombing!

This bit posted on December 10th 2003
Google must have found out that we’re 97% Evil… they’ve suspended our Adwords adverts!
Blather’s Barry Kavanagh has coined the phrase ‘GooglePrudery‘ in honour of this great occasion, now that we’ve been branded ‘bigoted demagogues’ (his words).
Mild-manned gentlemen that we are, we were some shocked this morning (dropped the toast and marmalade) to find a big fat email from in the inbox. Did some knife tricks with the letter-opener, to find that Google had suspend our recent series of advertisement, due to ‘unacceptable content’. Ye Gods.
Here’s what the ads look like: from Ireland
Paranormal stuff, bizarre stories
Weird, cult Irish magazine (click)
The Mothman Prophecies
A Review of John Keel’s famous book
Men in Black, UFOs, Paranormal (click)
The Hell-Fire Clubs
Irish and British Anarchists
Investigated by Dave Walsh (click)
Irish Moving Statues
We need your help. No, honestly
Paranormal Matters in Ireland (click)
Google’s email, edited to take care of repetition:
Hello Dave,
Thank you for advertising with Google AdWords. After reviewing your account, I have found that one or more of your ads or keywords does not meet our guidelines. The results are outlined in the report below.

[For All Four Ads:]
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.

Please read below for definitions of the issues I found:
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.
If a keyword has been disapproved, 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, and then save your changes to automatically resubmit the ad for review.
We’re confident that these changes will improve your ad performance and increase your return on investment.

I’ve sent Google Adwords the following snotty email, in a suitably hyperbolic tone:

    This is absolutely preposterous! I have four small adverts, three that refer to specific articles on my website.
    According to Google, I am using 'Unacceptable Content', and 'language that advocates against an individual, group, or organization'.

    Can you explain to how I'm offending a bunch of 18th century noblemen?
    Or how a favourable book review can offend the author, when I'm an aquaintance of his already?

    Now I'm the one offended. I was running these ads as a trial, with a view to adding ads for the various websites that I manage from clients.

    After this outrage, I will think twice about pandering to Google's absurd political correctness.

    Good day to you!

Update: Sunday 14th December 2003:

The response from Google – we’ve been banned for criticising Der Fuhrer!

Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2003 15:08:19 -0800
From: “AdWords Support”
Subject: Re: Your Google AdWords Approval Status
Hello Dave,
Thank you for your email. I understand your ads were disapproved because your site contained language that advocates against an individual, group, or organization. Although your ads were not advertising the unacceptable content, per our Editorial Guidelines, your site cannot contain this type of language.

I like this. Google can decide what kind of language I can have in my site? We are most amused…

I have reviewed your account history, and see that your ads were
disapproved for some of the content under your ‘Shitegeist’ link that
advocated against George Bush
. For example, language such as “How to keep George Bush as the number 1 failure…”

Ahem.. it’s called humour. Well, at least, we thought it was funny. Would you have had the same criticism had we ‘advocated’ against Saddam Hussein, or Dear Old Uncle Osama?

We permit sites containing commentary, analysis, and opinions, as long as they do not advocate against specific individuals, groups, or organizations. Please keep this in mind as you change your site and post future essays.

Ok, well that rules us out, as we adocate against everybody. We treat everyone with equal disrespect. We’re very nice that way.

We also permit satire sites, as long as they are clearly labeled as such. If you remove the language in your articles that clearly advocates against an individual, group, or organization, or if you clearly label your site as a satire site, I will be happy to review it again.

Jumping Jehovah on a spacehopper – I would have thought that Blather’s status as a satirical publication was blindlingly self-evident?
1. It’s called Blather
2. It has a blog on it called Shitegeist
3. It contains what we like to think is satire, and maybe even humour

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to email us at [address]

We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.


The Google AdWords Team

We’re not about to change our already chaotic and anarchic ‘editorial policy’ to suit Google. Sorry about that, chaps.
Love, light and…

Later that day…
As Paul Holloway posted to the Forteana Mailing List, strictly speaking, I had posted about Google’s apparent advocation against an individual – George W. Bush. Paul points out that ‘Maybe including the Miserable Failure” link results in “special
The Urban Legends Reference Pages at has a page about the whole Miserable Failure thing, check it out »
According to the New York Times, Google hasn’t taken umbrage at the prank and (presumably) isn’t taking steps to counteract it:
Craig Silverstein, Google’s director for technology, says the company sees nothing wrong with the public using its search engine this way. No user is hurt, he said, because there is no clearly legitimate site for “miserable failure” being pushed aside.
Moreover, he said, Google’s results were taking stock of the range of opinions that are expressed online. “We just reflect the opinion on the Web,” he said, “for better or worse.”

more »
The Times of India: ‘Miserable failure’ leads to Bush »
New York Times: Foes of Bush Enlist Google to Make Point » (requires login)
Magdalen sez: Google Censors Website for “Advocating Against George Bush” »
STARE: Google Censors Website for “Advocating Against George Bush” »
Update December 20th:
From: Dermot McNally
Apart from the more obvious daftness of all this (is an individual
that represents not just a country, but a whole bunch of them, still
an individual for Google purposes?), the phrasing “advocate against”
troubled my sensibilities. So I checked with Websters, since the
unfortunate lady wouldn’t be a speaker of real English:
Main Entry: 2ad·vo·cate
Pronunciation: -“kAt
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
Date: 1599
: to plead in favor of
synonym see SUPPORT
So what does it now mean to advocate against?

Update: 3/1/04:
David Brake comments:

More evidence (if more were needed) that search engines like Google have a certain amount of unaccountable power. A satirical site [Blather] that (among many other things) passed on instructions on how to make a search for ?miserable failure? come back with a George Bush page found that it had been banned from using Google to advertise. It turns out you can?t place ads using Google for a site criticising an individual unless the site is clearly labelled ?satire?. Of course the site still turns up in Google searches?

More » comments:

Update: 8/1/04
I emailed Google with Dermot’s analysis of the whole ‘advocating against’ thing, plus the following:
‘Well, I have to say that I’m flattered that Google has spent so much time penalising me for so little. Especially considering there’s some far more questionable advertising out there…’
Kim at Google emailed me back with the following:

Hello Dave,
Per our advertising guidelines, we do not permit the advertisement of
sites that contain language that speaks unfavorably of a person, group, or
Thank you for your feedback.
The Google AdWords Team

Update 26th January 2004
Essential Reading: Engineering Google Results to Make a Point » (New York Times)
Update 26th January 2004 #2
Media Guardian: BBC buys up ‘Hutton inquiry’ Google links »
Microcontent News: Google Time Bomb:
Will Weblogs blow up the world’s favorite search engine? »

13th February 2004
Google has banned the ads of environmental group Oceana from protesting against major cruise line’s sewage treatment methods, casting a spotlight on the policies – and power – of the popular Web site’s lucrative marketing program.
Oceana, said Google dropped the text-based ads displayed in shaded boxes along the right side of its Web page because they were critical of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
More (Mercury News) &raquo
More about the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines story &raquo
Anita Roddick and the ‘vomitous worm’ &raquo
Opposing war makes Unknown News a hate site? &raquo
Wired: Google vs. Evil &raquo
Update: 11/3/04
Danny Sullivan gave us a mention on It’s kinda lost in the overlong page, but just do a Find for ‘blather’.

Blather found itself running afoul of the Google advertising police, who pulled its ads for because the site had content that "advocated against George Bush." What was this verboten content? Blather linked to George W. Bush’s official biography as part of the Google Bombing prank (see
) to make it number one at Google for a search on "miserable failure."

Ironically, by this argument, Google itself should not be able to carry its own ads, given that its own search results are content that some would see as advocating against Bush.

In a further irony, while Blather is not allowed to pay Google to carry its ads, Google seems to have no problem with Blather carrying Google’s own ads — even on the evildoers page in question.

Upate 28/4/04
Gagged by Google – A t-shirt site banned by Google Adwords for slagging Bush!

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. Surely you don’t need adwords anyway, isn’t there an internet leyline that points directly to

  2. here i am playing with AdWords for myself and a client, too. let’s see, how can i say this without offending Google’s delicate sensibilities? how about FUCK ‘EM?

  3. I read recently on another blog somewhere – damn it all, I can’t remember which one, because I’m too sober – that AdWords sent out a similar “Unacceptability Notice” to a user.
    It turned out that the word in question was (and I shit you not) “click”.
    Maybe one of their arsehole ad-checkers got trigger-happy and deleted you for using the name of an ethnicity at all, plus the word “click”…and went ballistic.
    Text ad swap services exist by the truckload now, and not only do they lack such dipshit policies, they have better design integration options. I loathe AdWords white-background/black text/blue link colour scheme.

  4. I needed traffic cos I had none, I fought The Google, and the, Google won! I lost my links but I’ll still have some fun. I fought the Google, and the, Google won. Making HTML in the hard sun, I fought the Google, and the, Google won.
    fight the power dave

  5. Dear Mr Walsh,
    Although I can understand why you feel upset about the actions of Google, I do think that you are over reacting somewhat.
    As someone who has spent over 900 years in therapy to overcome my sexual desires towards statues, you mentioning moving statues has put me back to day one.
    Thanks to the good folks at Google, they are rightfully removing adverts that contain anything about statues, moving or static.
    We at ‘Stop fucking statues anon’, applaud their actions.

  6. Dave, you’ve got to post the Google address so we can write the bastards and tell them what we think of their prudery.

  7. about 3.8 million google hits for my War on Terror. Now if that’s not advocation against some group then I know not what is. Or would have been or will be. Damnation but I’m tense from the time travel – and I’m only moving forward at one second per second.

  8. I suggest you ask Google about The Onion. A paody news paper. Once you get to the onion through google look for the article titled Get this fuckin shit of my desk. Then ask google to read the article and compare it to your content. I would love to see their response.

  9. Does Google allow ads for political candidates’ sites?
    I’d expect to see some “advocation against” certain people on their sites.
    The person who wrote the letter sounds as marginally literate as many graduates of elite schools in the USA.

Comments are closed.