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Google and economic sanctions
tebrino




msg:1394731
 2:04 pm on Jul 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Two days ago I received e-mail from Google where they inform that they are unable to accept accounts for publishers residing in countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list.
I live in Serbia and Montenegro and according to website of United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, there are no any sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro (http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/eotffc/ofac/sanctions/t11balk.pdf).
I participate in Adsense program for more than six month and there was no problems with this, even their TOS does not mention anything about this. I was very shocked and disappointed when I received this notice.
I would like to hear opinions and experience of other fellow webmasters about this matter.
Thank you very much,
Ilir Fekaj

Here is the notice:
<paraphrase by moderator>
Hello Ilir,

I am writing to inform you that your Google AdSense account has been
suspended. We are unable to accept accounts where the publisher resides in one of the countries on the United States Office Foreign Assets Control sanction list.

As your country of residence appears to be on this list, we have disabled your account and ads will no longer be served. We are required to withhold outstanding payments from you, and will be refunding advertisers for the clicks accrued on your publisher account.

We apologize for any inconvenience this situation may cause you.

Sincerely,

*****
The Google Team

</paraphrase>

[edited by: Jenstar at 2:10 pm (utc) on July 23, 2004]
[edit reason] Paraphrased email quote [/edit]

 

Zola




msg:1394761
 7:35 am on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hello, Danieljean,
you said:"If I were in such a situation, I would change domain names and find family or friends that are abroad to register with Google and forward me the money."
So, I have also an EU member citizineship, I wrote to Google, to change my address, if the Serbian is on "black" list, but they don't answer after 3 days.
I think I'll never see that money, very sad.

Leosghost




msg:1394762
 9:27 am on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I live in a country which is on the US ban list for PGP ...or any crypto product with better than 128 bit ...

Then again my own government says its illegal for me to use any crypto product of any sort even 32 bit even on my own machine unless I first give them a copy of the key and the process ..technically here we are all in breach if we dont give them our logon passwwords to WebmasterWorld aswell ( nope I'm not joking ..go read up ) ..

Where am I in this "haven of liberty"? ...France ...

alika




msg:1394763
 11:06 am on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the new U.S. With the Patriot Act, Dept. of Homeland Security rules, etc. there are all kinds of new restrictions on business with "evil" countries.

yowza ... You hit it right on the head. This is the US at its post-9/11 paranoia. International dealings of US businesses are now carefully checked - and everyone must kowtow the line or risk the punishment of Uncle Sam. This is just the reality of the world we are living in right now. It is not about proof of Google turning "evil"; it is about compliance with the law. Pure and simple.

Srda




msg:1394764
 2:20 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

So, from all this that you people said.
I should fear for all my affiliate accounts with US companies?!

alika




msg:1394765
 2:32 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If your country is listed in the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list, then your affiliate account with US companies will be at risk.

Of course, the reality is that it depends on the company and their level of compliance. I'm sure there are many US companies that are not even aware of the sanction list, and continue to do business with nationals of these countries. Some will do so out of ignorance, until Uncle Sam jolts them to the rules. Ignorance, of course, is not an excuse for breaking the law.

Google, at this point with the forthcoming IPO, needs to make sure that they are "aboveboard and clean" with respect to the laws. They may have initially erred by accepting nationals of countries in the sanction list (or at least the gray areas like Serbia & Montenegro), but their current efforts suggest that they are making amends and would rather err on the safe side of Uncle Sam.

ronin




msg:1394766
 2:34 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

alika:

You may not agree with the law

This isn't about agreeing or disagreeing with the law. Read the document - the sanctions are applicable to:

persons who threaten international stabilization efforts in the western Balkans

the sanctions are NOT applicable to Serbia and Montenegro.

What the Washington administration has done is to take a legal document which applies trade penalties to criminals and then proceeded to criminalise the entire population of Serbia and Montenegro by adopting a stance of "guilty until proven innocent".

It then threatens Google with severe penalties if Google refuses to go along with the "guilty until proven innocent" line.

alika




msg:1394767
 2:59 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ok - semantics here. Maybe not "law" but a "government position." Still, if you go against the "government position", then you can be subjected to penalties.

So let's change the statement: "You may not agree with the government position ..."

My statement is directed to those who do not consider the governmental regulations that a company such as Google faces, and simply jumps to the conclusion that Google's stance is a manifestation of their "turning evil." A company does not exist in a vacuum, and their decisions can and may be affected by factors beyond their control -- such as government regulations.

novice




msg:1394768
 3:47 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Perhaps this has to do with the SEC. Google may not be able to get listed on the exchange if they do not comply with U.S. sanctions.

Or it could be that major investers don't trade stocks in companies that don't comply.

Any WW members that have knowledge of SEC rules regarding U.S. sanctions?

danieljean




msg:1394769
 5:05 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

alika, I'm sorry, but as ronin noted above, the sanctions are not applicable to Serbia and Montenegro.

In this case, G is not only assuming people like tebrino and Zola are guilty until proven innocent and refusing to do business with them- they are also withholding money that they earned. Adding injury to insult, if you will.

Not to say G _is_ evil, but in this case their behaviour does not reflect their stated ideals. Perhaps they are quietly working with other companies to make the requirements fairer? Perhaps they will pay as soon as this unfortunate issue can be cleared up?

A lot of what has been said here has been pure speculation, and perhaps with the gag order before their IPO they can't respond to what could be libel(?). Like I said earlier, I'm not too impressed with their behaviour, and would like to see a rationale. Until then I'm keeping an open-mind.

Zola: you won't see that money for a little while, and most probably not until after the IPO or a change of power in Washington. In the meantime, don't merely change your address, but create a new account: if Google is under legal pressure, they can't say they did not know you were Serbian if they simply changed your address.

novice




msg:1394770
 5:12 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

"In the meantime, don't merely change your address"

Although Google allows you to edit your street address and city, they do not allow you to change the country.

alika




msg:1394771
 5:28 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

As stated above, G may have decided to err on the safe side -- with the government -- and avoid any complications. True, the sanction does not specifically state Serbia & Montenegro, but they may have decided that it is easier to close their program to those countries than put in the effort of determining who among the participating publishers are "clean" and "those who threaten international stabilization in the Western Balkans" (e.g. those willing to commit violence, those funding or supporting offending persons).

The fines of "$500,000 per violation for an organization" and $250,000 per violation for an individual", plus civil penalties of "$11,000 per violation" may be too great of a risk for the thousands or less income that G will earn per publisher from those countries. It can simply be a cost benefit decision.

danieljean




msg:1394772
 6:11 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If they are making a business decision to get out of certain markets and aren't being forced by the US government, then they ought to pay outstanding commissions.

ronin




msg:1394773
 6:14 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Washington is leaning on it, I think Google is pretty blameless in its actions.

As stated above, G may have decided to err on the safe side -- with the government -- and avoid any complications.

Yes, or it may have nothing to do with Google - Google may have been leant on.

True, the sanction does not specifically state Serbia & Montenegro, but they may have decided that it is easier to close their program to those countries than put in the effort of determining who among the participating publishers are "clean" and "those who threaten international stabilization..."

That's the whole point, though, isn't it? They shouldn't have to investigate. Unless the government can come to them with proof beyond reasonable doubt that certain publishers are guilty of threatening stability, the government has no right to force Google to stop trading or to assume guilt before innocence.

And yet that is exactly what appears to be happening.

bakedjake




msg:1394774
 6:27 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

And yet that is exactly what appears to be happening.

No ronin, that is not what is happening.

The sanctions are clear. You cannot do business with "dangerous people" in those areas.

Google has chosen not to do business with any people in those areas, presumably because it takes an amount of time and money to investigate people from those areas that is more than they figure to make from companies in those areas.

It is a business decision. There is no conspiracy and no government influence. Can we please put our foil hats away now?

Zola




msg:1394775
 6:30 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hello,
Today I just try to sign up as Sebian to AdSense, and in the country list Yugoslavia is present. So if Yugoslavia or Serbia or whatever is present how can people from this region sign up if Serbia is on that list of sanctions?
Or, they allow to sign up, make a 4 digit amount, and when the approval period is they kicked you out?
Interesting...

alika




msg:1394776
 6:30 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

The government has no right to force Google to stop trading or to assume guilt before innocence.

That's the ideal situation. Except we are NOT living in an ideal situation. We are living in the world of the patriot act, homeland defense, post-9/11 scenario etc.

If you are a company about to go public, the last thing you want to do right now is to clash with the Government -- for a handful of publishers that can give you a few thousands in revenue. It is just not worth it.

ronin




msg:1394777
 6:35 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's not a conspiracy obviously. But as I said in my first post this is a de jure sanction on criminals only and a de facto sanction on the entire population. It is the government's responsibility to investigate who is and who isn't a criminal and then penalise those companies who insist on trading with criminals. It is not the responsibility of the companies to conduct the investigations.

peterdaly




msg:1394778
 6:40 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

In terms of "Do no evil", I can easily see this as going both ways, and there is not clear stance.

If the US government say an area is on a list of sanctioned areas (read: evil), through canceling payments and charges all the way through the system, they come out as activly trying to undo their "evil."

While you may not get paid for AdSense money "owed to you", the Advertisers are receiving credits for any ads credited to you. They are trying to "undo" this as much as they can, without profiting off of it.

Are you fairly in an area targeted by this? I don't know. Looking from the other side, I can see how Google can (honestly) view this way of dealing with the problem as doing no evil. I know it seems to you like you got screwed, I don't deny that at all.

I won't place myself on either side of this issue, but can at least see where they are coming from. Seems like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation for them.

ronin




msg:1394779
 6:43 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If the US government say an area is on a list of sanctioned areas

These are not straightforward sanctions. Serbia and Monenegro does not have sanctions on it, only criminal elements within the western Balkans do.

Brett_Tabke




msg:1394780
 6:52 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is a classic business decision. You weight the pro's and the con's and make the choice. Right now, it is clear the risks significantly out weight the benifits.

alika




msg:1394781
 7:00 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

By definition:

Western Balkans = Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So Serbia and Montenegro are included.

Sanction against criminal elements = how would Google know if Publisher X is defined in the sanction as a "criminal element"?

The point is - Google has made a business decision that it is easier to comply with the sanctions than go through all the trouble to make sure their publisher base does not violate the sanctions.

Looking at the numbers:
- $500,000 per violation for an organization"
- $250,000 per violation for an individual"
- civil penalties of "$11,000 per violation"

Now calculate how much Publisher A can bring to Google:

If $1,000/month x 12 months = $12,000
If you have 100 publishers from those countries = $120,000
LESS: cost of investigating whether the 100 publishers are not covered in the sanction

Just doesn't add up. Costs outweighs the risks

ronin




msg:1394782
 7:13 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

This doesn't have all that much to do with Google. I imagine all other companies which deal with the region are similarly affected.

And I think we agree that the way the situation stands Google doesn't have a choice in what it does.

The entire population of a country which does not 'officially' have sanctions on it is effectively criminalised without redress because the government makes it a company responsibility to investigate who is and who isn't a criminal - which is a responsibility which cannot be justified financially.

If it walks like a sanction on Serbia and Montenegro and it smells like a sanction on Serbia and Montenegro, it is a sanction on Serbia and Montenegro.

tebrino




msg:1394783
 7:33 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is a public list of those who are considered to be war criminals, members of the previous regime etc. who are listed in annex of the document (http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/eotffc/ofac/sanctions/t11balk.pdf).

This link points to the complete list of individuals and companies to whom the sanctions apply
[ustreas.gov...]

So there is no way that Google has to cancel all accounts of publishers from the Western Balkans area.
The second, probably more important thing, is that the order has been issued in June 2001, and the suspended account has been created in January 2004. So Google knew about the sanctions, and yet accepted me as a publisher. You can still create a publisher account if you are from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia or any country from the Western Balkans area.
At the moment when the account was cancelled, Google was due to pay me earnings of 53 days.

Dpeper




msg:1394784
 7:40 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I do think if they have determined, that they are not going to pay publishers, because "the cost out weighs the risk" then they should of never accepted his account and its intresting to fall on 53 days of earnings almost a pefect cut off of 2 months of earning unpaid. I am sure that is just coincidence, But I cant even imagine being in his position I would be beyond mad.

hunderdown




msg:1394785
 7:58 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

We need to look at history. This kind of policy is not a post-9/11 kind of thing. The US government has a long history of using regulations, executive orders, and legislation to, in effect, force businesses to do their business in accordance with the government's foreign policy (many other governments do the same). Yes, it's restrictive and in some ways unreasonable, but it's nothing new.

A couple of minor points: The fact that the sanctions list has existed since 2001 isn't relevant--Google may have just decided recently that they are going to stop doing business with anyone from "The Balkans."

I also don't buy the argument that Google is obliged to pay out earnings made up to the point they decided to boot someone. No, they'd be just as liable for doing that as if they continued with the relationship, IF they happened to be working with a sanctioned individual. What they should be doing is refunding those earnings to the advertisers--and for all we know, they are doing that.

zyshen




msg:1394786
 8:13 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Totally agree with upstairs.
We should all take Google Adsense as granted and never ask for too much. No website is made just for Adsense. (at least according to TOS) Every website exist for its own purpose and adsense is just a extra bonus that google give us. If they decide to withhold anyone's earning, it's sad but nothing wrong.

yowza




msg:1394787
 8:42 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yes, we do need to look at history. We have used sanctions on many countries in the past and the sanction list continues to grow. The current administration has been even more aggressive in implementing sanctions and sanction-like policies against foreign countries. Using the guise of 9/11 security the U.S. has beefed up the list of "enemy" countries.

New policies are being created that might catch a few of the criminals, but also take away the rights of the majority of law-abiding citizens (ie. guilty until proven innocent).

Unfortunately, Google has to do the best thing for its business. This is not Google's fault. This is not the fault of %99.9 of the population of Serbia and Montenegro. This is the fault of bad U.S. policy. It is bad for business and it is bad for international relations.

[edited by: yowza at 8:43 pm (utc) on July 26, 2004]

troels nybo nielsen




msg:1394788
 8:42 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

> You weight the pro's and the con's and make the choice.

Sure. And it's nice to be reminded of some cons.

I have some purely technical choices to make now. The philosophical ones have been made.

WebFusion




msg:1394789
 9:25 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

If I were in such a situation, I would change domain names and find family or friends that are abroad to register with Google and forward me the money.

Sounds like a tactic straight from the terrprists 101 handbook.

Look, I sympathize witht he topic starter, as anyone who is anticipating a nice check only to have it taken away would be similarly dissappointed.

As fo what Google "Can or Can not" do...let's keep in mind that as a business, they have the right to refuse service to anyone they please (within the law, of course).

I run an affiliate program for a growing web business, and I receive dozen of applications from overseas affiliates everyday. With the exception of a half dozen european countries (and canada), we've stopped accepting applications from most of them. Why? Because 9 out of 10 applications from the coutries now on our "banned" list were fraudulant, or produced attempted fruadulant sales (it still amazes me that a "fraudster" will attempt thousands in sales using stolen credit cards on the last day of the month in hopes that we might somehow "miss" it ;-)

It is unfortunate that there are good people living in "bad" countries...but there you are. In today's business environment, it's sometimes necessary to take the path of least resistance and do what's (and most cost effective) for the company as a whole.

Personally, I think Google should only accept publishers from countries in which they have a language/geographic specific presence.

europeforvisitors




msg:1394790
 9:35 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

What they should be doing is refunding those earnings to the advertisers--and for all we know, they are doing that.

Yes, that's what they said they were doing, according to the post that began this thread.

danieljean




msg:1394791
 9:49 pm on Jul 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hmm... so if there is a list of people Google can't do business with in those countries, why are people being kicked out of the program?

Why are they being kicked out without past earnings paid?

Why were people allowed to sign up after sanctions were imposed? And why oh why are people apparently still able to sign up in those countries if their earnings are going to be "frozen"?

It's frustrating to not have Google's side in this. They may be steering a perfectly ethical course. However the facts as they have come out indicate that if this was merely a "business decision" it is not an ethical one.

This 104 message thread spans 4 pages: < < 104 ( 1 [2] 3 4 > >
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