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|Reporting violations, the Ethical Dilemma|
do we need an ethical TOS explanation?
Once in a while I report program policy violations, like sites with no content but full of ads, sites with very adult content displaying AdSense ads .. And I am sure each of you can have a different criterion that provokes reporting, but it is based on personal standards not common ethical grounds (if there is ever such a thing).
Also there is a "dirty" feeling associated with doing that, mainly because I am a publisher, reporting another publisher, feels like a the tell tale in school.
On the other hand I strongly feel for helping out the network through which I am making a good living, and advertisers whose good is also mine.
Perhaps the dirty feeling will go away and more people would report violations if Google creates an ethical TOS version explaining cause and effect in friendly plain non legal English, morally outlining why each breach is unethical or dangerous to the well being of the network, for frankly there are some vague ones in there.
It might still feel bad reporting violations, but perhaps a little less than it does now.
Examples of vague ones that I wouldn't report:
1) The use of Referrals as alternate ads
2) Having more than one referral ad for same product per page
3) The whole "calling undue attention to ads" business is beyond my simple intellect.
4) ADD YOUR OWN HERE
This is not a call for TOS change, but a call for better communication.
Let's not confuse ethics and morals here, as I don't happen to believe that G is God, regardless of what some may read into my posts at WW!
And let's also be clear that the game against G and its advertisers' budgets and publishers' reputations is highly assymetrical, like counteracting any highly antisocial behaviour: at best G can "force a draw" with its ToS, ie at best neither it nor the black-hats make money on the "lost" bad business.
Where does my post say anything about what people think of your posts?
Again, what I am saying is:
If there are ethics or morals or business justifications for some of the terms in the TOS, let's have them in plain English so that hopefully we publishers are able to relate better to them, and help Google better itself and in the process help ourselves.
[edited by: Hobbs at 11:00 am (utc) on Aug. 30, 2006]
No offense Hobbs, but why is it you care what others are doing?
none taken Jafo,
Because I live there, it's my business as much as my next door neighbor's house getting broken into is.
But the real issue is not to report or not, I don't report all the violations I see, or even 1% of them, the issue is understanding better Google's TOS, and aligning publishers to Google's side.
(My G!= God comment was just because I'm sure that some WW members lump me, EFV, etc, into a blindly-leurve-Google category. That was not directed at you.)
As I see it the motivations behind G's ToS are already pretty clear. If you've ever supplied product or service to the public for example, you'll be clear on the need for "at the absolute discretion of [supplier]" etc clauses to defeat the wannabe-scammers out there, however repugnant those clauses are.
At best, if G tried to be clearer I think (1) they's tie their own hands (2) make themselves more open to legal and technical attack by the scammers.
For a legal document, G's ToSes are not bad at all IMHO, and the way I favour them, ie plain English with a minimum of lawyer-ese art terms.
|No offense Hobbs, but why is it you care what others are doing? |
Because it affects all AdSense publishers and out futures.
I report any really bad sites. Everyone here should.
Note: YouTube.com which is under speculation of breaking the TOS may infact be a premium member however if not could be making a bomb out of breaking the rules.
Who can really know for sure what to do about these sites and who says the TOS is right anyway...
just my few cents.
I am hoping for a little more from this thread, let me quote myself:
|But the real issue is not to report or not |
I was hoping we discuss the vagueness aspect of the TOS, including the 3 examples on the original post, and whatever others here would like to add to them.
Damon, I appreciate the simplicity of the terms too, I am not saying they are linguistically challenging, it is the meaning and what they actually say that could yield better results for all parties involved with a little justification IMHO. Would that put Google in legal trouble, I don't think so.
I think that it might bind/constrain G.
Remember, the folks that the ToS is there to stop don't play nice and will find any loophole they can, legal and technical.
When I word contracts I try to sprinkle in the word "reasonable" so that the court gets to decide what is fair, rather than some nasty black-hat lawyer taking some bizarre and narrow interpretation.
But I can't see how G could object to *you*/us providing a clear and helpful reading of their ToS here, since our musings cannot possibly bind them in any way.
Shall we have a go at that, here?
|Shall we have a go at that, here? |
I was hoping that Google would do it not me, I would really like them to start with the "undue attention" to ads bit, placing an ad in my pages is a call for visitor attention, even when blended, we optimize it as per the heat zone exactly where Google says the visitors attention will be!
Very confusing when your page layout is designed so that the ads grab maximum attention, while not trying to reach the "undue attention" level.
I know some people put graphics with flashing arrows pointing towards the ads (I'd never do something as cheesy even for triple earnings), if visitors are interested they will click, which is the whole point of an ad on my page in the first place, right?
[edited by: Hobbs at 3:10 pm (utc) on Aug. 30, 2006]
When I see a completely useless site with no original content, that exists for no reason other than to display and profit from ads, I don't need any encouragement to report it.
When I report one of these sites to Google, I don't feel any more remorse than when I swat a fly.
I don't think many TOS violators will be influenced by an "Ethics 101" or "Why you shouldn't do A, B, or C" tutorial from Google.
As for reporting sites that you feel are violating the TOS, what's the problem? If they're breaking the rules, screw 'em; if they aren't, Google simply won't act on your report.
|As for reporting sites that you feel are violating the TOS, what's the problem? |
The problem is when we do not know why it is considered a violation in the first place, I don't think an explanation will deter anyone too, I was saying an explanation might help get more violations reported, hence clean up the network a little more, why would I report a site for something that does not make sense to me in the first place? Because Google says so is not good enough for me.
|The problem is when we do not know why it is considered a violation in the first place, I don't think an explanation will deter anyone too, I was saying an explanation might help get more violations reported, hence clean up the network a little more, why would I report a site for something that does not make sense to me in the first place? Because Google says so is not good enough for me. |
Then don't report it. No big deal. Google probably relies on algorithms to catch most violations anyway.
The thing is, as soon as Google gets all specific on what's allowed and what isn't, then the general feeling becomes if it isn't specifically listed in TOS, it's probably okay. And that opens things up to all kinds of slimy behavior, not to mention the need for Google to constantly be editing TOS to try to play catch up. I agree, it'd be great if we could get specifics, but I don't think Google would see it as being very practical.
A few thoughts...
1. I certainly don't feel guilty or like a tattletale when I report sites. Any site I report is clearly engaging in unethical behaviour and is costing me cash money by bringing the system into disrepute.
2. I consider the first two "referral" examples kind of trivial, as referrals are action-based and I really don't see how anyone is being harmed, even Google.
3. As for the rest of the TOS, I don't see a need for clarification. I only go to the trouble of reporting egregious examples, not the borderline cases, and I doubt most of the people who get banned have read it closely anyways. Maybe Google should go to a little more trouble to make sure that applicants have read and understood what's already there.
|The problem is when we do not know why it is considered a violation in the first place, I don't think an explanation will deter anyone too, I was saying an explanation might help get more violations reported, hence clean up the network a little more, why would I report a site for something that does not make sense to me in the first place? Because Google says so is not good enough for me |
You'd think an explanation would help. But then we move out of "ethics" and into practical consequences, which is completely different.
The reality is that for ethical people, the existing TOS says it all, and for unethical people, or those with no sense of ethics, no amount of explanation will make a difference.
I understand, as I think you do, that it is ethical to not deceive the visitor, and to ensure that, to the best of my ability the advertiser gets what's promised from my sites.
The whole point of ethics is that a single principle can guide our behavior in almost any situation. For example, it is unethical to steal. If you subscribe to that ethical imperative, do you need to know WHY you shouldn't steal?
Now, if google was to ask people (in prominent ways) to report TOS violations, AND they responded with details to the reporter, AND it was obvious that TOS violations were dealt with quickly, then I think you would see more reporting.
But that isn't consistent with their commitment to scalable, algo solutions, and of course there's economic cost for them to do so much manually.
Well, here's the flip side to this.
|As soon as Google gets all specific on what's allowed and what isn't, then the general feeling becomes if it isn't specifically listed in TOS, it's probably okay. |
In motorsports, many of the most innovative (and often most successful) racers have closely studied the rulebook and then built cars or bikes with innovations that aren't specifically forbidden.
It's because of this that the rulebooks for all of the major racing sanctioning bodies go into great detail about what is and what is not allowed.
|it is unethical to steal.. do you need to know WHY you shouldn't steal? |
no I don't, but it is a case of don't pick your nose with the left hand but it is OK to pick it with your right one.
|TOS violations were dealt with quickly.. you would see more reporting |
|Then don't report it. No big deal |
Cleaning up the network at a faster pace is no big deal?
|I'm sure that some WW members lump me, EFV, etc, into a blindly-leurve-Google category |
I sometimes get lumped into that category as well by people that only get what they want to get out of my posts, or yours or EFV's for that matter. If you aren't agreeing with the paranoid rants and ramblings about someone sitting in Google throwing levers and tanking individual incomes, then you're one of "them".
|Examples of vague ones that I wouldn't report: |
I don't report if someone has ads on their CONTACT US, FEEDBACK or ERROR pages as I realize many sites use blog software or Joomla with site wide templates and the low-tech user of that software simply doesn't know how to code around it.
Now what I do report is:
- "CLICK THE ADS" when I run across it or, bored and buzzed with bourbon go hunting...
- Sites with Nudity - if I can't have it on my pages, neither can you!
- Search forms with the search field already filled in for a quick click and earn, again, if I can't have it...
- Because I'm a directory, and people submit god-knows-what to my site, when I review a site and stumble across something illegal, they get reported as I'm already there and now I'm annoyed that my time has been wasted as well, double whammy.
I think you have a real point, and that this is exactly why G should stay vague.
But that does not stop a cabal of people here stating their own sect/interpretation as it cannot rebound on G. Just don't ask them to comment on it or approve it.
frustrated yet Hobbs ;)
the problem with Google adding any detailed specifics or explanations in regards to the terms is the same issue that all terms deal with.
You need something all encompassing but it is impossible to do, so you using sweeping staements that can be interpreted in many ways to try and cover all eventualities with the fewest words. If you get too specific you create large holes in your terms/policies.
Sometimes you can tell someone is a web newb. It's painfully obvious in cases. In those circumstances, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and emailed them a friendly note advising them that their ads are breaking the TOS.
The usual response has been enthusiastic gratitude and the ads were changed right away. It's a good feeling to help people. :)
Takes a little more than that JK ;-)
I understand Google's need for ambiguity in the TOS document, see O/P's last line, this not about modifying the TOS.
But I don't understand publisher's accepting the grey area as a fact of life, or how Google's using the AdSense Blog to clarify some examples of the terms could hurt them.
|But I don't understand publisher's accepting the grey area as a fact of life or how Google's using the AdSense Blog to clarify some examples of the terms could hurt them. |
Most of the areas aren't grey, and the few that are grey are grey for reasons that other members have just explained: e.g., to keep loophole-seekers from having excuses for adhering to the letter while ignoring the spirit of the law.
Plus, some things--such as whether a site is made for AdSense--aren't easily defined or quantified but can determined subjectively through human judgment in a manual review (the "sniff test" that has often been discussed here).
If Google wants to come up with a "What we actually mean by what we say" tutorial or FAQ, I certainly won't object, but I don't think such a document is necessary and I doubt if we'll see such a document from Google.
|I gave them the benefit of the doubt and emailed them a friendly note advising them that their ads are breaking the TOS. |
I used to be a lot more helpful to people before I realized I was just being used because people are lazy, complacent, and do whatever they want and I was doing what they should've done in the first place - RTFM!
Teaching and helping is nice, but if you're old enough to participate in AdSense you should be old enough to read and adhere to the rules without needing a nanny to coddle you thru learning the rules.
|It's a good feeling to help people |
I feel the same way when I get a site banned ;)
a) they may learn to READ the T&Cs next time
b) they may change their ways if doing the wrong thing doesn't pay
c) more money for the rest of us that bother to READ and PLAY by the rules
I would suggest you stop helping those that are too lazy to help themselves with some simple reading because you're interfering with evolution in action.
[edited by: incrediBILL at 7:05 pm (utc) on Aug. 30, 2006]
|But I don't understand publisher's accepting the grey area as a fact of life, |
I accept that it is up to Google to worry about the grey areas. I try and stay in the white area, though I am sure that there are dynamically generated pages on some of my sites that have ads but technically would not count as content. I expect that if a google tech looks at it, they will consider it not to be worth worrying about.
I have no problem with anyone reporting anything black or grey and leaving it up to google. But once you report it, just forget about it, you did your part.
I also have a high guilt tollerance. I don't feel any guilt at all for reporting someone that does something that I consider worth reporting.
|Because I'm a directory, and people submit god-knows-what to my site, when I review a site and stumble across something illegal, they get reported as I'm already there and now I'm annoyed that my time has been wasted as well, double whammy. |
I loved this one! I can't think of a better reason to report someone.
FWIW, I have warned webmasters a few times about "support our sponsors" type statements, but only if I happen to be corresponding with them anyways. With strangers, if it's serious enough for me to take action then I contact Google rather than the site owner.
Maybe it's cold-hearted (which I don't make a virtue of, unlike incrediBill), but what happens if you mail the site and nothing happens? Or they tell you to mind your own business? Are you going to report them to Google now? People can get pretty vindictive if you mess with them, especially if it costs them hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
I just had an interesting and so-far positive exchange with the head of marketing for a technology company.
I'd seen an ad on Google's SERPs for a free whitepaper for something I was interested in and didn't really want to code myself...
When I got to the their landing page it was a "give us all your personal ID or you won't get anything". Annoying and deceptive, and just the sort of thing that G seems to have been ramping up minimum bids for.
Well, I expressed my annoyance and the reasons for it and the horrible things that it might do to their ad costs (they seem a decent company on the face of it, BTW), and the marketing director wrote to me in person. (And said he'd send me the whitepaper without any need for all my data if I wanted it!)
So, not all these things are negative. There can be win-win-win situations. Better for users, advertisers and G's brand.
[edited by: DamonHD at 9:50 pm (utc) on Aug. 30, 2006]
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