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Google and economic sanctions

     
2:04 pm on Jul 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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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]

3:33 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Try contacting the U.S. Consulate in Podgorica, Serbia, and Montenegro to learn what they have to say about sanctions:

[podgorica.usconsulate.gov...]

Assuming that you get a reply that says "Sanctions? What sanctions?", you can forward their e-mail to AdSense Support in hopes of clearing things up.

3:39 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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any idea what other countries are on this list?
3:42 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Here's a summary of them:

[ustreas.gov...]

4:48 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Have you considered renting a drop box/mail forwarding service in another country?

MQ

[edited by: mquarles at 4:59 pm (utc) on July 23, 2004]

hunderdown

4:57 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Actually, that summary lists "The Balkans," which would seem to me to apply to Serbia and Montenegro. When you read the linked document, it looks like the sanctions are not directed against any specific Balkan country as a whole, but at certain persons within those countries (basically war criminals).

Google may have decided to ban tebrino on the basis of a superficial reading of that list, leading them to conclude that the sanctions applied to Balkan countries. That could probably be appealed. Or, which is unfortunately more likely, they may have concluded that to avoid working with sanctioned individuals from the Balkans, they would refuse to work with ANYONE from the Balkans--on the grounds that they can't spend the time and money to separate out the good gusy from the bad guys. If that's the case, I think tebrino is out of luck.

9:22 pm on July 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Err...

"Blocking property of persons who threaten international stabilization efforts in the western Balkans"

That's pretty specific. It's even more specific in the paragraph underneath. I hope Google realises it has made a mistake here.

9:31 am on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hello,
Google kicked me out also, because I'am from Serbia and Montenegro. I'am using AdSense from beginning (from June 2003), and now when the payment period is Google come with these sactions list. Terrible! Serbia was on that list, but from 2001. after democratic changes this list is only for war criminals etc., but not for all citizens from S&M.
I make a lot of money in June, and more in July and now Google don't want to pay me. Really nice from Google. I e-mailed them, after 5 days no answer. brrrrrrrrrrr.
What to do now?
ASA? Please help!
2:24 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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From what I have read in the executive orders and the U.S. Treasury website, as hunderdown suggested, Google's choices are to fully investigate, at very significant expense, every AdSense publisher in the Balkans to ensure that they have no illicit connection with a banned person or entity, or risk extremely large criminal fines for violating the sanctions against the Balkans. The cost-benefit analysis is relatively simple, and despite the obvious harm to some innocent publishers I can't imagine any U.S. company making a different decision under these circumstances.
3:07 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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That's obscene.
Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

If the US administration can provide Google with proof that certain AdSense publishers in the western Balkans are connected to undesirables, then I understand Google would be legally obliged to terminate the accounts.

But it's up to the US administration to seek out and identify criminals and criminal organisations if it wishes to place sanctions only on those elements, not to effectively dictate to companies that unless they can prove otherwise, they should assume that the entire population is criminal.

Otherwise we have a de jure sanction against criminal elements only and a de facto sanction against the entire country's population.

Stemming capital exports by criminalising populations. Marvellous.

3:23 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

It doesn't apply here. Google isn't making a legal judgement, it's making a business decision. Google can choose to do business/not do business with anyone it wants to. The US has sanctions against "dangerous people" in some areas.

Google can't possibly do a background check on every person that applies for AdSense, so they instead choose not to do business with those areas.

hyperkik is spot on.

4:00 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well, I can understand they are making a business decision, but why do they cancel accounts from that countries only now? Weren't these countries on that list when the topicstarter applied for an account? It is so rude to take away someone's earnings just like that.
4:06 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It may be possible that the authorities pointed it to them just now. Or someone in their legal department now realized that it is more cost-effective to just close the accounts rather than risk the government's ire. Or they are just being too careful now with the upcoming IPO. The heightened profile of G at present makes them extra careful with their steps.
4:20 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Then still it is rude to take away someone's earnings. They could have said "we are very sorry, due to bladibladibladi we have to cancel accounts in your country, but you'll still be paid what you earned as those were valid clicks that we and our advertisers profited from". Well, not in those words, but you'll understand my point.
4:57 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Then still it is rude to take away someone's earnings. They could have said "we are very sorry, due to bladibladibladi we have to cancel accounts in your country, but you'll still be paid what you earned as those were valid clicks that we and our advertisers profited from".

They said they were "required" to withhold outstanding payments, and I don't think their attorneys would let them give the finger to the feds.

5:39 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Welcome to the new Google. Goodbye "do no harm."

MQ

5:51 pm on July 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

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ronin, that simply isn't the way it works. It is up to Google to comply with the sanctions. If they don't, they can be severely, criminally fined.
1:30 am on July 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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"Welcome to the new Google. Goodbye "do no harm." "
Well said. Googles' hole just seems to get deeper and deeper. All this is starting to look like an inflated balloon to me. Will it pop? My guess, yes.
1:38 am on July 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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You know, the way some of you like to blame Google for everything (in this case, their compliance with a Bush Administration Executive Order), I half expect to soon see somebody complain, "My server was down all day because my ISP had technical problems, and now Google won't pay me for the ads for that day," to a responsive chorus of "Gee, Google is evil!"
1:48 am on July 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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You don't have to make up situtations that are just silly. Plenty of truth out there to put google in the light they are making for themself, and in a hurry.
2:12 am on July 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, I see my comments were open to ambiguous interpretation.

But what I said about "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't apply to Google, it applies to the regime.
In this situation Google doesn't have a choice as far as I can see.

I was referring to the Washington administration's apparent stance of: "Well Google, if you want to be their client, you'd better conduct a lengthy and expensive investigation to prove to us that they're innocent. Because as far as we're concerned and until we see any evidence to the contrary, they're guilty."

10:24 pm on July 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Blame for this falls on the US government and bad laws, not on google. This is up there with prohibiting scientific journals editing papers submitted from Iran. Or the Helms-Burton Act and sanctions against *foreign* companies that trade with Cuba.

The law has drawn international criticism for a provision allowing U.S. companies to sue foreign companies that work with the Cuban government. link [library.thinkquest.org]

The U.S. Department of Treasury has ruled that scientific journals based in the United States cannot edit papers submitted by authors from Iran unless they have the government's permission. link [sciencemag.org]
12:42 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This is perverse, stupid and unenforceable. I'm not too impressed that Google would (apparently) implement this without figthing it. Nor am I impressed with such dumb sanctions.

Everytime I download a software package from SUN (Java, etc...), I laugh at some of the export clauses. How the heck can you stop something that's available for download on the WORLD WIDE WEB from making its way in some country you don't like? Assuming you could block off entire countries, is there anything stopping a Brit/Ozzie/Russian from getting said software and sharing it with someone in Iran/Lybia/wherever?

Governments haven't caught on to this whole innernet business, and are trying to implement dumb, unenforceable laws. In this case, they are bad for US businesses, as well as those in Serbia and Montenegro that are trying to build a healthy economy. It's completely perverse.

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.

1:24 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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you may not agree with the law; you may even think the laws and sanctions are dumb. but it is nonetheless the law.

it is easier to deal with a few disgruntled publishers than a disgruntled uncle sam. it will be dumb for google to cross paths with uncle sam.

as they say -- what is legal may not necessarily be moral :0)

1:56 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well said. Googles' hole just seems to get deeper and deeper. All this is starting to look like an inflated balloon to me. Will it pop?

Where are the *facts* to back up this statement?

What is "all this", specifically?

3:55 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The sad thing is that Google is only banning normal people. I bet they are actualy sending money to the people the US does not wnat them to. Passing laws to stop bad people is stupid. It only hurts people that folow the law. The bad guys are going to break them reguardless and will find ways around them.
4:16 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Passing laws to stop bad people is stupid.

Did you really mean to say this? How else do you stop "bad people" if not by passing laws and then enforcing them. Google can only do what the law in the US requires.

4:30 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Not a really nice subject for mine first post on this forum but...
I am kicked out too.I have tried to find an explanation on US gov websites and after a few hovers of surfing all I could find is that sanctions apply, more or less, to people wanted by the Hag tribunal.
Thoes that mean that I am war criminal?
:-) I feel like strapping a bomb around my chest :-(
4:30 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I was just talking about laws that are passed to stop all from doing something because a few bad people have corrupted it. They don't want to stop the good people they just feel like that is the only way to stop the bad people. Most of the time what the bad people are doing is already illiegal and there is no reason to pass these laws. All it does is hurt the people that follow the law the bad people are going to do it anyway. Often times it is real easy to get away with it because there are loopholes or they just don't inforce it. In this case they say don't sell anything to these bad people that live in the Balkins. Now everybody just stops dealing with the Balkins. The bad guys have ways around this no problem so the only people hurt are normal people.
4:41 am on July 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to the new Google. Goodbye "do no harm."

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.

This 104 message thread spans 4 pages: 104