After Demonetization Threat, Techdirt Pulls Google Adsense from Site

Techdirt has taken another financial hit. After facing what they say is a barrage of messages, Techdirt has said that they have pulled their Adsense ads.

2019 hasn’t exactly been kind to the opinion site, and it looks like 2020 is no better. Late last year, TeeSpring pulled Techdirt products from their site and accused Techdirt of copyright infringement. When pressed for an explanation, the company simply said that they refuse to debate the issue. In response, Techdirt relocated their merchandise to Threadless.

While that move must have been a jarring and unexpected one, it seems that the financial problems are continuing with the site. This time, Google Adsense is in the spotlight. Techdirt says that they have been receiving multiple notices for “dangerous” content. Sometimes, they said, those notices were received multiple times a day. Many pages were labelled as “must fix” while other pages were labelled with a notice saying that there is no need to fix the content. Mike Masnick tried reaching out to contacts to figure out what needed to be done given how the URLs constantly rotated, but apparently got nowhere. From TechDirt:

Incredibly, this list of problematic URLs would just keep changing. Some would drop off the list with no explanation (even the “must fix” ones). Some new ones would be added. Some would switch between “must fix” and “don’t need to fix.” No explanation. No record of the “fixes.” As an example, on Friday July 31st, I logged in and saw 25 URLs deemed to be policy violations. On Saturday morning I logged in and it was down to 18. No reason. Sunday morning it was at 22. But Sunday evening it was 27.

I tried to reach out to people at AdSense to figure out what the hell we should do and did not get back anything useful.

The next thing that happened was that the company we work with to manage the ad flow on our website (and to bring in other sources, beyond Google ads) told us that Google had reached out to them (not us) to say that because of all of the ongoing unfixed “policy” violations, we would be kicked out of AdSense by the end of August. Also, they told them that we were engaging in “clickspam” by hiding our ads to make them look like regular content, and that needed to be fixed immediately. The problem was — we don’t do that and have never done that. Our ads were always in the right hand column and clearly called out as ads. Indeed, we pay attention to what other sites do, and we are way, way, way, way more careful than basically every other website on the planet when it comes to not shoving our ads where they might be mistaken as organic content.

Finally, we started receiving reports from multiple Techdirt visitors (including those who told us they had purposefully whitelisted Techdirt from their ad blockers) that ads being delivered by Google were causing their computers to run hot. Multiple reports of ads on Techdirt failing to load properly, and causing Techdirt to fail to load properly. And also causing fans to turn on. And, to be honest, that’s the last straw for us. We would try to work with Google to understand why our content is so problematic for it, but when Google’s products start harming our users and causing a nuisance for them, that’s when they’ve got to go.

Given all this, we just decided that we’re pulling the ads off the site entirely for the time being — at least until we can figure out a better situation. This (obviously) represents a revenue hit for us, but the situation had become impossible to deal with. I was wasting so much time the past few weeks trying to figure out what the hell we were supposed to do, as opposed to doing the work I needed to be doing. So, that’s it for now. We’re looking at other providers out there, but so far, so many of the ones we talk to appear to be sketchy, and we’re not doing that either. If anyone knows of any non-sketchy, non-awful advertising partners, please let us know. Or, if you happen to have some excess money and want to just sponsor stuff so we don’t even have to worry about regular ads, let us know. Assuming most of you are not in that position, we do have a page of various ways individuals can support us. We know that times are tough for many, many people right now, but if you happen to be doing okay, and can help us replace at least a little of what money we made from ads, that would be greatly appreciated.

When we saw this article, we half wondered if a malicious third party is somehow reporting hundreds of URLs a day in an effort to demonetize the site. That is pure speculation on our part here, though. Still, that is something that is worrying for us to see because we know how many sites out there depend on Adsense to pay the server bills. This really could happen to anyone running a site with these ads.

After Techdirt asked their users for help finding alternative ad sources to make up for the lost revenue, some people replied with some suggestions for the site to use. One thing is for certain, this is definitely a troubling read to say the least.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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