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Google murders second Anonymous AdSense account

Pro-Scientology ads decorating anti-Scientology sites. Wah?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Exclusive Google has shutdown the AdSense account of another anti-Scientology site.

Three months after cutting off all ads served to Enturbulation, a site dedicated to promoting activism against the Church of Scientology and all its related organizations, Google has done the same with a similar site known as Epic Anonymous.

Earlier this week, administrators at Epic Anonymous received the same email that turned up at Enturbulation back in May. "While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers," the email said. "Since keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our advertisers in the future, we've decided to disable your account."

Google has not responded to our requests for comment. But it would appear that the company has shutdown the account because it suspects click fraud - i.e. its automated system caught too many people repeatedly clicking on the site's ads.

Alexander Vanino, who owns Epic Anonymous, insists that he and others running the site have not attempted to rig the AdSense system. But he says that much like Enturbulation, Epic Anonymous was littered with ads paid for by the Church of Scientology. That's right, Google was serving countless pro-Scientology ads to an anti-Scientology site.

"I've been doing my best to filter these out through Google's [AdSense] interface," Vanino tells us. "But there were so many of them, from so many different domains, it was really hard to keep up with blocking them. It felt like I was going in every other day and blocking more and more sites."

Though it made no attempt to block them, Enturbulation was also served a regular stream of pro-Scientology ads and a site administrator has admitted its users were repeatedly clicking on the ads. "Google said that it wasn't a complaint from Scientology (or any other organization) that got Enturbulation.org's AdSense account shut down," the admin told us. "It was an unfortunate case of click fraud.

"Some members of the forum wrongly believed that by clicking the ads repeatedly that Scientology would be forced to fund the Enturbulation website when all it did was alert the automated system of possible fraud."

This may be what happened with Epic Anonymous. Or it may have been someone else clicking on the ads. But it begs the question: Why are so many Scientology ads turning up on these sites run by the now famous Anonymous movement, which launched an epic online Scientology protest back in January. Either Google's ad serving algorithms are dreadful or Scientologists are intentionally buying keywords that put their ads onto Anonymous sites. Or both.

In any event, pro-Scientology ads have repeatedly turned up on two anti-Scientology sites. And in both cases, Google has shutdown the sites' AdSense accounts, claiming they "may financially damage" advertisers.

Vanino and Matthew Danziger, another Epic Anonymous admin, believe that Scientology is somehow manipulating Google's system. "Google isn't doing a good job of looking out for its [AdSense] customers. They aren't saying 'We shouldn't be showing these sorts of ads on these sorts of sites," Vanino told us. "And then, from where I'm sitting, Scientology is taking advantage of this, telling Google that by serving ads onto our site, it's causing financial damage.

"So Google goes and shuts us down. In my opinion, they're putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem."

It's worth noting that Google's new AdSense policies say that partner sites may not include "advocacy against any individual, group, or organization." But it's unclear how often Google actually enforces this.

It's also worth noting that Google's official rules do not permit advertising "for the promotion of religious content." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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