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How Google Sliced Away Our Knife Ads (knife-depot.com)
560 points by AJ007 1352 days ago | hide | past | web | 327 comments | favorite



You cannot wield the kind of economic power Google does and not be evil, at least for the working definition many people have of "evil".

We've put a huge hunk of our intellectual and economic capital under the control of a marketing company. I really, really like Google, but I don't see this situation as being stable over a period of decades. Maybe 5-10 more years or so, but not a lot longer.

These kinds of decisions, where we pick economic winners and losers, are political decisions, no matter who makes them. (Personally I abhor making them, but that doesn't change what they are). These knife guys have representatives. Indeed, every small business Google has run over has democratic representation. Each year Google continues to make these decisions the political hue and cry will increase. This can't go on forever like this. "Don't be evil" was a great slogan, but its days are numbered. Perhaps over.

Side note: one of the ways I can tell Google's power has grown too large is the elliptical way many commenters have of criticizing it. They're unhappy with its actions, perhaps even livid, but it's always a tone of "Golly! This is really unfortunate and I'm sure nobody at Google really meant to do this, but...."

This is the same way you'd criticize a king, somebody you are beholden to. "Golly! I know you, the king, are not at fault, but some of these advisers of yours must have accidentally goofed up somewhere..."

Whereas if Dell, the electric company, or the garage down the street screws up in your eyes? Different tone entirely.


>This is the same way you'd criticize a king, somebody you are beholden to. "Golly! I know you, the king, are not at fault, but some of these advisers of yours must have accidentally goofed up somewhere..."

I don't buy it. People don't criticize a king at all. You don't criticize the communist party in Stalinist Russia, tactfully or otherwise. Doing that gets you sent to the gulag.

The reason people say that it was a probably a mistake is that it was probably a mistake. There is no apparent malicious objective for Google to stop taking this company's money.

There are really only two plausible causes for this. The first is some bureaucratic red tape within Google, where some employee made a poor decision and no one has corrected it yet. The second is that this isn't Google at all, it's the government putting pressure on Google to stop doing business with certain types of companies, and then it's Google being beholden to the government and having to do its bidding.

And I have to say the second one is a lot more plausible. Google has every incentive to take an advertiser's money. They're a publicly traded company. They have an obligation to the shareholders. Turning down paying customers because of some moral objection to pointy objects is a little bit crazy. Turning down paying customers because otherwise the government is going to start harassing you is a lot more rational.

Of course, it could actually be both. Congress is fond of passing laws against doing business with "criminals" or "terrorist organizations" or whoever may be found wearing an Anti-Flag shirt, and lawyers are fond of the phrase "out of an abundance of caution." Put the two together and you get a de jure ban on certain things and a de facto ban on anything that might be sold in the same showcase as those things. And if you don't like that then you might want to stop voting for Congress critters who support the Patriot Act.


    I don't buy it. People don't criticize a king at all. You don't criticize the
    communist party in Stalinist Russia, tactfully or otherwise. Doing that gets you
    sent to the gulag
That's not true. Even during the Stalinist period in Russia or the Maoist period in China, there was still criticism of the government. It's just that criticism was phrased in language that was politically acceptable to the leaders. Individual cases of corruption and mismanagement could and were exposed and castigated, but as long as one was careful to emphasize that they were exposing and castigating the individual case of corruption (as opposed to the system as a whole), one could obliquely criticize the system.

That's exactly what I'm seeing here. Small businesses are afraid of Google. They're afraid to directly criticize the general principles behind Google AdWords program. But they can highlight individual failures of the Google AdWords program, and, as long as they emphasize that they're talking about this specific business or that specific account, they can obliquely criticize the general principles.


As a person coming from a country that used to be a Soviet republic for almost half a decade, I can only partially agree.

There was no place for criticism of the entire system. Doing that would get you a very brief visit from the local KGB department, followed by your swift disappearance, and seeing your family again was not-guaranteed beyond that point. And yes, you could criticise individual members of the government, and you could point out corruption. But there were two problems with this approach - everybody(and I mean everybody) were corrupt one way or another, you had to bribe officials to get anything done, and it wasn't frowned upon, it was just how things were. And the other problem was, that that particular person whom you are reporting for corruption might be a close friend of a local communist party member, in which case, it's you who is going to Siberia, not them. So yes, theoretically you could criticise. But it was very unsafe to do so. Authors especially had to find new ways to write books which contained symbolic criticism of the government,but not too obvious, so it would go through the censorship.


Are you seriously defending the comparison between Google and Mao?


A comparison about a specific aspect doesn't mean equating the two. So if that's all you have to criticize, it's probably valid.


>>>> They have an obligation to the shareholders. Turning down paying customers because of some moral objection to pointy objects is a little bit crazy.

Happens all the time. For example, Groupon recently dropped all firearms-related deals on the wave of the craziness that is going on. I, personally, cancelled my account with them the next day and would never buy from them anymore. I am completely certain them and the shareholders don't care too much. Same Google - losing couple of ad dollars from some independent shop is nothing to them. If their deals with Amazon would be under threat that'd probably be different business. And the government probably has absolutely nothing to do with it - if it were government-enforced, it would apply to Amazon too.


>Happens all the time. For example, Groupon recently dropped all firearms-related deals on the wave of the craziness that is going on.

That's something else entirely. There is an argument to be made that doing things like that could actually be good for the shareholders, if you assume that a majority of customers are pro- gun control and doing that could get you accolades from them instead of boycotts. Maybe the opposite is true in reality, but at least there is a plausible argument to be made that it could be profitable to take a stance on a political issue.

That doesn't seem to apply in this case. There is no huge anti-knife lobby to pander to. Refusing to sell knives or to associate with knife sellers doesn't get your company published in the liberal press in a positive way. It just gets everybody dumping on you for being an imperfect bureaucracy.

>And the government probably has absolutely nothing to do with it - if it were government-enforced, it would apply to Amazon too.

If the mortgage crisis has taught us anything it's that big companies can get a pass for things that smaller companies wouldn't.


>>>> There is no huge anti-knife lobby to pander to.

Apparently, Google disagrees - otherwise why would they have restrictions on it? It is as political as the gun case.

>>>> If the mortgage crisis has taught us anything it's that big companies can get a pass for things that smaller companies wouldn't.

Bailing out a failing bank because it is (supposedly) better for the economy is not exactly the same as suspending advertisement rules or any other trade regulations.


Maybe it's the agency problem. The mid level manager making the decisions is not a shareholder.


>The mid level manager making the decisions is not a shareholder.

They almost certainly are.


I think what makes this Google case different from the Groupon case is that Groupon applied its rule UNIFORMLY whereas Google in this instance behaved inexcusably: applying one policy to one retailer, and a different policy to everybody else.


I know, I'm just saying turning away customers for political reasons is not as uncommon as the comment above claims.


> I don't buy it. People don't criticize a king at all. You don't criticize the communist party in Stalinist Russia, tactfully or otherwise. Doing that gets you sent to the gulag.

Uh, yes they did. Kingdoms of the beforetime were not all Stalinist Russias. Kings had to gather and maintain support; some of them did this through shutting down dissenters hard, but many of them never did, or did so with the full support of "the people".


You reminded me of a sort-of relevant part from Richard III that I enjoyed:

BUCKINGHAM:

And when mine oratory grew to an end

I bid them that did love their country's good

Cry 'God save Richard, England's royal king!'

RICHARD:

Ah! and did they so?

BUCKINGHAM:

No, so God help me, they spake not a word;

But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,

Gazed each on other, and look'd deadly pale.


>Kings had to gather and maintain support; some of them did this through shutting down dissenters hard, but many of them never did, or did so with the full support of "the people".

If the king has to do what the subjects and lesser lords want or he'll be overthrown, he's really serving at the consent of the people. That pretty well breaks the analogy: If the only sort of king people can criticize is the sort who doesn't actually have unchecked power then using "people are polite when criticizing" as a heuristic for unchecked power has the relationship inverted.


    If the king has to do what the subjects and lesser lords want or he'll be
    overthrown, he's really serving at the consent of the people.
That sounds an awful lot like the "mandate of Heaven" principle they have in China. The government can do whatever it wants, as long as it has the mandate of Heaven. How does the government know that it has the mandate of Heaven? By successfully surviving an attempted revolution or coup. How does a government lose the mandate of Heaven? By falling to a revolution or coup.

It's wonderfully circular logic that highlights the flaw in your argument. By your logic, every government that manages to survive is serving with the "consent of the governed". By your logic, even Kim Jong-Un is serving with the "consent" of his people, simply because they have not risen up and cast him down.


>By your logic, every government that manages to survive is serving with the "consent of the governed".

Nope, only the ones whose people could in practice overthrow the government but choose not to. Governments with loyal soldiers and modern military hardware, or even just a local monopoly on WWII-era military hardware, are not going to be seriously threatened by citizens who are prohibited from owning weapons. No surprise that those are the ones that oppress their people the most.


They're not especially threatened by citizens permitted to own firearms either. Do you really think that the average gun-owning homeowner can go toe to toe with a soldier who has armor support, air superiority, years of training, and, most importantly, modern military logistics backing him up?

And before you bring up insurgencies, let me remind you that successful insurgencies are marked by two features: 1. the occupying army does not speak the same language as the locals, so intimidating translators is an easy and effective way to deny the occupier situational awareness. 2. There is a bordering country willing to support the insurgency with either arms, safe haven, or both. Neither point applies to the US homeland.

Arguably, the last time an insurgency tried to take on the US Army was during the Civil War. Even though both sides had similar quality armament (and the South had higher quality leadership), the North won, thanks to its much stronger industrial base and better developed logistical system (i.e. railroads). The situation is even worse today. The average homeowner does not have easy access to any armament substantially note powerful than an AR-15, and the chances of any branch of the federal military defecting to support a civilian revolution are vanishingly small. In addition, the military speaks the same English that we do, and I'm pretty sure that neither Canada nor Mexico is willing to furnish you with arms and/or IEDs. So, with all that in mind, would you care to explain how, exactly, the Second Amendment protects me from the US government becoming a tyranny?


People often talk about the impossibility of armed revolt in a modern nuclear state. "You'd be killed on the first day," they tell me (not that I'm advocating armed revolt here, just to be clear). What they forget is that an armed revolt in the United States would still be chiefly a political act. America would have the eyes of the world on it, and there would be propaganda from both sides. America of today would be hesitant to bring the full force of its military down on a militant group if the group could successfully paint themselves as freedom fighters.

This would only work if the revs were in response to a truly tyrannical act, say if a president were to declare a state of emergency and indefinitely suspend elections. Think of the Arab Spring, Waco Texas, or the negative response to police brutality on the OWS protestors. Think of the imagery (and it would of course be filmed) of a hardy group of patriots facing off against tanks and bombers. These are powerful political images and could bring in diplomatic pressure, outside military aid, etc.

I'm not saying a revolt is likely likely to succeed, I'm just saying it more complicated than a cut and dry, "they have bigger guns, so the revolutionaries lose."


That's true. I was making the point (contra OP) that your owning a gun has little to no impact on the government ability to oppress you. Widespread gun ownership is not some magic pixie dust that will keep the federal government from oppressing us, and strict gun regulation is not some kind emasculation that will prevent the citizenry from rising up against a tyrannical government (c.f. Egypt, Libya).


I think you've shifted the meaning of king in the parent comment to tyrant. After that you go on to give Google the benefit of the doubt. Google isn't a tyrant, but we are all beholden to Google. Due to cognitive dissonance, we have the tendency to minimize or excuse any instances of abuse on the part of our benevolent data custodian.


I think you're just making a different argument. The parent seemed to be implying that people are afraid to criticize Google aggressively because Google have too much power and may retaliate. I don't think that's true -- in particular, if they did start retaliating, it would invoke a backlash and push people to start actively seeking out competitors or advocating new regulations.

Maybe there is something to the cognitive dissonance argument, but that's a very different dynamic. Resigning yourself to having to deal with someone in the future and then convincing yourself that you like them because they're the option you've chosen for yourself is not at all the same thing as that party having some kind of sovereign power over you. Look at what people do with their local sports teams -- people love the local team because it's "their team," that doesn't prove anything about whether the Mets have any excess of economic power over the citizens of New York.


I agree. I have no fear of criticizing Google because they are algorithmic. I don't think they're going to dig through my history and find my AdWords account and stick it to me just because I wrote a nasty diatribe about their bullshit. My fear with Google will be that I do the wrong thing accidentally that gets me flagged and there will be no way to rectify it because there is no human behind the controls and I have no back-channel or following to get Matt Cutts to pay attention to me.


Algorithmic? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/27/google_raters_manual... ("Revealed: Google's manual for its unseen humans who rate the web")


No, the Stalinist party was criticized plenty. Not in an effective way, clearly Stalin was good at running a dictatorship, but still.

Wearing an Anti-Flag shirt is kinda 2002, and Congress is certainly not passing laws against it.


This is just beautiful. I don't know the facts to this case, and neither do you, and yet you assume that what could bery much be a political action by a non-democratic corporation is either a mistake or a result of government intervention. But get this: large corporations can do whatever the hell they feel like. If they want to advertise abortion clinics but not come-back-to-Jesus ads because that's their political view, that's exactly what they'll do. And while they do have some incentive to take a customer's money, they have other incentives, too, like enforcing their political views without answering to anyone. True, they do have obligations to their shareholders, but no one will yell too loudly if they're turning a $1B profit rather than the $1.1B that they could have, and there's a lot of political influence forgoing that $0.1B could get you. And they don't even have to pass laws that you say Congress is so fond of passing.

Some people feel that the free market ensures fair behavior in spite of being shown the opposite again and again. Free market gives rise to monopolies or non-monopolies with too much power, and those companies don't have to operate by the same rules anymore. This is where the invisible hand hypothesis fails: To the powerful players, a dollar is not the same as a dollar to you because they have enough power to change the market. Set the rules of the game, if you like.

That's why I'll always take government red tape over corporate red tape. That's why I'll take government corruption over corporate corruption. True, even in a democracy money buys influence, but at least the players are often required to give a good explanation. But a corporation, as long as it's very profitable, can behave like a dictator -- benevolent or otherwise.


It strikes me as very unlikely that Google is getting government pressure to restrict the advertising of assisted opening knives. These knives are exceedingly popular; Walmart and Amazon sell them.

I can't actually think of any reason that passes a basic sanity check that Google would have an issue with them at all. This situation seems a little bizarre.


Turning down paying customers because of some moral objection to pointy objects

Are you suggesting the US government asked google to stop runnings ads for knives?

In the same country where I can pick up a semi automatic assault rifle at WalMart?


If it's semi-auto only, it's not an assault rifle. Litmus test: would military personnel use it to assault a target?


Actually? Probably yes. Every member of the military I've spoken with emphasizes that their training explicitly discourages the use of fully automatic fire. Real life isn't like Call of Duty. Special Forces operators don't go in flinging grenades left and right, blazing away with full auto fire from the hip. Doing so is both a waste of ammunition and a danger to one's allies.

That said, though, I find the distinction between "assault" and "regular" rifles to be quite silly. In practice, "assault" tends to mean "it has a rail for attachments and looks scary", just like "sniper rifle" tends to mean "rifle with a scope". In both cases, the essential portion of the definition is does not have anything to do with the gun, but more to do with the person carrying it. A sniper rifle is a rifle carried by a sniper. Even a relatively weak .22LR can be a sniper rifle in sufficiently skilled hands. Similarly, an assault rifle is a rifle carried by someone with assault training.


That's not right, or at least not nearly the whole story. Of course use of automatic fire is discouraged for situations where it's not effective, such as engaging point targets with aimed accurate fire. For other tasks, the most obvious being suppression, automatic fire can be very effective. Capability of automatic fire was and always has been a requirement driven by the military. For a recent example, look at the U.S. Army requirements for the individual carbine program - selective fire is a requirement for submitted designs.

Anyways, none of this impacts the fact that the term "assault rifle", as introduced with the German Sturmgewehrs and now subverted by the U.S. media to mean "scary looking gun", has a specific military meaning that distinguishes it from other small arms like the battle rifle. Let's use Wikipedia's definition: An assault rifle is a selective fire ... rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

The distinguishing features of the assault rifle, compared to the contemporary battle rifles at the time it was popularized (like the M1 Garand), is that it is chambered for a lower powered non-pistol cartridge (which translates into lighter weight), has a detachable magazine and is capable of burst or fully automatic fire.

I'm not aware of any military or paramilitary organization that uses a definition substantially different from this, or anything like the one you've suggested.


While you're right in that the person doing the shooting is far more important than the weapon, it's pretty clear that some weapons, like fully-automatic shotguns, are designed for specific use cases. You wouldn't use a .50 Barret to hunt deer, and you wouldn't take a micro Uzi to the practical range.

Drawing a line between civilian and military use suitability is difficult, but that doesn't mean there is no difference. That's why there is no assault rifle law in the US, but rather some features of weapons have been banned from private use.


To be accurate, there are no weapons features that have been banned from private ownership and use in the U.S. at the federal level. Certain weapons fall under regulation of the National Firearms Act and require payment of a tax before transfer. Examples are machine guns, suppressors, destructive devices and short barreled rifles/shotguns. These are all legal to own by individuals at the federal level.

A few states do outlaw or ban some specific NFA weapons however - for instance 5 states outlaw individuals from possesing machine guns.


An assault rifle is a step down from a battle rifle. A battle rifle fires full sized .30 caliber rounds, an M-16 would be an assault rifle. Smaller cartridges than a battle rifle.


You are right, I guess, but that's nitpicking.

The gist was that I don't believe the government bothers with banning knife-ads while semi-automatic rifles (under whichever label) are sold freely.


You might try googling^H^H^H^H^H duckducking the phrase "If only Stalin knew!"


Historically, people DID criticize the kings, often at their own peril. France and England executed one each.


-- I don't buy it. People don't criticize a king at all. You don't criticize the communist party in Stalinist Russia, tactfully or otherwise. Doing that gets you sent to the gulag.

You missed his point: you praise the King and leader by saying that certain underlings that do the bad acts are giving the wonderful King /Stalin a bad name. You might have missed the show trials where someone was always being blamed for x and y. People have complaints about life, someone has to be responsible. At Google someone is doing bad things but it can't be the wonderful and "open and free" loving founders, just some bad apples. They money is going to Google's bank, of course.

-- They're a publicly traded company. They have an obligation to the shareholders. Turning down paying customers because of some moral objection to pointy objects is a little bit crazy.

The obligation is not like you seem to put it. They have an obligation to make money over the course of years, not this quarter. If I wanted to spend $1 mil on "Abort your baby just for the hell of it" Google, even if 'it' agreed with the message might see this as alienating their other customers and decline. Likewise, using search to drum up Adwords business, in addition to being possibly illegal (not disclosed to users) can make Google lose credibility and that's all they have /had.


As they say, the Cossacks work for the Czar. They have always worked for the Czar.

If a big institution screws you over but has found a clever way of perpetually evading or delegating away vocal blame for that... they're still responsible, unless they're fixing the system in the very-near term. If the resources aren't there to fix the system, that's because they've consciously chosen not to allocate those resources.


"They" do not say it, DeLong does.


For others unfamiliar with the reference: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/05/remember_the_co.html?c...


He originated it, but it's since become a mainstay on the political blogs, from Yglesias and Krugman to the folks over at RedState.

Plus, it has a certain panache to it, don't you think? And vividly conjures a real phenomenon, despite eliding real principal agent problems.


As is often the case, Google has to find a line that allows legitimate brands to do their thing, but also make sure that smaller/less legitimate sites not exploit their systems.

Google won't tell Amazon/Target/Walmart, to stop selling a product or get banned from AdWords.

But a small retailer who wants to circumvent the rules could capture PPC traffic for a similar (but legitimate) product, and then funnel people to the 'banned' product page. Rather than Google policing the landing page's CTAs & on-page intent, they find it easier to just say "you can't sell that thing."

Here's what I would do if I were Google: simply not show any PPC units (paid or product listings) on the SERPs for 'Assisted Opening Knives'. Suddenly the whole issue goes away, and Google doesn't look hypocritical - since they're then not making money off a product class that they claim to find objectionable.


Did anybody else read through that keyword-heavy body text, and think "I wonder if they'll really get away with trying to own the organic SERPs while the Adwords team are swatting down their paid placements?"


I can't see any easy link from their blog to their webstore, so that tactic might fail.


That's not a particularly uncommon technique - get a page to rank first, without any obvious commercial links on it - then once it's generating traffic add the desired links.


They don't hold Amazon/Target/Walmart sacred. They probably have contracts where these vendors get commitments from google that they will not be treated this way.

Pissing off some little knife company means exactly nothing to google.


>> "Don't be evil" was a great slogan, but its days are numbered. Perhaps over.

It didn't mean anything. You said it yourself: Google is a marketing company. And that slogan served exactly that purpose.

We have a name for it in politics. We call it "rhetoric."


> They're unhappy with its actions, perhaps even livid, but it's always a tone of "Golly! This is really unfortunate and I'm sure nobody at Google really meant to do this, but...."

They're trying not to burn bridges, which is good business. But it's true Google has a monopoly on online ads, which should not be allowed to continue unchallenged. Don't like Dell? Buy Lenovo. Don't like AdWords? Die.

On the other hand, the strategy of the OP is questionable. Google asked them to stop advertising for one category of products. It's admirable to have chosen the high route of stopping to do business with Google altogether, but it wasn't the only option. They could have continued to advertise for all their other products on AdWords, and then cross/up-sell customers to the forbidden fruits once these users got to their site.


> They're trying not to burn bridges, which is good business.

I think that's the parent's point: that you cannot afford to burn bridges with Google, even when they are wrong. Speaks to their power.

> Google asked them to stop advertising for one category of products.

I read it as Google asking them to stop advertising through Adwords as long as their site carried the products in question, even if the ads weren't for those specific products. If your interpretation is correct, however, I would agree with your conclusion.

Perhaps the OP can clarify.


I'm not the OP, but I do work for Knife Depot. Google did not ask us to stop advertising for one category of product. They asked us to remove those products from our site, and if we didn't, we could not advertise for ANYTHING via AdWords, including kitchen knives, cutting boards, pocket knives, etc.


Wow. Thanks for the clarification -- I'm sorry I misunderstood.

If this is true, it's completely crazy. How does Google think they can tell people what products to sell on their own shops??

Then I would completely agree with what the OP did, of course. In fact, there really was no other way.


Even Google employees realize the hypocracy. Our (unnamed for his safety) rep at Google emailed us with this:

“I am still waiting on an answer to my reply where I asked for a universal enforcement of the policy OR we allow knife depot back online. I replied and said, I refuse to tell knife-depot they need to remove a product category that 7 other competitors are advertising & selling the same products.” I then named each domain, called out the double standard, and requested that they state the clear differences that allows these competitors to serve & knife depot to be suspended. Still waiting on this reply.“

That email was sent over a month ago.


Omitting his/her name probably won't save him/her from a verbatim quote, if that email came from his/her corp email.


> How does Google think they can tell people what products to sell on their own shops?

They don't. They tell you that if you want to advertise with them then you can't sell that stuff. Big difference.

The problem is that Google is heading into monopoly territory - the same as MS back in the 90s, same as all the old telecomms companies, etc. At some point in the near future they'll be hit with anti-monopoly legislation, not sure whether it'll be the EU or US that does it first, but I don't think it's far off.


I'm not the OP, but I do work for Knife Depot. Google did not ask us to stop advertising for one category of product. They asked us to remove those products from our site, and if we didn't, we could not advertise for ANYTHING via AdWords, including kitchen knives, cutting boards, pocket knives, etc.


If I understand correctly, Google asked them to REMOVE the knife's from sale on their site - not just from any ads running on adwords.


Are you sure about that? I have the impression Google wanted them to remove assisted opening knives from their site. The Amazon ad they used as an example was not for assisted opening knives, but the Amazon page they showed was.


>This is the same way you'd criticize a king, somebody you are beholden to.

Or because you really like the company. I think you've misinterpreted the thoughts involved here..

Google is one I have pretty positive feelings about, not just because their applications are usually the best as far as web-based SaaS offerings go, they're free, usually painless (for most people), but also because they just plain make cool stuff. (Glass? Driverless cars?)

I'd count their presence and activities, even with the warts, as a huge net benefit for technology and even humanity as a whole.

Possibly irrational fanboying aside, the electric or phone company or cable company the other hand are things that people love to hate. Off the top of my head..

* Arbitrary and large rate hikes or base prices * Take it or leave it attitude * Customer-hostile

It makes a consumer feel somewhat hunted, as in they tolerate the existence of and do business with these companies because they have no other choice.


    Or because you really like the company.
Who says the two thoughts are mutually exclusive? In Imperial China, people genuinely loved the Emperor, even as they ran from his mandarins. In Soviet Russia, people genuinely loved Joseph Stalin, even as they ran scared from the NKVD and (later) the KGB. So it's entirely possible to love Google (the company), but think that the AdWords team or GMail team <whichever other team> is being unfair and stupid.


Evil is a totally relative term. Google probably thinks they are being benevolent by taking an anti-weapons stance.

I'd be inclined to disagree...


How did they take an anti-weapons stance? The article points out that this small vendor was kicked for selling exactly what the larger vendors sell.


Can you name a few other companies which operate at Google's scale and are less evil? I feel Google has had a big contribution in how open internet as a medium is. I'd like to believe that the people at Google's helm are generally nicer, and can be trusted with this massive responsibility (more than a lot of other people and other companies). I also believe and hope, that they are picking signals from these conversations and resolving to improve and be better in future. PS: Absolutely no affiliation with Google.


I agree, Google has had a contribution to the openness of the web. Unfortunately, in their haste to follow the paths of Apple and Facebook, they no longer seem to be making a contribution anymore. If anything, they are now actively "closing" the web.


How do you believe they are "closing the web"?


Google+, the Play Store and many other services are not open. In some cases, they may have APIs, but they are not open APIs. They have closed down more open platforms, such as Reader, in favor of the more closed platforms, like Google+.

That doesn't mean they are a closed company today, but I believe they've turned the corner. Just like Facebook has a lot of OSS projects but isn't an "open company", I think Google has shifted the balance away from openness, even though they have a lot of OSS projects. I see them as qualitatively the same, but significantly different in degree. I wouldn't have said that three years ago.

EDIT: I realized I answered how Google is closing, but not how they are closing the web.

I think that has to do with two things: preferential treatment of their services in search results and hiding information behind Google logins. The former makes it harder to find anything Google hasn't sanctioned; the latter makes it harder to go elsewhere to get your search results.

I see it as exactly the same thing as Facebook pages for businesses instead of web sites. Sure, http is fine and intact, but now we are beholden to Facebook for information.


What evidence do you have that they give preferential treatment of their own services in search results? (Hopefully you can provide something more concrete than a suspicion or anecdotal evidence).

Everything I've read suggests google throws themselves in with everyone else in search results. They even penised one of their own sites once to keep it fair.


They did what?


Oops, "penalised". Wrote that on my phone!

More info: http://www.belmont.uk.com/blog/view/141-google-penalises-its...


I never said Google was evil, so I don't feel obligated to answer.


>Google probably thinks they are being benevolent by taking an anti-weapons stance

I think consistency is the bigger issue here. If they take that stance, the should go after Amazon and others and not just the site linked here.


yep years ago on Matt Cutts blog I said at some stage googles going to get regulated.

Googles no1 priority should be managing the process to delay and mitigate regulation and not keep drinking in the last chance saloon going "hey fuck you" repeatedly which is only going to make it worse when the evil day comes.

I know I shared a office with guys in BT who spent years working on a project (ISDN D Channel) and they where not even sure if we could ever launch the product as Ofcom had the final say.


Evil is a strong word with regards to the original article.

Having a double standard in the commercial world for whatever reason ranks pretty low on my list of evil things. Banks have been far more evil but they are rarely referred to as such. I think when commenting on such matters it's important to remain proportional.


>Banks have been far more evil but they are rarely referred to as such.

What? For the past few years I haven't heard "bank" spoken without severe negative undertones and usually "evil" explicitly thrown in.


These kinds of decisions, where we pick economic winners and losers, are political decisions

== A point, often overlooked.


The only way to stop a bad guy clicking through an assisted-opening knife ad on the internet is with a good guy clicking through an assisted-opening knife ad on the internet. You have crossed the National Assisted-Opening Knife Ad Association for the last time Google! We have representatives!!


The worst part is that Google controls both the ads and search, and free clicks just happened to be under attack. Obviously Google wants you to advertise and search updates can do that. No one audits them at all despite them essentially controlling online commerce.


Being an AdWords veteran (having managed campaigns for several clients) all I could do was nod my head grumble under my breath about how this is "business as usual" for Google.

One of my clients who was selling in the health market had this and other seemingly "unfair" treatments happen again and again over the years. All the while Google was taking money from Canadian "pharmacies" and allowing big brand competitors to violate the same rules they were coming down on my clients for.

The kick is that sometimes you just luck out. Your ads are reviewed by another (anonymous) staffer who doesn't interpret the rules in the same way.

We found the best way to avoid issues like this was: never edit an existing approved ad. Seems silly but we cringed each time we had to edit or submit a new ad knowing that some random reviewer would roll the dice and deliver a verdict.

Finally however Google banned most of our most effective keywords, while at the same time allowing our competitors (both larger and smaller) to continue on without interruption.


Google got sued over online drug ads before and had to pay $500 million in fines. The US Government was even running a criminal probe against Google that could have put executives in jail for these kinds of ads. So you can only imagine they are a lot more careful now given that experience.

Alcohol, Weapons, and Drugs are areas regulated by various governments around the world and carry civil and criminal policies for even small violations.

You say health market, but don't specify details. Might this have been for quack homeopathy junk, diet pills that don't work, vitamins? Every time I hear a health related ad on the radio it is for some bullshit product backed by outright lies about "clinical studies show NutriWeightBlah will lose you 20 pounds in only 2 weeks", and bogus testimonials.

If Google is shutting down ads for that kind of product, I can only give them kudos, for essentially banning con-men who take advantage of desperate people.


What credentials does Google have to decide what is bogus versus what is not? Why should they get to decide what ads (for legal products) have a chance of being shown to me? Perhaps more importantly, especially for entrepreneurs, why should the effective "gateway to the Internet" be allowed to capriciously choose to favor established brands over small companies?


It's not so much that they get to decide as much as thu are being told to decide. Google would much rather operate in a safe harbour where they act as an indiscriminate marketplace for advertising, with the advertisers being responsible for compliance. Regulators, however, find it easier to go after bottlenecks versus chasing down individual offenders. This makes compliance the marketplaces' problem.

The alternative would require giving regulators the resources and power to screen through advertisements and pursue every offender individually.


Certainly, and to the extent Google is required to intervene, I have no problem. It's when it goes the next step and says, "Google has decided foo objects are bad, therefore, thou shalt not sell them", independent of any regulatory concerns, that I have problem.

TFA is a gray area. I don't have a problem with Google's requirement so much as their capricious implementation. But if they decide it's OK to say, "We don't like the sound of that type of offer. You shall not pass." That I would have a real problem.

To be clear, this is a hypothetical brought up by the parent of my original post and referring to things like miracle diet ads that he/she doesn't like.


Well, for one, the threat of the FCC, FTC, or FDA fining them enormous sums of money. Google is damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If they allow any and all ads, even from those who are outright running congames and ripping people off, they will be accused of profiting off of immoral activity (as they were with the drugs-over-the-internet case.) However, if they then turn around and refuse to run such ads, they are accused of censorship, and once again, being evil.

They have to walk a tight rope, doing enough curation to avoid government and public outcry, and at the same time, not doing too much. The world isn't black and white, it's always gray, and deciding where to draw the line is not something which is objective.


What credentials? The only credentials they need: it's their platform.

Who is Walmart to decide what goes into their stores? After all, they make and break small companies every day of the week with those decisions, in just as dramatic fashion as the way Google does.


Google ads in the health sector is tough, we tried advertising a medication/pill management software (for keeping track of times, stock, etc. with a twist), and Google was extremely frustrating in randomly restricting our keywords, and we had to repeatedly assert that we were NOT advertising medications.

They did not ban our account or anything, they were happy to take a few of our dollars :) (we didn't get to the MVP stage, just an embarassingly bad landing page), but traffic was a lot less than I expected (and I can't seem to tweak our ads to stay out of Indian pages, we wanted U.S. only). At least we only paid per clicks.


Yeah I lost count on how many times I had to tell Google my client was not a pharmacy and not offering any prescription medications (even though we were bidding on terms that related to that market segment).

I understand (and can tolerate) false positives in regards to software but there was no excuse for the uneven application by human editors of the guidelines.


> I understand (and can tolerate) false positives in regards to software but there was no excuse for the uneven application by human editors of the guidelines.

Why? Humans are more fallible than computers, not less. Expecting that replacing the computers in a process with humans will improve predictability is insanity.


I had the same problem in education, actually. I sell tutorial software, and they were flagging me for being an essay farm. And real essay farms were passing through!

After years of flagging, checking, and verifying ok, they still flagged every single ad. I tried get them to move towards a 'trust me, spot check, and ban me forever if you catch me cheating' model (hell, my grocery store does this for me- I can carry a scanner and ring up my own items). But they wouldn't do it.


> never edit an existing approved ad.

That's good advice. It is also a sad indicator of bad things are.


This seems like a pretty clear-cut case of assuming that there is some intentional malice or favoritism in actions that are the result of an automated system.

- Google adds some terms like "assisted opening knife" and "assist folding knife" so they are recognized as prohibited knife ads. Adding these terms could very well have been automated based on the terms having a strong association with other terms found alongside prohibited items.

- knife-depots' account suddenly contains X% disallowed knife ads, based on the new terms - where X is relatively large percentage. Account automatically disabled.

- Amazon and Walmart also have X% disallowed knife ads, but X is an extremely small percent of their overall number of items. Accounts remain active.

Fortunately, AdWords is one of the few Google properties where you can actually get a human on the phone and have them intervene with the automated results (though it can certainly take a lot of back and forth, in my personal experience).

In a more general sense, this is something that you constantly run in to if you have your automated systems performing any action that a user could view as punitive. I've yet to see a site that was open about automated actions being such - likely because they don't want to make it too easy to automate getting around the automated rules - but it does seem like there is a reasonable amount of explanation of the system that could diffuse these assumptions of persecution.


I don't think it works that way.

When you say "Amazon and Walmart also have X% disallowed knife ads, but X is an extremely small percent of their overall number of items. Accounts remain active." the implication is that total ad spend vs banned ad ratio prevails. That would suggest that the knife guys could start advertising flowers, buy 90% of their AdWords for their buddy the florist and only 10% of their AdWords for their knives and be Okay. I don't think it would work out.

Google is just acting poorly here, why doesn't matter. As the original poster points out, 'assisted open' knives are legal for sale in the US (even in California which is kind of picky about such things). They aren't part of the terms of service explicitly, so either they are or they aren't. And if they are, they are for everybody, and if they aren't they are aren't for everybody.

I'm sure if .01% of WalMart's ad spend was for Canadian pharmaceuticals that they would be shut down in a heartbeat (because the Government really came down hard on Google for that).

Its common knowledge that one of the ways larger successful sellers on Ebay harass smaller sellers is by reporting them for various rules violations. When a "Power Seller" has a dedicates account manager inside Ebay they don't have to put up with random reports like the small guy who randomly gets someone in the problem reporting staff. That asymmetry is exploited to mitigate small seller effectiveness. I have no idea if this goes on in "AdWord" competitors but some of the lawsuits I've read from various people (especially on contested keywords) suggests the advertisers (or their agencies) aren't above such tactics.


Do you have evidence to support the assertion that it isn't purely percentage based? Perhaps there is some account out there that has the same ratio of prohibited items as knife-depot, but has not been banned?

Whether AdWords should allow "assisted open knife" ads is beside the point. Correct or not, AdWords is counting those as prohibited, the allegation of the OP is that AdWords banning criteria are applied differently to large accounts. I'm suggesting that the criteria is applied _exactly the same_, based on a percentage.

What I'm describing is also how Google Product Listing Ads get moderated: if X% of your items are in violation, your account is automatically shut down, pending appeal. Google sends a warning when you reach (X - Y)%, and another email when you reach X% and your account is shut down. I administrate 30,000+ PLA accounts and deal with this on a daily basis. This banning process is completely automated.


"Do you have evidence to support the assertion that it isn't purely percentage based?"

No. I reasoned to it by flipping it over. If the banning is purely percentage based then a viable business would be to create an entity that laundered AdWords spend. This is how it would work.

Let's call our company "Ads-r-us" and it contracts with Knife Depot and 1-800 Flowers. It charges Knife Depot a 'premium' to get its 'ban-inducing ads' and it charges 1-800-Flowers a discount because its ads are "clean." It structures the premium and the discount such that there is a bit of cream in the middle for it to keep. Then our entity goes off and buys Ad insertions at various bid points. Knife Depot can advertise forever since there is no risk of them being banned because Ads-R-Us is keeping the percentages in check.

I looked around for these guys, I don't see them. (And as a web search engine they aren't talking to me either). So either they don't exist (which I reason is unlikely given how much thought people put into 'scamming' the advertising business on internet ads) or such a scheme wouldn't work. And if it really is strictly percentage based it would work.

From that my thinking was that it might not be purely percentage based. No one is picking up the Canadian Pharma ads, and they have a LOT of money to throw around.


There could be such a service flying under the radar, but third-party AdWords resellers are required by the TOS to only use one account per client.


"- Amazon and Walmart also have X% disallowed knife ads, but X is an extremely small percent of their overall number of items. Accounts remain active."

And the little guy, selling the same product in competition with the big guy, gets killed.

It's often better to have a level playing field.


How do you level the playing field in this case? One account has 50% disallowed items (50 of 100) and another account has 0.005% disallowed items (50 of 1,000,000). You could bias _against_ large accounts by banning when they reach a fixed number of disallowed items - but then you let little guys (or any big guy that makes lots of small accounts) skate by under some arbitrary limit.


Agreed, unless the fixed number is zero.

You ban anyone selling banned items. I think vendors would respond quickly by self-censoring, especially the big guys.

Assisted-opening knives are a tiny fraction of Amazon's sales. If assisted-opening knife advertisements cut off Amazon's entire account, as has happened with Knife Depot, I'm pretty sure that Amazon would de-list assisted-opening knives.

A zero-tolerance policy, coupled with ample forgiveness for infractions, would be fair. Alternatively, you let anyone advertise anything.

Anything in-between turns Google into a kingmaker.

(NB - the very notion of censoring listings at all carries its own troubles, not at issue here)


So we wait to see how it plays out...


(from UK, and happy to accept your downvotes):

I'm shocked that people litteraly sell knives designed to hurt people on the internet, and that people on HN come to the defence of these arms dealers. I assumed this was about kitchen knives when I clicked on the link.

The US constitution was written with a right to bear arms so people could overthrow the government, not protect themselves from criminals. Since then, that government has entrenched power to the point where it would be nearly impossible for even another state to take it down, let alone a group of armed civilians - thus rendering the constitutional clauses irrelevant to their original purpose. (note to secret services: no, I don't want to overthrow governments or start wars, I'm talking hypothetically.)

In the rest of the developed world where weapons are generally banned, as they are in the UK, criminals simply don't use weapons on civilians (apart from high value targets, perhaps) because the penalties for doing so are so harsh. Criminals literally throw their guns away in a chase, rather than use them on the police/get caught with them. Police are generally unarmed, apart from specially trained units (dawn raids, at airports, etc).

This is the sole reason I would never ever consider living in the USA - the risk from a) criminals, b) civilian "heros" and c) the police themselves, all of whom are armed to the teeth, legally. Terrifying.


The only difference between my assisted opening knife and my paring knife is that the former is safe to put into my pocket. Same size, same blade shape, one lives in my kitchen cabinet and the other lives in my toolbag. I don't use the later for food because I don't want it to get sticky. How exactly does that make the later "designed to hurt people"?


    the former is safe to put into my pocket
The spring is the difference. A switchblade (and "assisted opening" is just an obvious circumvention of those being banned) can be easily carried concealed and is a very deadly weapon in fights. That's why they are outlawed - legislation has decided that their potential utility (takes a second less to open?) doesn't outweigh their general danger to the public.

Note that all kinds of easy to carry knifes are not illegal, like hunting knifes or swiss army knifes.


The spring neither makes it deadlier (such a blade is not particularly deadly) nor does it make it dramatically easier to conceal carry (either is small enough to fit easily in my pockets). Had I not lost the plastic sheath (considering they are kept in cabinets anyway, what is the point?) to my paring knife, either would safely fit in my pocket and be deployable fast enough for any attempted homicide. The difference between the two as a murder weapon is stupidly negligible, the advantage of the spring and folding action are only cumulative over long term normal use. Sheath get lost, and regular pocket knives become tiresome; both issues that I assume are not a problem on the rare occasion you find yourself in a knife fight in a Broadway play.

The idea of spring loaded folding knives being super enhanced murder tools is a fantasy in the minds of people who have watched too many movies from the 50s. I mean seriously, what do you picture? People squaring up for knife fights in dark alleys where every millisecond counts? Give me a break.


I've been interested in crime stats and arguments for some time; thus, I'm interested to know where you are getting your data to make such assumptions that UK criminals don't use weapons on civilians when sources dictate that the UK is among the most violent in Europe and perhaps 2x more violent than in the USA?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violent_crime#United_Kingdom

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/5712573...

Dozens more sources similar to what you can find in the above links if you search via your favorite search engine.

Violence is classified somewhat differently in the UK; however, removing the differences in classification still shows the UK leading in violent crimes vs the US or a fair number of other countries.


The UK is not more violent than America. Most years we have less than 1000 murders total across every single type of murder, the US has 10x that from firearms alone with only a 6x larger population. You hit on the reason why our violent crime seems to be so high, almost every crime that could be violent is counted as violent (for example if someone broke into my apartment while I was out) and in most other countries that isn't the case. What crimes does the UK have (that are violent) that are higher in number than America? Every single crime type that I've been able to find comparative statistics for shows the US to be higher. The UK certainly isn't a crime free utopia where nobody locks their doors but it is not the violent place you paint it as, especially when compared to the US.

Also for some hilarious reading, why not read this article from THE SAME publication that you linked to that says the UK has a massive knife crime problem: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1546085/The-vagaries-...

    The different between the two estimates - derived from the questioning of 
    around 600 under-25s  about whether they had been "knifed or stabbed", 
    and then extrapolated to the wider population, with all the statistical 
    vagaries that entails - reflects the lack of precise information about the 
    scale of knife crime in England and Wales.


Higher in actual number is almost always going to be relative to the population, isn't it? Per capita is more accurate while it still is lacking for comparison purposes.

I agree that murder, as one type of violent crime, is more prominent here in the US than in the UK on a per capita basis.

Crime stats are most definitely open to a lot of interpretation between countries, actual reported statistics vs unreported, varying definitions, and more.


The Telegraph is a conservative rag for one thing, like Fox news.

Even in that article it provides the number 927 murders in 2007. Compared to America's 16,929 murders in 2007. America's population is much larger than the UK though, 4.91 times. So you multiply the UK's murder rate by nearly 5 and get a paltry 4,557 compared to America's 16,929.

http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2007/offenses/violent_crime/murd...

http://www.usa-vs-uk.com/population.html


I agree.

Murder is unequivocally a violent crime; however, I believe "violent crimes" can cover assault of just about any type, sexual crimes and more.


> This is the sole reason I would never ever consider living in the USA

Just to provide a counter-anecdote, the fact that I couldn't legally own weapons capable of leveling the playing field between me and an armed criminal makes me disinclined to ever consider living in the UK. The best I can do for protection is a baseball bat? Terrifying.


To be honest, as an American, either position strikes me as irrational. The chances of being the victim of random violent in either country is not worth worrying about.

My habit of jaywalking probably puts me in far more danger than either not having a weapon in the UK or simply living in the US where others do, but I rarely give jaywalking a second thought.


> either position strikes me as irrational.

Right. Because they are both irrational. Fear isn't a rational thing. I think both tehwalrus's comment and mine are two very different responses to the same fear.

tehwalrus fears being surrounded by people who are "armed to the teeth, legally." I fear being surrounded by people who are armed to the teeth, illegally. tehwalrus would rather those people not be armed at all. I would rather have the ability to at least attempt to defend myself with comparable force.

Where we differ is in our assumptions. I assume that no law will ever make firearms magically inaccessible to criminals.

> The chances of being the victim of random violent in either country is not worth worrying about.

Yep. I realize, in the rational parts of my mind, that if I sold my guns tomorrow and never touched one again, I have a pretty high probability of living to a ripe old age without ever being a victim of violence. I don't want to put words in tehwalrus' mouth, but I think he probably realizes too that if he were to live in the States, the chance of one of those gun-carriers around him on a day to day basis going on a shooting spree is quite small.

But my point is that fear is immune to statistics. In my mind, owning guns for self-defense (and, on a side note, knowing when and how to use them legally) is the exact same thing as buying life insurance. Statistically, will I ever need life insurance? No. Otherwise insurance companies wouldn't make a profit. But there's always the chance. So in the same way that I want my family to be provided for in the event that I die unexpectedly, I want the ability to attempt to defend myself and the people I care about.

Would I prefer to live in a perfect world where nobody's afraid of violence? Absolutely. But unfortunately we don't live in such a place.


>I assume that no law will ever make firearms magically inaccessible to criminals.

Sure, it is not impossible to own a gun in the UK, but the laws do make it a lot more difficult. Because there's no legal supply, they're harder to get hold of, and even if a criminal does, they're taking a significant risk every time they carry it around. It just isn't worthwhile for random petty criminals to carry a gun in the same way as in the US. The result is that criminals having guns simply isn't something that people in the UK worry about, to the extent that we are even comfortable with an unarmed police force.

Of course the big difference between the US and the UK is the number of guns available. Making guns as inaccessible in the US as they are in the UK would be a phenomenal undertaking, and likely would result temporarily in the "only outlaws have guns" scenario from pro-gun rhetoric. It would be nice if there was a gradual path you guys could take, but realistically you're probably just stuck with them.


I assume that no law will ever make firearms magically inaccessible to criminals.

I live in one of the most violent bits of London. Someone was murdered with a modified athletic starting pistol two years ago within 500 yards of my flat (a bystander, since such weapons are hugely inaccurate).

I don't assume that such weapons won't be in the hands of criminals - I assume that they will be more difficult to obtain, since for example all handguns are illegal, and will have absolutely no incentive to use one on me even if they have one, since they know I'm not armed.


It's not like a criminal is going to give you a call letting you know that they're getting in so you get prepared. Fun exercise: did guns save more lives or took more away?

EDIT: this is for gp.


> It's not like a criminal is going to give you a call letting you know that they're getting in so you get prepared.

It's late and I'm tired, so I must be missing the point you're making here. How does knowing whether a criminal is coming affect the argument for or against firearms for defense? It takes me about 2 seconds to ready a firearm, and I have this excellent living burglar alarm called a "black labrador retriever" who will give me at least that much warning. :)

> Fun exercise: did guns save more lives or took more away?

Took more away, definitely. What's your point? We can't magically un-invent firearms, unfortunately.


I don't want to argue freedom of owning a gun, and you may very wel be trained to deal in such situations, but a gun most likely wont help you if you get in trouble. You can take away guns, but it would take many years, perhaps decades. Lots of other countries have done it.


I think "levelling the playing field" is a very dangerous assumption. You're not levelling the playing field - the person you are thinking about fighting is a criminal. He will have much less restraint in using force than you will, so he'll be at a massive advantage. On top of that, given that robbing people might be his full time occupation, he'll try to be armed better than you are, so you don't put up resistance (he has no interest in being killed or killing you, after all).

So essentially you're triggering an arms race, the results of which can be seen in the US.

The European (or possible "every other developed country") approach is to not even try to fight criminals (again, you have little chance anyway, they are professionals after all) but rely on the police, where the police has such overwhelming force that no reasonable person would try to fight them.

Given crime statistics, the European approach appears to result in a lot less crime and violence.


Welcome to the US, where the rights of the individual override the rights and safety of the whole.

Here in the US, tolerance to do and say "whatever the hell I want" is demanded but rarely returned.


> criminals simply don't use weapons on civilians (apart from high value targets, perhaps) because the penalties for doing so are so harsh

Do you think the penalties in the US are less harsh? Kill a cop here and you get the death penalty (in many states).

> This is the sole reason I would never ever consider living in the USA - the risk from a) criminals, b) civilian "heros" and c) the police themselves, all of whom are armed to the teeth, legally. Terrifying.

I think you have an exaggerated view of the dangers of living in the US.


>criminals simply don't use weapons on civilians (apart from high value targets, perhaps) because the penalties for doing so are so harsh. Criminals literally throw their guns away in a chase

If they don't use weapons, how do they have guns to throw away?

UK Criminals do use weapons, including knives, to hurt people, which is why you guys have started running anti-knife campaigns, as detailed here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8568390.stm


I was pretty surprised by the video the company willingly distributes advertising their wares. The comparison beween the illegal knife and the "legal" one was such that it left me feeling that the "legal" one was a more effective weapon.

Um. What.


To provide a rather different perspective, I was born and raised in Alaska where pretty much everybody has several guns. Granted, many of those guns are designed more for killing bears and moose than people, but they'll do the job, and most people have a combat-oriented pistol or two. I got a rifle for my fifth birthday.

I'm shocked that people litteraly sell knives designed to hurt people on the internet, and that people on HN come to the defence of these arms dealers.

Most of the knives in question are general-purpose utility knives. They are not designed to hurt people, and that is not the reason most people own them. I carry a Kershaw Leek myself; it has a 3 inch blade, assisted opening, a frame lock and a pocket clip. I routinely use it to open packages, trim rough edges off various objects, cut rope, strip wire, scrape contaminants off surfaces and remove those nasty little sticky screw covers from laptop computers. I have studied and practice the use of a knife as a weapon, but that is not a significant reason I carry a knife, and I would carry a different knife (or more likely, a pistol) if it was.

I've been to the UK. I did not bring my knife because I knew it would be illegal to carry there. Turns out, it's probably illegal to own there, and the multitool I usually keep in my backpack might be illegal to carry in public because it has a locking blade. I never really noticed how much I use my knife until I started going to Europe regularly and couldn't bring it along. I'm constantly reaching for it and finding it missing. I've been carrying a knife of some sort since I was 12.

Since then, that government has entrenched power to the point where it would be nearly impossible for even another state to take it down, let alone a group of armed civilians - thus rendering the constitutional clauses irrelevant to their original purpose.

Aside from the fact that some Americans aren't so happy about that, I think you're mistaken. A large minority of the civilian population would have a much easier time deposing the government and instituting a new one than a foreign state (or group of US states attempting to secede) would. A foreign state attempting to overthrow the US government would have to deal with a fully committed US military and a large portion of the civilian population, which, as you noted is well armed. A large minority of the population rising up against the government would likely gain the support of some of the military and could blend in with the rest of the population when not fighting.

In the rest of the developed world where weapons are generally banned, as they are in the UK, criminals simply don't use weapons on civilians because the penalties for doing so are so harsh

I don't think that's the reason. Penalties for being a felon in possession of a firearm in most US states are severe. Having a weapon while committing a crime, even if it was otherwise legal to have the weapon and the weapon was not used in the crime usually comes with a significant mandatory minimum prison sentence. Firing a gun during another crime means decades in prison.

Criminal-on-civilian violence actually is pretty rare though; the vast majority of violent felonies in the US are criminal-on-criminal. The danger to civilians from Johnny the drug dealer shooting Jimmy the drug dealer is small.


> A large minority of the civilian population would have a much easier time deposing the government and instituting a new one than a foreign state (or group of US states attempting to secede) would. [...] A large minority of the population rising up against the government would likely gain the support of some of the military and could blend in with the rest of the population when not fighting.

I think this is pretty rosy-colored view of what would happen. A "large minority" would have to be several hundred thousand people, perhaps a few million. Anything less is just a radical cult that will promptly be put down...and everyone will say "thank goodness" as they watch on the evening news. If something big enough happens that a few million people take up arms, you have a full blown civil war and things are totally different.

Stockpiling guns and weapons is the opiate of libertarians - "it's fine, I have the weaponry I need to overthrow the government if things get bad enough". In reality, you have a better chance fighting zombies than successfully overthrowing the government through violent means.

To be clear, I have nothing against guns. I'll probably purchase one once I've moved into a more rural area. But I'm under no illusion that the weapon will ever be useful in deposing any government.


A "large minority" would have to be several hundred thousand people, perhaps a few million.

You'll get no dispute from me on that point. I don't even think that it matters much whether a group of the appropriate size starts out armed; the benefit to such a group from having an armed population has more to do with knowing how to use weapons that having stockpiles of them.


Thanks for the long reply; you make a lot of good points, thank you. A quick comment on (one of) them:

I routinely use it to open packages, trim rough edges off various objects, cut rope, strip wire, scrape contaminants off surfaces and remove those nasty little sticky screw covers from laptop computers.

The few of these tasks that actually require a knife, I use my kitchen knife. In fairness, I rarely need to do any of this stuff outside my flat what with living in a city and having a desk-occupation (not job, exactly, grad student.)

packages: my keys, trim edges: I have files (big and small), cut rope: not had to do this in a long time, clean surfaces: dude, scouring pad! screws (even sticky ones): a head-swapable screwdriver with a good handle (I have one with all the torx ones etc).

I think I got a pen knife (non-locking, with screwdrivers etc) as a present for my 10th birthday. I haven't owned one for a long while.

I have loads of tools, I carry them around all the time (bike bag) - In fact, I had to leave my bike tools with security when visiting someone in Parliament once. Among them, however, was nothing resembling a knife.


You're right that there's a better tool for most of these applications. The knife is useful because it's usable for a multitude of purposes and it's easy to carry. I'll have the knife when I don't have a file, screwdriver or scouring pad.

screws (even sticky ones)

I actually meant the plastic covers with sticky backing found on some laptops so that users are not subjected to the horrible sight of a screw head.


Whenever I ban a user from one of my sites for an infraction, he invariably points to several other infracting users and says "well why do they get to post porn (or ads for weapons or whatever) and I don't?"

The reason is because I didn't catch the other users. Or their infraction isn't as bad.

While I feel bad for the knife company, I also know dealing with user-generated content (like these ads) is hard.


"The reason is because I didn't catch the other users. Or their infraction isn't as bad."

That's your reason, not Google's. Google knows full well who is bidding on what keyword. Are you suggesting they are under-staffed, under budgeted or overwhelmed in their task of keeping AdWords clean? I'm not buying it. Google has the resources to evenly apply guidelines, they're not a one-man show who's too busy to squash out violators.


The famous last words.

Of course they are overwhelmed by the taks of keeping AdWords clean, just like Apple is overwhelmed by the task of timely approving apps for App Store, despite having more money than god and the number of AdWord ads submitted to Google is several orders of magnitude greater than number of Apps submitted to Apple.

Processes that involve humans are inherently non-scalable and determining whether an ad crosses the line of acceptable usage is a human task.

And humans have different opinions so there will never be "evenly applying guidelines", not for google ads, not for App Store apps. The only time 3 people have exactly the same opinion is when 2 of them are dead.


Reminds me of the time an Apple staffer called me to discuss an app I had submitted.

"We'd rather discuss this on the phone," he said.

"What's up?"

"We can approve your app, but can you please remove all references to midgets touching themselves, first?"

Would've paid to have seen that in writing.


I need to download that app NOW


> While I feel bad for the knife company, I also know dealing with user-generated content (like these ads) is hard.

Uh, what? Where does it state that the ads are user generated?


OP means user generated from google's perspective--Knife Depot is the user doing the generating.


The reason Amazon and Walmart get to do stuff is not because Google didn't notice them.

If there was some small company that got away with it, you might be right. But the issue here isn't Walmart's actions going unnoticed.


> dealing with user-generated content (like these ads) is hard.

That's not really an excuse because no one forces Google to be in the user generated ad business. They want money from advertisers so they should do all they can to offer the best service possible.


If the advertiser is not happy with Google's service, they are free to use another service.

"no one forces you to do X" argument cuts both ways?


Unfortunately that other service doesn't exist. Sure there are other places to advertise but for a lot of businesses it won't come close to replacing Adwords.


Google has such a large percentage of search traffic that your competitors who are not flagged will have a huge advantage over you.


I think so much of these types of actions stem from growing pains. It all stars with defining a policy (no assisted open knife ads!). You then have managers telling their employees to enforce it, but the TOS hasn't been updated and the front-line employees do not have the tools to really identify who is actively infringing. Once the front-line employees come back with dozens of complaints (or users complain), the management realizes the mistakes and things get righted. I'm sure it's no different for you - once you create the policy, you experience the problems implementing the policy that then force/cause you to create the tools/etc.


It is hard to do it right. But that's the problem- they don't do it right. Doing it wrong is unacceptable.


Oh, the irony of publicizing the same knives via YouTube, the Google property that censors boobies but allows you to promote machine guns to a global audience...


(At least in the US) weapons and violence are fine in video/audio format, while naked people are not. I'm not sure how much this has to do with Google than it does the regulations imposed by the FCC and social norms.


the fcc has nothing to do with it. there are plenty of places on the internet that have pr0n (legally). it is more about american social norms.


Why not both?


What's really important is this line:

"For that reason, we wanted to let you guys, loyal Cutting Edge readers and Knife Depot fans, know that you might not being seeing Knife Depot ads peppered across the Internet."

If you don't get to advertise with Google you basically don't get to advertise on the Internet. That's a powerful monopoly, one they've had for years, and that's the real story here. You have to deal with Google and all their idiosyncratic/evil/whatever behavior because there's no alternative.


People were criticizing the infrastructure analogy made for Google Reader recently; so you can imagine how amused I was, while reading Levy's _In The Plex_, to read this bit:

> While some Googlers felt singled out unfairly for the attention, the more measured among them understood it as a natural consequence of Google’s increasing power, especially in regard to distributing and storing massive amounts of information. “It’s as if Google took over the water supply for the entire United States,” says Mike Jones, who handled some of Google’s policy issues. “It’s only fair that society slaps us around a little bit to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

(In a part generally about advertising, fittingly enough.)


Indeed- and now they are building internet infrastructure, cars, and eyeware.


Bingo.


I'm in favor of banning porn ads (generally), since those tend to be offensive to a lot of people and also are highly correlated with spammy behavior, but I'd be tempted to boycott a vendor who prohibited weapons ads for any reason other than legal compliance.

Amazon is pretty reasonable (knives are fine, firearms accessories are fine, but firearms and ammunition are out due to compliance issues). Google has no excuse.


> Amazon is pretty reasonable (knives are fine, firearms accessories are fine, but firearms and ammunition are out

As a target shooter, I don't find this any more reasonable than a gay person might find "personal ads are fine, but not gay personal ads".

All too often our definition of "reasonable" is "gores HIS ox but not mine".


You ignored the important part: "Due to compliance issues".

I'm not familiar with the legal issues. However, it is perfectly reasonable for Amazon to comply with the law. Perhaps the laws are stupid, but that's not Amazon's fight.


The compliant issues you mention (for the most part) do not exist.

There are very few extra legal limitations for selling ammunition over the internet. These legal limitations could be shifted to third-party retailers, with Amazon as a middleman only.

There are literally no extra legal limitations or regulations for a company selling (non-firearm) firearm parts, which Amazon does not allow.

Selling ammunition requires roughly the same amount of legal red tape as selling knives or tasers (which Amazon already does).


I didn't realize Amazon didn't allow non-firearm firearms parts, since I've bought ~10k in knoxx stocks, slings, sidesaddles, ammo holders, holsters, etc. through their marketplace. It's possible they just don't enforce it very well.

Apparently their policy (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=2...) allows a lot of things, but not other things, in a not entirely consistent way. Primers and brass are ok, but not bullets. Stocks are fine, but not barrels. wtf.

There are some parts where Amazon would have liability. Magazines, for instance, especially since Amazon likes to be able to warehouse items wherever it finds most convenient. 30 round magazines would be really complex given that some states ban them.


Sorry, I should clarify. I mean things that are functional pieces of a firearm ("functional" is hard to define here), even if completely legal and unregulated, are not allowed on the Amazon marketplace. Example: FCGs or upper receivers. Cosmetic parts like stocks and handguards seem to be allowed, as you noticed.

As for Magazines introducing liability, Amazon stocks thousands of items like Knives, Tasers, Pepper spray, etc. that are illegal in some states but legal in others (just like magazines).


I wonder if the massive increase in sales demand for firearms, accessories, and ammunition over the past 4 years (and especially in the past 4 months) could cause Amazon to rethink things.


You may think there is unreasonableness here, but is that unreasonableness Amazon's?

For Amazon to enter online sales of weapons, they have to address a mess of state and local compliance issues which are not their core competency. No matter what your opinion is on firearms and ammunition, Amazon's reticence as a business to get involved with that seems very reasonable to me.


Not really -- Amazon would just have to have a policy along the lines of, "We only sell guns via gun stores in your local area," and their legal team would only have to ensure compliance with regulations in 50 states (and whatever other countries they do business in). The last rifle I purchased was from a friend in New York, and he mailed the rifle and the case to a local gun store, which is basically what the law requires. Amazon could do the same in the USA if they were willing to enter that market or were willing to allow third parties to use Amazon for such transactions; I suspect that their corporate image is a bigger issue than the law.


A big part of Amazon's branding is that they sell online, and ship direct to you. Doing as you suggest would involve special messaging and a custom workflow to select the local gun store that they are willing to ship the gun to. Also custom workflow for potential problems and complaints (including a mapping ability to locate those stores, and resolution mechanism if the store chosen turns out to not be there, not willing to participate, etc.)

Not impossible, to be sure. But it sounds like a lot of work and potential customer problems.


Amazon would just have to have a policy along the lines of, "We only sell guns via gun stores in your local area,"

Federal law already requires that anyone selling guns by mail-order do exactly that. A gun can only be shipped to a licensed dealer, who must then perform a background check on the buyer before handing it over. It's common enough that almost all gun stores have a set fee for providing this service.


Amazon doesn't do alcohol, either, which could also be for "corporate image" reasons, but does also have compliance issues (federally but mostly state-by-state).

It could also just be an economic decision, but given that Amazon prohibits certain firearms parts which aren't regulated anywhere (except maybe APO mailing to military, or internationally) like trigger assemblies, it seems more likely a corporate image thing.


Maybe I'm biased on the issue, but I don't find discriminating between categories of personal ads based on level of social prejudice provoked to be remotely comparable to discriminating between categories of object based on lethality and legal restrictions.


I think the difference is that firearms are heavily regulated by localities in different ways.

For example, transport over state lines may require coordination with the shipper. For Amazon, having attorneys stay up to date on the law in multiple jurisdictions doesn't fit with their operating model.

Knives are less difficult regulatory-wise, and where there are local legal issues, they usually aren't serious felonies.


I used to work at a shop that sold firearms (among many other things) online. I didn't see all the laws we had to follow but quite a few I noticed (I worked on the intranet site).

Unless the customer was coming to pick up the weapon themselves (at our location) we would only ship guns to FFL's[1]. The FFL was also the one who did the background check as far as I'm aware. I don't know what percentage of our sales were local pickups but I am guessing we did the background for those (we had an FFL).

They shut down but the company made it up to 70 or so employees. I don't know how we kept up on the laws. Our suppliers might have done that as we were sort of a middleman from the suppliers to the customers. I do remember that we needed to track a lot of things for the ATF and they had to be very accurate. The ATF would come in once a year or so and audit the logs and other things related to shipping. I never saw them but I remember the boss(es) being stressed during those weeks.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Firearms_License


Yeah, compliance is tricky. You can ship (e.g. a repair, or mailing a firearm to yourself if you don't take luggage on a flight), but it's a huge amount of complexity. Initial sale must be in-person or ship to an FFL or a few exemptions (C&R, CMP, pre-1898, 80%), and of course all the non-firearms parts which Amazon usually does sell. Ammunition is more tightly regulated than e.g. barrels.

Once you add in state laws (e.g. Californians can't buy rifles in Nevada in person, although Nevadans and most other state residents can), and the penalties for non-compliance, and I don't think it's reasonable to require Amazon deal with firearms.

Through Marketplace it might be a little bit more vague. But a pure advertising site should be comfortable running firearms ads. If the owner is personally opposed to firearms, no one is forcing him to carry those ads, but I'm a (very small) part owner of Google, so for a public company, it's probably not a great position to take.


Generally, when selling a gun over state lines, a federally-registered local arms dealer must act as the "seller" and follow normal procedures for selling a firearm, as only dealer to dealer sales are permitted.


> For Amazon, having attorneys stay up to date on the law in multiple jurisdictions doesn't fit with their operating model.

They already calculate local taxes (city and county taxes too!) for the states in which they choose to tax.


The penalties for messing up on on local taxes are a lot less severe than messing up federal firearms laws.


No, it's different. There's lots of laws about firearms and dealing with them can be painful, so it can be reasonable not to do it.

For another example, the pawnshop on Pawn Stars doesn't deal with modern firearms. Because they don't have a license. Because they decided it wasn't worth the hassle/effort/expense.

Dealing with firearms can be hard/expensive compared to selling other things (like knives and accessories). Dealing with gay personal ads is no more hard or expensive than regular personal ads.


Knives are a lot less lethal than guns.


That's bullsh*t, knives kill just as guns do. In the UK we have many more knife related crime than we do gun related crime.

That said, the issue here is not how lethal one is over the other, but Google playing judge,jury and executioner for something they should have no right to jurisdict over.


The UK has knife crime but not knife murder, despite what the fearmongering press would have you believe. The UK murder rate is a quarter that of the US, and is in line with similar countries.


The UK also has 1/5 the US' population - what does all this mean?


http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2013/01/12/fact-checkin...

4.8 murders per 100,000 in the US vs 1.2 per 100,000 in the UK.

The figures _do_ take size into account.


Yes, I stand corrected. Thanks.


Murder rates are often given per 100,000 inhabitants - so size of country isn't really a factor:

   United States: 4.8
   United Kingdom: 1.2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentiona...

vacri's statement seems completely accurate.


While I agree the US is far more violent than the UK, most of the US's incremental violence is explained by the drug war. Even if we had zero guns and the UK had US-style gun possession and laws, I suspect US drug laws (and other forms of extreme economic/political/legal inequality) would give us a higher murder rate.


And if we had a more sensible culture around alcohol use in the UK, particularly in my native Scotland, I'm sure we'd have a much lower level of all violence.


A large portion of violent crime (~75%) in the US involves either family members or other acquaintances ("nonstrangers"). I'm sure some of that relates to drugs, but most of it probably doesn't.

http://bjs.gov/content/pub/press/vvcs9310pr.cfm


Thanks, I missed the important word 'rate' in vacri's post in my haste.


This is a gigantic diversion, but saying that the UK doesn't have knife murder is pretty profoundly ignorant. The last stat I saw was that the UK had some 330+ stabbing murders a year.


There is an implicit "of the scale of gun murder in the US"

Murders in the US are currently sitting at 14k, ~11k of which are from firearms. The US only has 5 times more people than the UK, which would turn your stat into a rough US-equivalent of 1.7k.


Kives are just as lethal as guns? Hey, good news, armies of the world! Stop wasting money on complex mechanical weapons and ammunition, just buy knives! Your soldiers will be just as effective!


Armies don't typically fight unarmed opponents in close quarters. If you're unarmed and the attacker is within a few yards of you, a knife or a gun are not that different.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9igSoJHEdUo


So lets ban guns then, people only need knives for self defence.


Self defense is not the only reason for the legality of guns.


Overthrowing government is the other I guess?

Good news is that their soldiers will have guns, and you can get a good advantage on them by staying in close quarters environments with your knifes.


Recreation. Target shooting. In countries where guns are not demonized, this is a perfectly acceptable activity.


A murder is a murder, does it really matter whether it is using a gun, a knife or even with bare hands?


Citation?


I find weapons ads far more offensive than porn ads. Our natural form vs a device whose sole intent is to obliterate said natural form.

How come your measure of offense is more important than mine?

Also, if you want to play community standards, I'm pretty sure the majority of the people who live around Google HQ (Bay Area + SF) would agree with me.


I meant the actual ads themselves, not particularly the products. The average porn banner ad is an assault on the eyes, even if you're in the market for porn. I don't know if this is inherent to porn or just because it's an impulse-buy information good which is usually advertises through multiple levels of affiliate. Most firearms or knife ads are the name of the product and maybe a static shot of the product. e.g. http://www.blackfriday.fm/bf_image/big/2011/37266_1321045669...

It's a fair argument that porn is pure free speech and thus should be less regulated than guns, or that it's morally superior (although I'd say sex is morally superior to violence; porn is in some most cases morally inferior to sex)


Hey everybody! Let's play "whose offense is more morally justified"!

Please.


but I'd be tempted to boycott a vendor who prohibited weapons ads for any reason other than legal compliance

Craigslist is pretty aggressively anti-weapon. Do you boycott them?


I largely boycott craigslist for other reasons (how they've treated companies that build on top of craigslist) already, so it's irrelevant to me. I'd still use them if I had no other choice, but they're my last choice.


There may be merit in splitting Google's Search and Advertising businesses. Advertising would pay Search (or Bing or Duck Duck Go) to place ads in its results via an API. Search would indiscriminately host ads posted to it by ad brokers, of which Advertising would be one. Search would be freed from having to police advertisements. Advertising's policing would be checked by competitive pressure.

In a stylised securities transaction we have customers, brokers, and an exchange. Customers have choices between brokers. Brokers, of which there are many, exercise discretion in how much capability they give which customers. The exchange, of which there is one, exercises discretion in which brokers it transacts with, but not which customers get to transact on it. This is important since the exchange has something approaching monopoly power. It also means the exchanges aren't liable for non-compliant customers - the brokers are.

Skip back to Google. Search is the exchange and Advertising is the broker. The exchange only permits one broker. Naturally, the broker-exchange is liable for policing non-compliant and stupid customers (barring a very large expansion in government which would permit it to monitor all transactions going through Google). It has also extended its exchange monopoly power to its broker.

We love disintermediation. But intermediaries facilitate checks on concentration in a competitive system.


I watched his video that purported to explain the difference between a switchblade and a spring assisted knife. As far as I can tell the only difference is that the location of the switch has changed. This is a distinction without a substantive difference. So yo would need a slightly different hand movement to trigger this alternative spring-assisted knife. Big deal; as someone who used to like knives enough to have a small collection, I think I could get the necessary movement down in 10 or 15 minutes if someone handed me one of these

I have nothing against this guy promoting his business, but this is a switchblade as far as I'm concerned, just a slightly different design.


Agree. To me it seems like the entire purpose of this design is to make an end-run around the restrictions on switch-blades.

But with respect to this article, the biggest problem I see is not whether or not they are allowed, but that Google is setting arbitrary rules, rather than democratically elected representatives, and that the policy is the even arbitrarily enforced.


According to themselves, they are fine with the pre-existing ban on switchblades and balisong knives, so I'm just refuting the argument they're making, as opposed to the broader one.

Google is a corporation, so I don't see how the views of anyone besides their shareholders are binding. i don't agree with the premise that you have to use adwords or you're stuck; if people think that's he case, then maybe they should raise the issue with the FTC.


The distinction is not whether or not pressure is applied, as the video seems to state. Pressure is obviously applied to the mechanism in either case. Each mechanism also uses springs to propel the blade outwards. The distinction is between whether you are operating a lever or (what amounts to) a wedge.

In the switchblade, the button is releasing a wedge of some sort that is preventing the blade from then swinging out entirely due to the force of the spring. In the spring-assisted model, a spring is also present to propel the blade, but there is not enough tension for the blade to release on its own. Instead, the user must torque a lever a certain radial distance before the spring's force is sufficient to finish propelling the blade, hence the term "assisted."

In terms of time-to-readiness, this might not be a big difference. But I was always under the impression that switchblades was supposed to refer to spring-operated "plunging" type knives, where the blade is concealed in a chamber before being propelled outward by the spring, requiring only a click of a button rather than a slashing movement on the part of the operator to cause harm.


According to their site the assisted-opening knives are legal in all states, whereas switchblades aren't, so there must be some meaningful distinction (unless the law just hasn't caught up yet).


I'm pretty sure it's the latter. I strongly suspect 'legal in all states' means that it just hasn't come to court yet. It's possible that the legal definition of a switchblade is so specific (eg about the button being on the handle of the knife and a safety switch being present) that this new design doesn't qualify, in which case this new design would be legal unless or until states see fit to prevent its sale.


Folding knives aren't new, and aren't primarily intended as an alternative to switchblades. Folding the blade into the handle just makes an easy to carry package, with your are a contractor, or a sportsman. Knife regulation is mostly around the length, not whether it folds or not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_Knives


I'm not talking about folding knives; I have on in my pocket hanging off my keychain right now and I understand the difference. I'm talking about the spring-assisted mechanism.


The spring assistance in these knives doesn't cause the blade to move, it just makes it easier to pull them out. That's basically the definitional difference between them and switchblades.


The "meaningful distinction" is that "assisted-opening" knives require a non-zero amount of force in the direction that the knife actually opens. Switchblades can just have a button.

The former takes a few minutes of practice to open smoothly, the latter doesn't.

There's no reason to buy an assisted-opening knife if switchblades are also available. So yes, they absolutely exist to exploit a loophole. Loopholes in laws do tend to create (often short-lived) markets.


The former takes a few minutes of practice to open smoothly, the latter doesn't.

Having once owned a switchblade, it takes a bit of practice to hold it such a way that you can operate it but not block the path of the outswinging blade with your fingers. Watching the demonstration in this video, there doesn't seem to be any more force employed in operating the switch that there was in pressing the button. I agree that this is probably a short-lived thing that will fade away following a minor regulatory clarification.


Having used assisted opening knives, I can say with confidence that the practice is necessary to make yourself comfortable holding the knife while still being able to deliver the necessary, and not negligible, force to open the knife. They are really very little alike.


How would it compare with the amount of practice required to smoothly open a balisong?


I have no idea, I've never used one. Those have always seemed like very silly knives to me.


To be clear, the opening force almost all comes from the wrist. The force you apply to the knife with your finger to get it going is quite negligible.


Well perhaps I open them wrong then. I flick my (not assisted) boxcutter open with my wrist but open my assisted opening folding knife exclusively with my thumb on the thumb-bar. As I see it, not having to use your wrist is basically the point of the spring assist.


very slowly, but very, very surly, google is doing a complete 180 on "don't be evil". I think the slow pressure of being a public company is really going to strangle out much of the "good side" of Google. Everything they've done in the past 1.5yrs has been terrible for their users.


Since AdWords has been large (many years) there have been stories of unfair treatment. The same goes for AdSense. Google keeps its sauce secret which is extremely frustrating in these types of scenarios. It's sort of like Apple's App Approval process, very frustrating to be on the wrong side of.

It's not crazy to believe that a store solely selling knives will receive more attention from the Knife Patrol in the AdWords Q&A department than stores that sell hundreds of different categories. These things can also take time, no one notices when Knife Depot stops advertising, but if an account rep loses a multi-million dollar account like Amazon there will be heads rolling. Knife Depot just got their notice last month, I'd wait a bit before calling foul.


Don't hold your breath for fair treatment. We thought this same thing (after some of our clients keywords were banned), and than day after day I monitored AdWords results to see if our competitors using the same tactics were removed and let's just say I got tired of checking.


Hang on, what? Refusing to advertise knives which are clearly intended to be used as weapons is 'evil' now is it?


Not sure if you're just trolling, but I'll bite. The government has regulations in place on dangerous weapons, which you are ostensibly free, through the democratic process, to change if they are not to your liking.

Google has decided that legal/illegal is not a sufficient criteria, and made up their own rules about how you can use their service, but then only applied those rules to smaller clients. That is the evil part.

This wouldn't feel so uncomfortable if google wasn't such a big player in the online advertising world.


I agree that it would be better if Google applied the same rules to other vendors selling similar knives. They are entirely free to decide how you can use their service, there's nothing evil about that.

Edit: To clarify, I've used knives professionally (diving instructor) and recreationally (kite surfer), but I fail to see the non-weapon use for a knife that is small (and therefore concealable) and also opens quickly. Not to mention the window-smashing attachment. [1]

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&lis...!


"Not to mention the window-smashing attachment"

That can be handy when trying to rescue someone, or so my volunteer firefighter friends tell me. Claiming that such a feature has no legitimate purpose is like claiming that a crowbar has no legitimate purpose.

"I fail to see the non-weapon use for a knife that is small (and therefore concealable) and also opens quickly"

Small knives are easy to carry around, that should be obvious. As for opening quickly, that is just a convenience -- why should convenience be frowned upon? Would you be less concerned if these were fixed blade knives?

Sure, knives and crowbars are weapons when you apply them to human beings. People have been murdered with screwdrivers (is a small screwdriver a bad thing?). On the other hand, the NATO e-tool, designed for use by soldiers at war, is often used for gardening because it is convenient -- it can be used as an ax, it can be used as a shovel, it folds up for easy storage, etc.


>I fail to see the non-weapon use for a knife that is small (and therefore concealable) and also opens quickly

I am an Eagle scout. Being able to quickly pull a knife out and open it one handed, due to it being assisted opening and small enough to clip into my pocket, has been beneficial more time than I can count.

I have had a knife in my pocket nearly every day since high school. I have used it thousands of times in that time period. I never once used it as a weapon.


Window smashing is one of the MOST justifiable things to have on a tool.

I keep glassbreakers and seatbelt cutters in my car with easy access, and also have tools which can break glass. I've been to two (civilian) vehicle accidents where that was incredibly useful -- being able to break the glass to access a person in an upside-down or sideways car from the outside. I had a glassbreaker for one, and the other I had to use a crowbar, which kind of sucked. I don't really see a "weapon" use of a glass breaker, particularly if you already have a knife or firearm to hand.

I also used a kershaw AO knife all the time to cut things while holding something else -- for instance, cutting open dressings while holding pressure, since someone had taken my shears. Or opening a cardboard box while holding it.


It's also interesting that there is no effective difference between a switchblade and these "spring assisted" knives. Yes, the mechanism is different. But in both cases, you push a button, and the blade pops out rapidly.

The very existence of these knives is clearly to circumvent existing laws regarding switchblades.

This is entirely separate from the big-guys vs little-guys argument being made against Google.


"The very existence of these knives is clearly to circumvent existing laws regarding switchblades."

Those laws should be circumvented; they are as stupid as laws prohibiting Bowie knives.


I carry a pocket knife every day; some of mine are assisted open, others are not. I have a small preference towards assisted open ones because they are easier to operate one handed, though I can open a simple folder with a really loose hinge almost as fast with a flick of the wrist.

They're just more convenient.


> clearly intended to be used as weapons

Knives are horrible, horrible weapons.

These are clearly NOT intended to be used as weapons, as they are normal, everyday lock-back knives. Knives intended to be weapons, such as those modeled after the Krambit design, are fairly rare in public, especially among people who use knives (their shape and features make them much less useful). Your outrage is misplaced - we are not having a weapon talk.

Google not allowing ads for something that is legal is bullshit. Them not allowing ads for some people, but allowing them for others, over the same product, is evil.


As the OP explains, the knives in question are not illegal and not in violation of Google's policies. Additionally, other vendors selling the same items are not being banned.

I think the "evil" part relates to discriminating against certain vendors instead of treating all vendors equally and consistently.


As the OP explains, the knives in question are not illegal and not in violation of Google's policies

They ARE in a clear violation of Google's policy which prohibits selling knives as weapons. They seem to have some confusion about the word of the ban, but as I linked elsewhere - http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/176077?hl=en

This is not at all unclear. The examples of banned knives are not the exhaustive set.

And for what it's worth, assisted opening knives are only legal by the most marginal of gray areas (that the "button" is laughably a part of the blade rather than the side handle).


I disagree; the policy is unclear.

It mentions several categories of knives that are legally restricted in many jurisdictions. It then goes on to say that the promotion of swords and kitchen knives is allowed. Based on the OP's claims, it appears that utility pocket knives are allowed as long as they don't have assisted opening.

It's also not clear from this page that Google has a problem with the use of adwords to sell products not banned from advertising in a store that also sells products Google refuses to advertise.


The policy is completely clear: Knives that could best be described as weapons are not allowed. People do buy knives as weapons, but it's pretty rare for people to buy swords as weapons (instead they're decorative), so that difference is completely explainable.


Knives that could best be described as weapons are not allowed.

This is completely ambiguous. There are knives marketed as having been designed with input from various figures in the martial arts world or using terms like "tactical"; it's probably reasonably to say that those are designed, or at least marketed as weapons. Kitchen knives obviously aren't intended as weapons. Every other non-decorative knife on the market falls somewhere between those two points.

Google has evidently decided that assisted opening == weapon, but does not say so on its policy page. This decision is not consistent with the marketing of most assisted opening knives, nor with the opinions of knife enthusiasts. Of course, there are probably very few objective criteria one could use to determine if a pocket-size folding knife is intended to be a weapon.

I also reiterate that it is not clear from the page that selling an item banned from advertising (an assisted opening knife) on the same website as an item advertised on adwords that is allowed to be advertised on adwords (some other kind of knife that Google doesn't consider a weapon) is against the rules. Indeed, the main point of the complaint appears to be that larger adwords customers like Amazon and Walmart are doing exactly that.


I'm sure that a certain subset of people do buy knives as weapons, but I'd be surprised if it was even on the radar of total knife ownership reasons. Most buy knives for display or utility (dive, general utility, bolo/machete, etc.).

Every one of them could be used to kill someone, just like a crowbar.


Knives are among the oldest and most versatile tools known to man. I have, on occasion, used my pocket knife as a gardening tool, screwdriver, box cutter, prying tool, wire stripper, wire cutter, torque wrench, and hammer. It is not the best tool for any of the above, but sometimes you just lack the time needed to go back to your garage and get your toolbox.

Nothing about "assisted opening knives" makes them "clearly intended to be used as weapons." It is a convenience, just like my pocket knife conveniently locks open. Why should a tool not be convenient?

Finally, the important distinction here is that Google is not refusing to advertise these knives, they are only refusing to allow this one, small company to advertise those knives. That is a key detail -- Google has no problem with the knives when Amazon is selling them.


Actually it appears as though Google demanded that they stop selling those knives altogether, not just stop advertising them through AdWords.


Its kind of different though isn't it. Amazon is a very big site and its is pretty unlikely that you would end up at a page that has these knives on it from any of amazons other ads. This is a highly focused website and it is very likely that you will end up on a page with these types of knifes from every single ad that they have.


> knives which are clearly intended to be used as weapons

That seems a bit melodramatic. I have one that I keep around for general use around the home. Good for opening boxes, cutting twine/zipties, etc. It's very nice since I can put it in my pocket (unlike a paring knife) and can open it with one hand (unlike a pocket knife). It is a just plain practical design.


They aren't doing that though. They are refusing to advertise ads of a smaller company meanwhile allowing ads of large companies that sell the same (or similar) product that caused the smaller company to be banned.


Fold out knife is intended as a weapon? Don't tell the other fisherman. They may get scared.


No one using a knife as a tool is going to buy an assisted opening knife. Aside from usage reliability considerations, having it trigger unintentionally (again, a tool they would handle constantly) would be a major concern.

This is product sold only to teenage boys desperately seeking that high of invincibility.


> No one using a knife as a tool is going to buy an assisted opening knife.

Bullshit. I did.

> having it trigger unintentionally

There is no way in hell. Do you even know what assisted opening knifes are? They are not switchblades.

> This is product sold only to teenage boys desperately seeking that high of invincibility.

They are sold to anybody that wants to have a knife that is safe but can be opened with one hand. In other words, damn near everybody who has a use for a non-kitchen knife.


Bullshit. I did.

I see in your other post you claimed that, then listing exactly the use that people resort to a box cutter for (cutting twine, opening boxes, etc, safely opened and closed with one hand, etc).

Do you even know what assisted opening knifes are? They are not switchblades.

Instead of having a button on the side of the knife that causes it to trigger open via spring actuation, it has a trigger lever on the blade back that causes it to trigger open via spring actuation, almost certainly being designed specifically to get around overly specific anti-switchblade laws. They are legal only by a trivial technicality of switchblade laws.

You know there's a video directly in the linked blog posting. And anyone not lying to themselves can clearly see that the differences are laughable.


> then listing exactly the use that people resort to a box cutter for

I also have a box-cutter (which by the way, thanks to its lower mass and design, can be opened just as quickly with one hand, despite lacking a spring assist...) Sometimes I use one, other times I use the other. Do you have a problem with that?

> Instead of having a button on the side of the knife that causes it to trigger open via spring actuation, it has a trigger lever on the blade back that causes it to trigger open via spring actuation

So I take it you have never actually used one...

Regardless, they come in many forms. Mine has a thumb-bar on the blade. There is absolutely no accidental opening of the knife, it requires a non-trivial amount of pressure to push past the point where the spring takes over and until that point, the spring works against you. It is as safe as any knife can be and is, quite clearly, a knife designed to be more convenient than regular pocket knives.

Besides your made up bullshit about them being unsafe, why would anyone in the market for a cheap folding knife not buy one that had a spring assist? It is 100% a matter of practicality.

This is not my knife, though mine is of the same form: http://www.amazon.com/Smith-Wesson-SWATMB-Assisted-Opening/d... (notice the "tools and home improvement" section...) Not a high quality knife by any means, but it is incredibly practical and useful.

Believe it or not, not all knife owners are members of the Sharks or the Jets...


There is absolutely no accidental opening of the knife

Knife has an edge actuator that, when pushed (by your thumb, the table you're leaning against...you know, anything that pushes on it), causes it to kinetically open. I think most of the people around here are fairly intelligent and can see countless accidental deployments scenarios, notwithstanding your endless cries of "bullshit!".

notice the "tools and home improvement" section...

Knife is by Smith & Wesson and is called a SWAT knife. Totally a "tool and home improvement" section. At this point I think you must be just having a laugh.


> Knife has an edge actuator that, when pushed (by your thumb, the table you're leaning against...you know, anything that pushes on it), causes it to kinetically open. I think most of the people around here are fairly intelligent and can see countless accidental deployments scenarios, notwithstanding your endless cries of "bullshit!".

You have clearly never used one of these knives, you are just pulling shit out of your ass. I can imagine absolutely no scenario in which you might accidentally open one on a table, let alone with your thumb. It requires very deliberate action, with enough force to leave an indent on your thumb (seriously, if you accidentally do that you have nerve damage and should see a physician), and only becomes "kinetic" (barely, it clicks into place with enough force to lock itself) when it is already past 90 degrees open. If you are somehow accidentally doing this with a table edge (how???) your greatest danger is the fact that this knife is probably going to fall onto your foot. How do you survive in modern kitchens if you are so hopelessly oblivious?

> Knife is by Smith & Wesson and is called a SWAT knife. Totally a "tool and home improvement" section. At this point I think you must be just having a laugh.

Who cares what it is called, or who makes it? Seriously, how does that effect the functionality of the knife AT ALL? What are you going to do next, complain that it is black?


I suggest you try posting minus variations of "bullshit" or "shit". It might be tough, but it will be worth it in the end.

You have clearly never used one of these knives

You refute me by making claims directly contrary to the video in the story being discussed. You know, the company making the product being discussed, where a protruding trigger is, with obviously little force via an index finger, actuated causing the blade to immediately swing 180 degrees at a high rate of speed.

But your personal experience is fascinating nonetheless, however completely irrelevant.

* If you are somehow accidentally doing this with a table edge*

The context of my comment on it is that people who actually use knives as tools don't use knives made for 14 year old boys, emblazoned with names like "SWAT" by gun makers. I stand by that.


> product being discussed, where a protruding trigger is, with obviously little force via an index finger, actuated causing the blade to immediately swing 180 degrees at a high rate of speed.

You were not discussing that. You were making claims about the broader category of knives saying: "No one using a knife as a tool is going to buy an assisted opening knife" (In response to someone who provided a concrete example of where such a knife may be used even!) If you are vilifying everyone that owns that general category of knife, then my experiences with another knife in that category could not be more relevant.

> The context of my comment on it is that people who actually use knives as tools don't use knives made for 14 year old boys, emblazoned with names like "SWAT" by gun makers. I stand by that.

You'll be glad to know then that mine is not. However you have yet to explain how gaudy aesthetics are at all relevant. What about the form of that knife do you think renders it unsuitable for practical non-violent use?

> I suggest you try posting minus variations of "bullshit" or "shit".

Do you prefer "crap"? I prefer "shit".

I think we are done here though. I'll leave you with this, two non-scary looking assisted opening knives explicitly for hunting, fishing, and camping. One hansom, the other gaudy yet 'non-military': http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Stainless-Steel-Assisted-Opening... http://compare.ebay.com/like/150975567917?var=lv&ltyp=Al...

Clearly both instruments of murder and mayhem.


Oh. And here I was thinking that people thought for themselves. Turns out you know what they're all thinking. Cool. I'm wrong and you're right. No one could ever use a spring-loaded knife for anything but knife fights like in west-wide story.


You know we're talking about assisted-opening knives and not switchblades, right?


You push a button and the blade snaps out in both cases. What's the real difference? The internal mechanisms differ, but the end result is the same.


Refusing to advertise them for one company, but running the ads for another company, is an evil double standard. Whatever Google's knife rules are, they should be the same for small and big sellers.


Search 'assisted opening knives' and you won't see any ads about such knives EXCEPT for Amazon. You will also see "Shop for Assisted Opening Knives on Google" which, if you follow the link, will show you a nice assortment of about 14k assisted opening knives. This feels like an abuse of monopoly power.


I'm seeing adds for cabelas.com but not for amazon.


wow, now ALL of the ads are gone, which to me has the effect of making the google shopping banner EVEN MORE noticeable.


I suspect the short question + answer is: are you buying Amazon or Walmart levels of AdWords? No? Well, congratulations, you're SOL.

It's no wonder that Google has started pouring large amounts of effort into lobbying in the last few years, because it's precisely this combination of de facto monopoly combined with poor treatment of customers who have no-where else to go that leads (eventually) to legislation or possibly even break-up of the company in question.

To paraphrase a famous quote: you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you, whether you like it or not.


Google's not the only one who bans you. I'm at work: "This Websense category is filtered: Weapons."

Yes, I work for a big company that filters the web and it does suck for me... but since a lot of people shop online while at work, it also sucks for you


I just realized that Adwords is Google's equivalent of the iOS app store. They review stuff and either remove or block certain "items". I cannot help but wonder how civil and accomodating the people effected by the adwords changes are compared to the developers effected by the iOS app store. Is it just because the developers know how to make noise better than the non-tech ones?


It's easy to see why Google banned these guys and not Amazon.com or Walmart. I could sum it up in one word: trust. Amazon and Walmart have it, these guys don't.

Personally, if I'm going to buy a knife, I'll buy it from Amazon. I trust them on a whole bunch of levels that I don't trust these guys.

Is it fair? I've been doing SEO / PPC for over a decade and its never, ever been fair.


If I was Knife Depot, I would focus on brainstorming a single opt-in offer they could use to have all their marketing and advertising channels function as a funnel for growing their email list.

"1 Badass Knife Per Week" is an opt-in offer that would get my attention, even though I'm not a knife guy.

I expand on this idea in this post: http://www.tinylever.com/one-badass-knife-per-week

Why be dependent on Google for your sales? Pay them once up front to help grow your list, and you'll be able monetize each subscriber for their lifetime using email - a FREE channel you own and control 100%.

A list is really where it's at, but to make list-building work you need a single opt-in offer that will cause people to sign up on the spot.

If you'd like some ideas for crafting your opt in offer, reach out right now by email: dan [at] tinylever [dot] com


In the context of their world-wide monopoly, at one point we have to start asking if Google has the right to censor or control anything this way.

Don't get me wrong, I hate the idea of government telling anyone what they can and cannot do. Massive monopolies is one place where I can see a need for some kind of legal intervention. The reason obviously being that a large monopoly has no competing entity to force it to modify its behavior.

While it is true that Google tries to "clean-up" their search I think this is almost an arrogant stance. How can a few hundred people be in charge of deciding what you and I should and should not see? Methinks we should be given control. If I don't like weapons of any kind I ought to be able to go to my control panel and exclude them from my results. It should be my choice, not theirs.

That said, these "assisted opening" blades are an obvious example of exploiting a loophole in the laws. For all intents and purposes they are switch blades. The end result is exactly the same: Open a knife very quickly.

Then there's the whole argument about how much sense it makes to granularly ban stuff like this. I have no clue as to how much crime out there can be attributed directly to switch blades. Probably not much at all. Although I do remember that knives are on par with certain types of guns in terms of murders per year.

Circling back, the "Google Syndrome" is one that is constantly growing in threat level. I've said this many time. I like their services, but this business of killing your account auto-magically with no real business process in place to deal with the problems is just total bullshit. At one point it has to stop. I have no clue what's going to make that happen, but it sure seems to be leaving a path of destruction behind it.

The best thing we can do is stop using every new Google service they throw at us. I know, it's hard to let go of the free drugs, but look at what you are promoting and decide if this is what you want in the future five times over.


I'd be curious to know where Knife Depot is putting its advertising dollars now that it's not spending on AdWords.


It looks like they haven't found another solution yet. FTA:

> For that reason, we wanted to let you guys, loyal Cutting Edge readers and Knife Depot fans, know that you might not being seeing Knife Depot ads peppered across the Internet.


Not the OP, but I do work for Knife Depot. There is no real viable alternative advertising company that can compare to Google. This is the heart of the problem.


Google suspends AdWords acconts without much recourse all the time, as a quick search on "adwords account suspended" shows. Doesn't matter if they're paying customers, etc.

The thorny part about it is that the guidelines that can lead to suspension change over time and deleting ads that are no longer in compliance might not safeguard your account. I've known account holders that got suspended retroactively for ads that are no longer in compliance, even though these ads were actually deleted before the guidelines changed. The point seems to be non-negotiable with Google though.

This can be pretty tragic for many small businesses since Google accounts for such a huge percentage of search traffic. Larger customers typically have dedicated account reps who I'm guessing might be able to help in these situations.


There is one more point we all might be missing here. This is not just about knief-depot.

It is unreasonable to believe that someone at Google said, "Hey, I dont like these knief-depot people, let us screw them to benefit Amazon".

Likely case is this. People at Amazon (or put other large company spending significant amounts with Google) maintains a dashboard and does a competitor analysis to find out that knief-depot is doing better than them and hence there is scope for screwing this smaller company. They talk to google and create problems from them. And I dont think they have singled out knife depot alone, but they have done this with many more on the slippary slope.

This means that Google does have some non-transparent ways of doing business when with comes to Adwords.

This is not just bad for Knife-depot but bad for all of us.


> We’d also been careful to not ever violate Google’s Adwords weapons policy, which prohibits “the promotion of knives, such as butterfly knives, (balisongs) and switchblades.”

Sounds like they were promoting knives, and hence violating the policy.


I'm not the OP, but I do work for Knife Depot. We have advertised with Google for over 8 years and they ONLY prohibit butterfly, balisong, and switchblade/automatic knives. We are within their guidelines.


Is it really illegal to own a switch blade but legal to purchase and own assault rifles?


Knives, nunchucks, brass knuckles, etc. are usually covered by state level laws, from what I've seen, and the legality varies widely. Firearms are a slightly different story, since the 2nd Amendment very specifically protects firearms ownership. So yes, it is possible that somewhere or other, a switch blade knife is illegal while an "assault rifle" is legal.

I saw "assault rifle" in quotes, because most people talking about these issues have no clue what an "assault rifle" really is, and are repeating garbage they heard from various anti-gun activist groups, who routinely use a totally bogus definition of "assault rifle" or "assault weapon". It's important to understand that owning a real assault rifle (that is, one capable of select-fire / bust-mode / fully automatic operation) IS legal but it's VERY highly regulated, VERY expensive, and you can only - as a civilian - purchase weapons manufactured before 1986.


since the 2nd Amendment very specifically protects firearms ownership

I've seen folks use that rationale, but the 2A doesn't say "firearms" it says "arms" - presumably "knives, nunchucks, brass knuckles, etc" would fall under that, although that's clearly not how it's been interpreted.


FWIW, I just found this article / paper discussing the very issue of knives and the 2nd Amendment.

http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/25/knives-and-the-second-amend...

The author(s) appear to take the position that knives are protected under the 2A and that many existing laws regulating knives are probably unconstitutional. At least from the bit I've had time to read so far...


If we're going to take a literalist reading of the 2A, shouldn't any armament that can be carried by a single person ("bear arms") be protected?


I have seen a few knife groups using this exact same reasoning - I think it just gets heard less because the firearm part of the "arms" is the hot national topic, and Congress has made very few laws that limit knives/other arms - most of those are state laws.


That's a fair point, but - for whatever reason - the way it's interpreted in practice seems to be mainly (if not exclusively) about firearms.

Come to think of it, I don't know why that is, and I'm not arguing that it's correct.

Anyway, the real point is that there seems to be a lot more variation in laws concerning the legality of owning knives, nunchucks, brass-knuckles, etc., than there is about guns. Guns may be more highly regulated in general, but I don't know of a single state where private ownership of, say, a pistol, is illegal. But I'm pretty sure there are states where switch-blade knives are. But I'm working off memory here, so maybe I'm wrong.


Before the recent set of court rulings, private ownership of a pistol was indeed completely illegal with no exceptions in Chicago and Washington, DC. Several other jurisdictions are almost as strict - as of the last time I read up on it, in NYC, it is illegal to even touch a pistol which is not registered to you, which is a lengthy and complex process.


Yes, but neither of those is a State, and as you pointed out, those restrictions have been modified by recent court rulings.

But not to quibble over details... all I was originally saying is that, for whatever reason, laws on owning certain non-firearm weapons (switchblades, nunchuka, brass knuckles, saps, etc.) seem to vary wildly, whereas in general firearms ownership is legal in the entire United States.

It is an interesting situation, to be able to own, say, an AR15 or a 1911 pistol, while simultaneously not being able to own brass knuckles.


The Georgia legislature recently rewrote our concealed carry laws to allow license holders to carry knives as well.


The 2nd Amendment protects arms, not firearms specifically. I think a good argument could be made that knives should fall under its protection as well. However I'm not sure if the courts have addressed knives post Heller.


There's nothing specific about firearms in the 2nd is there? Just "the right to keep and bear arms", which describes blades as much as it does guns.


Yeah, see my other reply. You're correct in that the 2A doesn't use the term "firearm". But in practice that seems to be the interpretation. I don't actually know why.


You could probably argue that from historic context, this was most likely firearms and swords/sabres or the like, as smaller knifes were unlikely to be regulated in the middle of the wilderness and east-Asian weapons were probably unknown/unlikely to be a concern.

However, I am not an expert on your curious rules regarding the interpretation of laws, so I might very well be wrong.


I've been doing some searching on why switchblades are illegal (your post sparked my curiosity) and can't seem to find a good reason other than 'politicians are scared of whatever hollywood villifies'. It seems all the interest in switchblades faded after they became illegal, so there was no lobby to bring them back into legality.

Nunchaku and Nightsticks are also illegal in many places.


Many of the state laws are written as if the author had just watched several 1960s and 70s martial arts films and mistook them for documentaries about gang culture.

I'm not kidding. Read Massachusetts GL 269S10: http://www.knifeup.com/massachusetts-knife-law/


Take a look at the history of laws prohibiting Bowie knives. This sort of thing goes back a long way...


First off, switchblades are legal in some states in the US (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switchblade#United_States).

I can see some logic behind making switchblades illegal. They are easy to conceal both pre and post crime, as well as being low cost. Add to that there is no paperwork (that I'm aware of) to purchase one and you have a virtually untraceable weapon. That is hard to say about assault rifles.


Should paring and chef's knives be illegal then? They don't require opening at all, can be quite sharp, and are widely distributed. Baseball bats, tire irons, icicles: almost anything can become an untraceable weapon.


I'm not suggesting that I agree with the logic, I'm just stating I can see some logic behind the statement. However, to answer your question, it is much harder to conceal any of those items. If you carry a chefs knife and intend to use it as a weapon, you would have to be careful in how you carried the knife to and from the location of the crime so that you don't cut yourself. On top of that, a chef's knife is quite large. A switchblade can be easily concealed in ones pocket and hidden in a sleeve then used and concealed again with virtually no risk of cutting the assailant.

" Baseball bats, tire irons, icicles: almost anything can become an untraceable weapon."

Perhaps I didn't pick my words correctly. What I mean is that I could stab somebody with a switchblade without drawing any attention to themselves after the fact. Not the same can be said about bulky items such as baseball bats, tire irons or even a chef's knife.


Fair enough ... However, there are several things I could use to commit a crime and easily conceal afterwards. A paring knife in a sheath or even a USB cable could be used as a weapon and easily concealed. These two objects have very deadly potential but their primary purpose isn't to cause harm. For something that is created to cause harm, that is a different discussion. Otherwise, we would need to talk about registering your Cat 6 cables with the government and the box of cable sitting in your garage would be considered an assault weapon.

I don't buy the argument that assisted-opening knives should be more controlled because people think they were invented to hurt others. It's technology that many people have found utility in for meaningful purposes: construction workers, sailors and ships' crew, hunters and fishermen, and emergency response personnel. I think many of them would tell you it's incredibly helpful to be able to quickly open a knife with one-hand when you need it. Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyday things have inherent risks if used improperly. Sometimes they are used the wrong way with malicious intentions and the easiest way we can think to prevent trouble in the future is by regulating the objects, not the behavior.


I think switchblades fall prey to a particular stereotype, hence their "bad" nature. But, ask any diver/hunter/tactical knife wearer - they are strapped to the lower leg/calf in a holster, easily concealed under a pant leg.

And what respectable criminal wears shorts?!


That's roughly how it works in the UK: it's illegal to carry any knife besides a pocket knife in public without good reason. If you use knives at work, taking them to and from work is considered good reason.


So is a regular (or assisted) folding knife like the ones Knife Depot sells, and they are just as fast to open with a little practice. Where do we draw the line between "convenient" and "illegal"? I don't want to see a UK-style ban on pointy objects here in the states.


"they are just as fast to open with a little practice"

Agreed. I think the banning of switchblades just pushed knife manufacturers to innovate, creating opening mechanisms which are just as fast, with fewer moving parts, and are actually easier on the knife[1]. So they follow the letter of the law, but still violate its spirit. Not sure what that spirit is exactly though.

[1] In my experience, switchblades and some auto-openers open so forcefully that over time their locking mechanisms degrade.


I have a friend who spent months in the California court system for having a decorative pair of brass knuckles. These are illegal in California.

Had he had a loaded pistol instead, I believe he would have never have been in the court system at all.


No. Assault rifles require a federal license to purchase.


Depends on local jurisdiction. For example, in California, both assault weapons and switchblades (over 2 in.) are illegal (to some degree, at least).


Comcast is doing something similar, they have banned advertising from legitimate, legal gun shops, but of course continue to carry copious amounts of programming featuring glorified, gratuitous gun violence.

I want to cancel my Comcast account; they used to be my only option but very recently AT&T is now offering their "U-verse" internet in my neighborhood.


Solution B: start second site with the questioned knives. Link from main site. Keep adwords pointing to main site. ?


Here's one possible explanation. Amazon is a high value customer so Google carefully reviewed their t&c to ensure their selling policies are in line with googles own policies. They confidently know that amazon won't sell anything illegal, and that amazon have measures in place to deal with rogue sellers on their service. They know amazon has been around for a long time and are trusted by google and the general public. They know that if amazon screws up, amazon would probably take most of the heat. With this information google considers amazon to be a low risk user of their services.

Knife depot is a small customer, and google cant justify the time to review your policies and risk that accepting you as a customer entails. If you screw up, google would probably take a large part of the blame.

The popular alternative hypothesis seem to be that google is pure evil.


This is a fair comment. A company of Google's scale simply cannot monitor every Adwords account for compliance, so they are being safe. It doesn't mean this advertiser isn't untrustworthy or loose, just that Google cannot effectively monitor advertisers of this size.

I also can't understand the mantra of 'don't be evil' still gets mentioned. This is nothing more than cute brand association with no real grounding in truth. Google are a public company who can be evil. It is like the platitude that Google shuns product managers and welcomes engineers, implying that Google products sell themselves because of rock-solid engineering (totally disregarding the fact that Google have an aggressive sales force and have spent billions on marketing activities, both directly and indirectly).


I can imagine one of the justifications for letting walmart and others get away with it is because they're big, but more specifically, their ad budgets are big. But... so what? Where else are they going to go? Bing? Mapquest?

Perhaps if every major large retailer in the US shaved off a few percent of their ad budget away from Google and gave it to one competitor, there'd be a slim fighting chance of actually upsetting Google's dominance, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Relatedly(?), MS has avoided hardware for a long time... ostensibly under the guise of "not upsetting their partners". But... what would the partners do? Bundle Linux? In mobile, they're sort of doing this, but hardware partners left MS not because MS was competing in the hardware business against them - they left because the option (android) was better.


As more of these stories happen, Google adwords will simply consist of the big-brand marketers. There is something I trust in this process -- the market.

Companies like knife-depot are specialty, niche, hyper-focused on their particular product: knives. From their post, it's obvious they know those products inside and out. WalMart, Target, Amazon? They don't know squat about those products. If I want a specialty product such as the knife described in the article, I trust a specialty shop much more than the bulk-focused vendors.

As Google runs more of the specialty folks away and caters more to the big brands, I would venture they'll see click-through activity commensurate with that change. And that's called opportunity in that space.

Nice going, Google.


In the example video both knives seem like they do pretty much exactly the same thing?


I predict Google will come around and open up your adwords account again. Don't give up on it if, of course, you want their traffic. Were you running product listing ads (PLAs) as well?


Not a single person from Google will ever read the e-mails from your Adwords account unless you bring in thousands of dollars of revenue for them every day.


I knew a person who used to spend $3000+ a day on Adwords who never got much attention from Google (reseller in the cosmetics niche). The only thing he mentioned is that at some point Google assigned him an Adwords account rep. He followed the advice of the account rep and got all the ads and keywords suggested by the rep banned. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

Eventually the person's main account was banned. Last I talked to him he was creating a bunch of fake accounts and running cloaked campaigns. It was much easier for him to be non-compliant on Adwords than compliant.


I can attest to this claim. Even with monthly budgets in the tens-of-thousands of dollars (maybe $20K on Google and $15K on MSN/Yahoo!) you barely get noticed.

The real issue (verging on comedic) is when they kill your keywords or ads, and then your volume drops to the level where they really ignore you thereby preventing you from getting the service you were (or wanted) prior.


Usually when a post about Google shows up on the HN front page, someone from Google shows up in the comments and takes some common-sense action. They are probably figuring out how to handle it now.


Trust me, as someone who's run very large advertising campaigns, having someone from Google read your email doesn't mean they'll do anything. They have ridiculous rules for larger advertisers, as well.


I got into the same situation with my outsourcing company http://taskarmy.com

They suspended our account although we made the changes necessary to comply with their terms of service (you can't guarantee 1st page in SEO services).

In the meantime, some of our competitors can still advertise their services.

Since my account has been suspended, it massively slowed down the growth and I couldn't a better replacement.


"After some deep thinking, we decided that serving our customer base, who legally buy large amounts of assisted-opening knives, was more important than continuing to advertise with Google. For this reason, we decided to not remove the knives and forgo our Google Adwords account"

I'm not clear. Did Knife Depot remove their ads or did Google?


Ironically I can't view this "because it has been categorized "Weapons;Shopping"" by the corporate firewall...


Does anybody else notice that they now OWN Assisted Opening Knives in the organic SERPS? Making Google ads, while useful, not as vital.


The real issue with these blogs is that there is no way to get to the main website easily.


Seriously, there is a need for a startup to disrupt the hell out of google.


This is great PR.


Google is a two faced company who only cares about money.

And unlike other companies, they only care about BIG business money not small business money.

I know that all too well, they banned one of the web sites I owned for 'adult' content on first strike while competitors who had 10x the traffic (and 10x the reports of user uploaded adult content) remained in their network.

I never spoke to a single person there, always a robot. That was back in 2003.

Now my headphone jack failed on brand new Nexus 4 and I never heard back from Google at all.

This will bite them in the ass sooner or later.


NEXUS 4 POWER USER RIGHT HERE


http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/176077?hl=en

Company tried to sell a product that Google prohibits. Where is the story here? Trying to say "well they do it too!" is not and is never a valid complaint, just as it wasn't in primary school -- their day will come. Further the desperate reaching to make Google evil is a stretch given that doing this can only possibly lose them money (favoring the "big guys" isn't rational for a bid-based service, where the highest bid gets Google the most money, regardless of the vendor).

The only real story here is that Google managed to achieve such dominance in advertising (though it certainly isn't as absolute as some are pretending).


The "big guys" sell a lot more products in a lot more categories, so are presumably putting in a much larer number of bids - it is not hard to believe that Google sees a lot more revenue from Amazon than some random knife shop.


I'm entirely sure that Amazon spends more. But for that keyword whoever bids the most spends the most. Google optimizes by the keyword, which of course they should, just as companies like Amazon don't bid on keywords because they're benevolent, but because they want to optimize their own return. Removing players from the market cannot possibly serve Google's financial interest, and that conspiratorial angle makes absolutely no sense.

Because their seems to be some confusion about how bid systems work (including by the dead post below), if Amazon and others outbid this company, netting more for Google, this would be a non-issue because you would have never seen this company's products.

It is notable that Google absolutely bans knives in the context of weapons, full stop (the author of the linked posting seems confused and thinks "such as" gives the specific culprits, when those are merely examples). This company may have authored their ads in a weapons manner, or targeted weapons-type keywords -- the sort of nonsense that gets Google sued by a bunch of state Attorneys down the road, everyone clucking about how evil Google is selling (indirectly) the knife that the kid used to do some evil.

EDIT: The only possible favoritism that Google might be showing her is in the context of legal responsibility. If some random knife site sells a kid a knife via a Adwords ad, everyone will come gunning for Google. If Walmart sells a knife to some kid, everyone will go gunning for Walmart, regardless of how they got the initial contact.


I don't think the keywords are relevant. The policy is "if you sell any weapon-knives, then you can't use AdWords at all" - nothing to do with keywords. The point being that Google would stand to lose a lot more revenue by enforcing an AdWords death-penalty against Amazon than they would against a much smaller business, like the one in question here.

I don't see a conspiracy here, either - it just looks like the huge advertisers like Amazon have a lot more leverage in their relationship with Google than the tiny ones do, so are less likely to have the rules enforced as strictly against them.


[dead]


Ok i will try my friend and Emma wow i really love her....


Waahaa!!!

The beauty of Hacker News!

It started at Google Adwords and is now going to Communist China and Stalinist Russia!! Just have a look at the comment threads.

Not bad!


Why is this sort of post even on HN, not to mention the front page? and why is this thread dominated by idiotic language about "evil" and "kings" and incoherent babbling about politics and democratic representation?! and suddenly everyone is a law scholar.

I blame Matt Cutts' occasional appearances for the subsequent flocking of SEO sorts here. This post doesn't belong on HN, certainly not on the front page.


> I blame Matt Cutts' occasional appearances for the subsequent flocking of SEO sorts here. This post doesn't belong on HN, certainly not on the front page.

Your anger is misplaced. The blame is solely on Google for not having an adequate customer service department.

When Google has arbitrary decided that your business is in violation of some of its rules, you end up falling into a Kafkaesque nightmare of form responses and then you stop getting even those. The only way to get a response from Google in these cases is to LITERALLY get a popular post on Reddit or Hacker News. That's why small businesses post about this stuff here. Don't blame them.

Blame Google for not providing a decent customer service center because they want to shave a tiny bit of expenses.


Given how important being able to advertise can be for some startups, it seems that inconsistent enforcement of AdWords restrictions would be very interesting to most readers here.


I partly agree about the customer service issue. However, they have really been stepping up as of late (if you are an AdWords customer that is). However the striking thing for me is the "voiced" doublestandard. Cutts is pretty consistent on the Organic side of things, but I don't think I have seen the same from their AdWords department. Which is a shame as it does need to be policed.


So HN has to be the consumer service?! that's not what this place is about.


* Technical issues that affect the livelihoods of almost every person on here are important. The fact that this has so many upvotes is indicative of that.

* Unfortunately, because Google is on the surface a very friendly company, many technical people place Google on a pedestal and actually believe their slogan about doing no evil. It's just a slogan, and yes, Google does do a lot of evil.

* I suspect that you've never experienced the frustration of having your entire business on the line and not even being able to get a human response from Google. If you've ever been in that situation, I think you'd be able to understand how frustrating Google actually is.


The top comment is the most batshit comment I have ever read on HN. Interesting crowd shift going on.




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