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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...

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