After pointing out that in the United States of America, the accused are generally given the right to know both the crimes they are being accused of, and the identities of their accusers, Mr. C. responded by saying that such thinking did not apply to Google's terms of service. Effectively, Google's position was that it was above the law, and if not any law in particular, then at least the spirit of the law. Irked, I decided to find out if such a position was tenable.
Well, he found out, through the appeals court, that his position was not tenable. The rights of those accused of crimes have no bearing on the TOS, a contract he agreed to, which clearly states that his account can be cancelled for any reason. His whole lawsuit was predicated on the fact that he didn't think the reason they gave-- that his account "posed a significant risk to [..] AdWords advertisers"-- was good enough.
Now, based on this, why would Google let a lower court ruling stand? It's not the $761, it's the precedent.
> Though AdSense for Domains was closed to the public for years, Google did finally open it up December 11, 2008, just two days after my account was cancelled. Had it allowed my company to join in the first place, I would have had no reason to create my own billboard using "normal" AdSense since Google would have already taken care of it for me, and no violation would have occurred.
"Had prohibition been repealed before I did my rum running, no violation would have occurred."
Google was in the right for terminating the account but they legitimately lost the first case. They did not provide evidence of why the account was terminated. Not to the author nor to the small claims court. So they lost and they deserved to lose, in my opinion. During the appeal, they finally provided that information and won.
The issue isn't so much who was right or wrong but how terrible (or non-existent) Googles customer service is. They can't answer simple questions and if you've really been terminated unjustly, you have no way of knowing and they keep your money.
Legally, I think they're right. Morally? Not really.
It's ridiculous, though, that it had to be taken this far in order for him to get a straight answer. I think you really have to question the judgment of the people that, through flawed policies or otherwise, allowed this to happen.
Even if things were allowed to start spiraling out of control it seems like there were opportunities to resolve this at a much lower cost-- both financial and in terms of public image. Why not make a phone call to see what it's all about before sending people off to small claims court with boxes of evidence?
Not to mention, they had a service specifically designed for what he was doing. They easily could have converted him over to that one instead of cutting him off with nothing more than a vague, canned email about violating terms of service.
This is a bad way to treat customers any way you look at it. I think it's important to treat all customers well-- even the ones you're ending a relationship with.
That's because he broke the story himself! Of course he kept it unclear in order to draw more sympathy.
But only after they kicked him off.
Opacity is not the solution and neither is a policy of permanently banning customers at the first sign of trouble. Besides, a customer gaming the system by barely operating within the rules is still following the rules. Of course, he or she may be in complete violation of the spirit of the rules, but it's technically not a violation. It's likely a flaw in rules.
I'm well aware that there are lots of people out there who are looking to take advantage of the system, but when Google goes around banning anyone who violates a rule or operates on the fringe without any kind of appeal process they're bound to catch someone who just made an honest mistake.
Governments don't have the right to refuse service that corporations do. I'm fine with corporations improving the experience of everyone but those who consider how nearly to approach 'pick a link' text, but it might be nice if an independent arbiter could determine if these bans actually follow the spirit of the rules before enforcing them.
Google has restored accounts that have been wrongly disabled. The length of time that it takes to do this does seem unbearable.
Play nice, and have fun!
Play nice (no links to shock sites), and have fun!
Play nice (no links to shock sites, no embedded images of shock sites), and have fun!
Play nice on our text only boards. Have fun!
Play nice and do not try to evade the ASCII image filters. Have fun!
<Insert 30 pages of legalese>
"Aw, I hate when they jerk you around with 30 pages of legalese."
Remember when axod got the axe a while back? No explanations, no appeal, no contact, no nothing. They did reinstate him, but it took them quite a while.
Expanding on this a bit, I think the 'pick a link' pictured in the image above was definitely grounds for not getting his money. On the other hand, what happens if you have some kind of user generated content, and someone writes the magic words... and you have ads on the page:
Edit: one "good faith effort to comply" might be this: Google says your page is in violation of their terms, and needs changing (perhaps omitting the exact details), and that earnings from it will not be paid. You have the option to accept that, fix your page, and get on with things. Something like that might go a long ways to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
PS: Never asume everyone at a large company knows what everyone else is doing.
How was Google supposed to act here? To patiently explain to one of its customers how to use the right Google service for the job he wants to do?
The thing that gets people's sympathy is that Google set up a system to do exactly what he wanted to do a few days later. Couldn't they have struck a deal?
I find the argument that you have no right to know why the other party claims you have breached the contract because it says so in the contract highly dubious. I mean, Google might claim that you have breached the contract, but that's an accusation you have to be able to defend yourself against, either in civil court or in arbitration.
Otherwise, what would stop people from just arbitrarily claiming that the other parties to all their contracts have breached their terms?
The only reason Google can get away with it is beacuse they are holding the cash. And if someone who owes me money just start claiming that they no longer does so, they'd better be prepared to prove why. Anything else is a travesty.
When using three specific words in a page can get you banned for life, basic fairness suggests that they at least tell people what the hell those words are.
Legally he had no standing, but what does that mean for regular people? We can be abused at will because all corporations force us to sign contracts full of weasel words?
Last time I checked I was free to sign whatever I like. Don't like the AdSense contract.. don't sign it. Sell the ad space yourself.
The point is, he was in violation of the terms of the TOS. Google didn't like what he was doing, and cancelled his account-- which is what he agreed to when he signed up.
As for your last point: um, what? Corporations force us to sign contracts? If you want to use Google's service, you play by their rules. Is that really "abuse"?
I don't really care one way or the other about the merits of this case. But courts and legislatures in this country have put limits on contracts. The notion of "Well, you agreed to the contract, so..." has been thrown out long ago.
There is nothing legally wrong with the Google contract. But if you want to talk about what's right in a moral sense, then it's right that if you unilaterally terminate a contract, and there is financial consideration involved, you should inform the other party about the termination and include a reason for it.
There are limits on contract law in this country precisely because both parties in a contract are often on unequal footing. And that's certainly the case here. Consumers are forced to consume contracts as-is that are nearly always one-sided or slanted towards the bigger party.
There's no specific relief to this problem as far as I can see. But there's also no need to sit here and advocate it, either, which is what you're doing. Unless, of course, you find yourself personally benefiting from such uneven contract negotiation. In which case, more power to you, and also, you're doing nothing good for humanity.
Google should say why an account is canned, out of courtesy, but this guy was clearly trying to make extra money out of his domain squatting, something prohibited by the TOS.
I agree with both your points. I was only trying to make your first point.
The phrase may appear in the evidence against Greenspan not because it is part of a heuristic or a list of internal guidelines but because a Google employee used it in his description of why he thought the site violated the Google TOS.
And as far as reasons go, "an employee thinks your site violates the TOS" may be the most that Google can reasonably volunteer. Imagine if your e-mail provider had to reply to each spam message, telling the sender what words triggered the spam filter.
It is not hypocritical for a credit card company to offer different services to businesses and individuals, or even to different individuals, nor is it hypocritical to offer differing subsets of services to different customers.
I am a bit confused by the article. It starts with saying that he won against google as apparently google has no right to terminate the account without giving any reason.
Once we are in the appeal court however, the whole discussion is on the reason for google terminating his account and if this was right. There is no talk whatever of whether google can terminate the account without giving any reason, which I thought and assumed this was the whole point of the appeal.
He actually got his answer and got to face his accuser in court. So his position was tenable.
"This is what I tried to explain in my opening arguments. Despite Google's objections to what they perceived to be technical violations of their AdSense terms of service, they also had an entirely separate (but confusingly similar-sounding) program called AdSense for Domains, which handled the exact problem I was trying to solve--that of using advertising to profit from "parked," or unused, domain names, much like putting a billboard on a vacant lot."
strikes me as his saying that he was actually quite aware why Google objected and terminated his account.
That, coupled with his arguing in court that Gee whiz, he was totally following the terms of service for a completely different service that he wasn't actually paying for just kills my sympathy for him.
Yes, Google should tell people why it terminates these accounts. On the other hand, this guy comes across as a domain-squatting asshat.
Anyway, thanks for adding this. It's good to read how it all ended up.
Tip: Don't "make a product" out of someone elses product, if it violates the T&C.
The difference is, advertisers can choose if they wish their adverts to appear on parked domains or not with the official product.
Google defended the terms from someone who very clearly broke them.
That guy who was shut out of Google Checkout for absolutely no reason? Legit. This guy? Nope. He clearly broke the rules and paid for it justly.
I expect better from Google regarding the customer service. It shouldn't be a mystery to anyone what happened to their account/balances at Google and he shouldn't have to go to court to figure this out. It's frightening to me that we all depend so much on Google and yet you can chock up the bad service to "defending the terms of service".
Sure he has no recourse in the law for this, he did badly, justice was served-- but that doesn't mean it's right for Google to behave the way it does with its users. Google should be open, frank, and clear in their dealings.
Playing a guessing game about some decision with a company that nullified a debt to you by said decision is a bit classless.
Spending time holding the hand of every pissed off squatter/spammer isn't in Google's interest.
As for squatters... AdSense for Domains is probably making Google some good money. I too wished they didn't, but they did.
Adsense for Domains is something advertisers can opt out of.
Look, closing someone's account and taking their money for unspecified "reasons" is wrong, if not illegal. Banks can't do it. Credit card companies can't do it. Any account where you leave money... can't do it.
Maybe this guy was sketchy, but here's how Google has to handle these things:
* stop showing ads
* close the account for all future ads
* give a window of time for him to disburse the money he
already earned for clicks, and if he withdraws in that time, great, otherwise, too bad for him
* close the account permanently
Thomas Fuchs, who wrote Script.aculo.us, had over $2k stolen by Google in this manner. As you can see, http://script.aculo.us/ is clearly not domain squatting nor does it tell people to click. It's a bonafide OSS project used by hundreds of thousands of people.
So why was his money seized? We'll never know, eh?
Google also closed my Checkout account under similar circumstances. Namely, I did nothing wrong. The only reason I got my money back was because my blog post got such incredible traffic that it started a debate on the internal mailing list.
Why was my account closed? Well gee, after I got 60,000 reads, they claimed it was a "technical glitch" -- but I know this to be a lie because a little birdie inside told me what was going on.
Most other people will not be so lucky.
What if the threshold is at 25 domains, so instead people start opening multiple accounts that run only 24 domains. By telling people what precisely got them booted they can start varying parameters to see what the triggering mechanism is.
And google's contactability for valid issues does still suck, with some exceptions.
Whats the line where Google considers something domain squatting? Lets say its domain squatting if you have less than 5 pages of content, simply create tons of accounts with varying levels of content. What if the signal is "has tons of domains", then run Adsense on tons of domains and see what the threshold is.
(etc etc etc)
The alternative would be what google does. Say nothing and leave no way of protecting oneself.
It's called freedom of contract, which is a bedrock principle of law in any country with a thriving economy.
In this particular case this goes under unfair contractual terms, which is the way the law protects the small guy against the big guy who only has one contract and you either accept it or not. It is like a supermarket saying that we will not refund products of a very low quality. Your option is either to not buy anything in any supermarket, cus sure if it was legal they all would want to have that term in their contract, or buy and have no way of recourse.
"And the worst part about this all is that it states in the AdSense Terms of Service (TOS) that Google has the right to suspend any account without prior notification or explanation, and refund all of the earnings in that account to the respective advertisers."
But they're certainly weren't legally obligated to do so.
I've been sympathetic to other complaints about Google cutting off service without explanation. But in this case, in Google's shoes, I'd be struggling to give any response much politer than, "FOAD. If possible, DIAF."
Sadly, Google took the evil pill a few years ago.
If Google got out of the business, then squatters would have to use some smaller and less-scrupulous network to monetize the ads. That company would probably give them less money, both because it had fewer advertisers and because it would know they had few other options, so it could charge them higher rates.
As a result, a whole bunch of these domains, which are only very marginally profitable right now (their owners rely on volume) would become unprofitable, and the industry would shrink, leading to a net decrease in domain squatting and a net increase in the density of useful information on the web. If Google cares about information instead of money -- and they claim they do -- then getting out of domain squatting is an obvious choice.
(Edit: I'm not arguing the OP's point that Google legitimizes the industry, simply that being in it is in some ways dubious. In case it wasn't clear.)
I'm saying that google ending their adsense for domains program would not cause the domain squatting industry to collapse.
I'm not saying they're not within their rights to do so, I'm just saying it's not something a non-evil company would do.
True, a person may not be a more effective reviewer in general, Google's algorithms may make few mistakes, and we all benefit from the efficiency of a customer service-free operation. Still, it would be nice to think that if something bad happened, you might have a chance to correct it.
This sort of automation is also very much in tune with Google's philosophy (and really, the history of information retrieval itself--it's gradually steered away towards using much human expert input in problem solving from what I remember) and may be the only viable option for some of Google's services given the kind of scalability they need.
>> "Had it allowed my company to join in the first place, I would have had no reason to create my own billboard using "normal" AdSense since Google would have already taken care of it for me, and no violation would have occurred."
Yeah! Because they had a closed system, they forced you into violating the terms+conditions.
What a shady character. Glad Google won this.
Doesn't understand what that court stenographer does, I see. (Also, quite willing to impute intent where none lies.)
> Though at that point I should have asked him how often he beat his wife, I was too shocked to think of it.
Should be if he still beat his wife.
> Google has more access to information about people than virtually any company on the planet, yet despite its vast resources, it found it more prudent to fabricate disparaging innuendo about me before a judge. The sole purpose was to damage my credibility.
<Innuendo about Google> "HOW DARE GOOGLE USE WHAT I PERCEIVE TO BE INNUENDO!"
> but I'd like to think that more than being a simply typographical error, the judge was conceding that I had a point. There is no law explicitly stating so, but there was no need for Google to behave in as draconian a manner as it did throughout the entire process of investigating the circumstances surrounding my account termination.
Off the deep end, past innuendo, into the pool of magical thoughts.
> The fact that it conducts smear campaigns against small business owners
The only smear campaign I've seen is the one he's perpetrated against himself (somewhere in the vicinity of "social media elite") and Google.
> Google (presumably, since no one else knew) even notified bloggers and/or The Huffington Post of the appeals court ruling
Yeah, I hate those public court records and those journalistic bloggers. Stupid Google.
As loose with his writing as his morals, this guy. (Muphry's law fans, come and get me.)
Methinks he should have hired a lawyer.
EDIT: Why am I being downmodded? Anyone care to explain?
However, I share your view that he should have asked for a continuance, and that he could always have talked to a lawyer for general advice before going into a court.
He didn't stall for time because he didn't think he needed to.
It defeats the whole purpose of small claims court if large corporations can just ignore the original case and lose and then appeal and bring in lawyers to put on their real case in front of the appeals court.
Try not putting misleading advertising on parked domains. Talk about hypocrisy.
--/ snip /--
It has come to our attention that invalid clicks or impressions have been generated on your Google ads, posing a financial risk to our AdWords advertisers. Please note that any activity that may artificially inflate
an advertiser's costs or a publisher's earnings is strictly prohibited by our program policies.
We understand that you may want more information about the activity we detected. However, because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection systems, we're unable to provide our publishers with any details about their account activity, including any web pages or users that may
have been involved. Thank you for your understanding.
We run a fairly popular site that I'm not going to mention and we have a few AdSense banners in our forum. We aren't clicking on our own ads or doing anything else sneaky. So what are supposed to do about this? We can't change anything because we aren't doing anything. So next month will Google just cut us off? Frustrating to say the least.
Indeed, I find myself wondering if a similar degree of over-confidence is the root cause of his other negative experiences. His HuffPo articles seem united by a certain 'screwed again' theme. You would think a graduate of Harvard with extensive experience of legal conflict would know that until the check clears or the date passes, an appeal is always a possibility.
By reporting his initial victory, he gets two interesting stories out of his experience. The ultimate court outcome is irrelevant; the value is the notoriety from the experience.
However, if you read carefully you'll see that google called him up to say they were going to send a check, and then he went into print with his story before they did so. If he had waited until the check cleared and then wrote 'how I sued google and won', he'd have the moral victory, the publicity and the money, because paying out money constitutes an acceptance of the court's judgement and abrogates the right to appeal.
Even with the call, I wouldn't be certain that he was on the verge of getting a check, if he'd just stayed silent. The paralegal may have been going through perfunctory steps before an inevitable review-and-decision-to-appeal. (She may have been stalling or fishing for information to assist further investigation -- didn't Google already have his Tax ID from the AdSense program? Maybe the Tax ID was what legal needed to pull up the AdSense enforcement history.)
The precedent was always important to Google -- they don't want every minor AdSense rule-bender like Greenspan to sue them in small claims. And every AdSense publisher by definition has a website, so is a potential source of blog-blowback to be taken seriously when their tiny win inspires others.
If in fact he was just days from getting a check, there should be a parade of other small-claims winners against Google who, after cashing their checks, could blog freely in the glory of their irrevocable victory. (His experience shouldn't be that unique.)
Where are their blog entries?
Ad networks are abusable products: there's tons of ways someone could be making use of the service in a fraudulent fashion.
You can't know someone's fraudulently using the service until they actually fraudulently use the service, at which point by design the service will appear to "owe" them money; thus, anytime you're shutting someone down who's making fraudulent use of the service you're going to appear to owe them money right before you shut it off.
Which is why they're not going to pay this guy: as far as they're concerned he defrauded their customers -- publishers -- out of some $700, which is how his account got into a state where it looked to him like he was "owed" some $700; there's not really a reason to pay him, though, for obvious reasons, which is why they're not going to pay him.
If there was a violation of the terms of service, they don't owe anything.
If they don't feel that they are doing anything wrong, they won't pay up, because otherwise they'll have to adjust the way they do business.
Learn to have your mouth shut and accept your small victory, instead of trying to stir a happy-suing-fuck-fest.
He got what he deserved.
Its been bung, Google.
EDIT: I understand the implications for a domain-squatting precedent here, but the tactics used by Google are still inexcusable. As a company as influential and powerful as they are, they have an unwritten obligation to treat their customers with respect. What the author of this post did was wrong (note: I am not the author, blhack's reply is not directed towards me). With all of the data Google has at its disposal, however, how difficult is it to give the man a straight answer when he asks for it? Our society is in a constant battle against corporate greed and the evil that it brings. The last thing we need is Google leading the way with this despicable behavior (selling term papers? really??).
I know the guy that did this posts here. So this is to him: I am calling you out.
What you did was wrong. As a geek you should know this. People that squat on domains hoping that people typo a URL and land on your page covered in ads is a cancer on the DNS.
NOT ONLY is it a cancer on the DNS, it steals money from people who are legitimately trying to promote their own products.
I have a little social news website that my friends and I post on. Yeah it is tiny, yeah it is worthless, yeah it is probably a complete and total mess of code that is wide open to any number of vulnerabilites, but you know what? It's my baby.
I'm broke. I'll admit that. I don't make a lot of money. But ONCE, I decided to splurge a little bit on some google ads. Yeah, it was $50, yeah it was stupid and pointless and I'm not going to recoup it, but this is my hobby and I think it's fun.
I cannot even imagine how absolutely blindingly infuriated (not to mention heartbroken) I would have been if I would have found out that this small ammount of money that I decided to "invest" in my little project had been squandered on some asshole leeching money from people with a landing page.
Those clicks are expensive. That $700 or whatever you earned came from people like ME.
You violated their terms of service and you deserved everything that you got as a result of it.
I know we're supposed to be civil here, but honestly man, fuck you. What you did was very barely (if at all) above a pyramid scheme.
That said, I think a ban from adsense for a single infraction without a means for appeal or feedback is a scary prospect for legitimate users who may make a small mistake from time to time. This sequence of events would make me think twice about building a business based on this model.
Oh please. That's just too easy. "Hey, I'm doing something harmful, pointless, illegal and unsavory... but I have plans to do something less shitty some day! Give me a free pass. What can I get away with today?..."
1. Domain squatters who sit on slightly misspelled domain names (e.g. ycobinator.com, gooogle.com, etc.) and hope someone will accidentally see their ads are parasites on the DNS.
2. This practice lowers the return on investment for people who are trying to advertise something. Micro-advertising keeps a lot of web sites afloat and helps make the web's economy more fluid, so that small businesses without brand name recognition can level the playing field a little. Domain squatters who siphon off ad money by putting ads on crappy parked domain pages that people go to by mistake and leave immediately are unworthy leeches sucking the blood from the internet. They harm others and contribute nothing of value.
You seem to be exclusively defending the kind of domain squatting where you register some attractive domain name like "fishandchips.com" and leave it fallow until someone buys it from you. That does not address anything that blhack said.
Also, you might feel less sorry for Aaron Greenspan when you find out that he's the one who sued facebook for trademark infringement.