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Last week, google announced its non-plan to combat piracy by dropping nefarious websites lower in their search rankings. I know, right? Take that, pirates!
Why not ban the sites outright? Money. Google's DoubleClick can make some serious cash serving their ads on these sites. We've written about it before.
But slowly the tide is changing. And it's changing because some advertisers have realized it's not good business to place an ad on an illegal website encouraging piracy and child pornography searches.
BMW recently did the right thing by pledging to drop its advertising from these illegal sites.
Eventually google will have to start to taking this issue more seriously as it loses revenue from companies like BMW. Money talks as always.
And if David Lowery, frontman for Cracker, and Camper Van Beethoven not to mention The Trichordist has anything to do with it, American Express might be next. They seem to be advertising on filestube.com, which is a great resource for getting the latest pirated copies of your music and movies, as well as porn to appeal to the more prurient and depraved on the internet.
Lowery has sent us a letter written to Google's people, which you can read in its near entirety below. Screen captures are also courtesy of Lowery. (note: While Lowery has more screen captures, we have omitted some, but only for the sake of brevity.)
I am writing you again regarding the site www.filestube.com. There are several reasons.
First I never heard back from your company regarding the previous screenshots I sent. To refresh your memory these screenshots seemed to show Google’s DoubleClick serving ads on this illegal site which appears to link to illegal pornography. I was hoping to get an explanation or comment.
Secondly Google just announced it has begun to rank sites, specifically www.filestube.com lower in search results specifically because they have received many DMCA complaints. (BTW my data seems to indicate that this change took place a while ago, and you are only just now announcing it?) While I applaud this action I’m wondering why not delist the site completely? And more importantly if Google knows that this site is full of infringing links why is DoubleClick (3 days later) still serving ads onto this site? Doesn’t this go against your stated advertising policies?
Finally after conferring with my colleagues I think I didn’t make it sufficiently clear that www.filestube.com is automatically suggesting search terms and links to what appears to be illegal (read child) pornography. A user does not even have to type in a search phrase it’s right on the front page. Further you might be searching for something completely innocuous like “free photo editing software” and you are still served these links and suggestions. Here are some screenshots. Again I apologize that these shots are full of offensive language, but unfortunately it can’t be helped.
These two screenshots were taken a couple days apart. But this is the home page of www.filestube.com with a completely sterile browser before any searches at all.
There are other places on this site that www.filestube.com will suggest search terms and links. For instance after I search for a song by my band Camper Van Beethoven “Eye of Fatima” I get this page and am served these links and suggested search terms.
First at the bottom of the first search page I get these mysterious and untitled search suggestions.
...when I click on one of the other links to “Eye of Fatima” DoubleClick serves me an American Express advertisement.
Update: A google spokesperson has reached out to Lowery concerning this manner.
According to Lowery:
"A google spokesperson said that the publisher ie filestube was using doubleclick self-serve ad serving and it's since been disabled. they are looking into matters."
Lowery feels this brings up more questions than it answers. For instance, he wonders how it's possible that google can distance itself by saying it isn't it isn't 'serving' the ads on the site while making revenue at the same time.
"Then this brings up the question of what are google's controls on doubleclick. Any copyright infringing website can sign up for google's doubleclick self-serve? Do the brands realize this is how doubleclick works? What kind of value are the brands getting out of this? Doesn't this imply double clicks ad network is totally screwed up ?"
To put it in an other terms, what we are learning is that brands who use DoubleClick have no control over the media placement. Their ads can appear wherever. It's the equivalent to a beer ad inadvertently ending up running during Saturday morning cartoons. Except judging by some of the search results below, it's a hundred times worse.