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The first rule of Google AdSense is, don’t talk about Google AdSense

Have you noticed that Google is acting more and more like a stupid marketing/advertising company lately? It’s one of the side effects of not really being a search engine company and seems to fly in the face of Sergey Brin’s Google rule #1: “Don’t be evil”.

According to this post on Russell Beattie’s site, Google recently changed their Terms and Conditions to prohibit criticism of their AdSense “service” terms and conditions on participating sites. Yuck. This move follows Russell’s analysis of the AdSense T&C as a result of Erik Thauvin’s removal from the program.

Since when is Google providing a service by paying people for advertising placed on their sites? This seems backwards; people are providing a service by placing the Google’s ads on their sites. Google has every right to place whatever limits they wish on people who use their “service”, but terminating said service without recourse when money is potentially owed by Google *and then* not allowing any site using Google AdSense (which may eventually include media sites like Salon, NY Times, MetaFilter, Slashdot, and even to comment on the Terms and Conditions that brought about the termination is just plain bad (evil?) and should give serious pause to anyone considering using any Google service.

You Google employees out there in weblog land, take a look at these links and see if it’s worth taking this issue to someone internally who can do something about it. I might run into Larry Page at a retreat next weekend…we’ll see what he thinks about it.

Update: Lest you think I’m aimlessly Google-bashing here, Cory Doctorow’s comments on this matter sum up my feelings very well:

But that doesn’t mean that they should get a free ride. Google wants to be a company that makes money wihtout being evil, and I support that goal! Being not-evil is good, and so’s making some dough. But part of being not-evil is that you have to incur liability over and above that which your counsel recommends as the safest path โ€” just as a shop-owner can’t reasonably ask all her customers to submit to a strip-search to contain shoplifting liability, Google shouldn’t ask all its users to submit to an unreasonable restriction on their speech in order to contain the spread of negative information about its service.

Derek Powazek got the boot from AdSense for “inappropriate clicks” as did Kathy Shaidle. Kathy writes:

When I complained [about the ads that were showing up on the site], they explained: my blog, which deals with religion, politics and other non-dinner-table topics, was ‘potentially negative’. I asked (on the blog) if there was gonna be a 0th Amendment drawn up to protect ‘potentially negative’ speech.

We back and forth’d a bit, my readers complained to them on my behalf, but Google wanted me to go through my archives, delete everything I’d ever said about them, good and bad, then republish. You can guess my response.