Why Google’s New Anti-Porn Policy Is Such a Big Deal

The corporate giant's stance against explicit content could have Internet-wide ramifications.

Last week, Google sent out a letter to many of their advertisers, informing them of their new policy to no longer accept AdWords advertisements containing explicit language or that link to porn sites.

This is a huge deal, and not just because of its implications for users who will no longer see search ads for porn sites. This is a move that could significantly affect Google’s bottom line.

Essentially, Google is getting out of the porn business.

So What Does This Mean?

To clarify, Google isn’t further limiting its search engine’s ability to find and link to adult websites. Instead, with this policy, Google will no longer be profiting from them as their customers. The new rules are directly aimed at excluding porn-peddling from its AdWords campaigns.

As a technology company, Google does a lot of things: They make cool maps; have created the world’s most popular mobile operating system; help you organize emails. They also maintain the Internet’s biggest search engine. But ultimately, Google does one thing very well: They help you find things.

Their entire brand is predicated on people coming to them to help them find things—driving directions, email contacts, funny videos—more easily. It’s also their business model.

How Do Google's Ads Work?

by allowing ads to porn sites, Google was essentially making money directly off of people going to look at porn. That is, until now.

If you’re not familiar with how AdWords work, it’s a simple concept: Customers can create small, text-based ads linking to their website that will appear along with the organic results when a user searches for designated terms. (They are the links that appear on the side and top of the page when you Google something.) The more specific and in-demand the terms themselves are (and, depending on how much custom demographic targeting you want to include) the more expensive they are. Advertisers pay Google a small amount every time someone clicks on the ad. Ideally, everyone wins: The advertisers get a customer looking for their website, and customers find what they are looking for.

AdsWords are also extremely profitable for Google. A 2012 study estimated that the company made $100 million a day just from AdWords campaigns.

But, by allowing ads to porn sites, Google was essentially making money directly off of people going to look at porn. That is, until now.

What Is Google Giving Up?

It’s hard to know how much money this new policy will cost Google. But, considering some stats estimate that 12 percent of all websites contain pornography, and 25 percent of all search engine requests are porn-related, the number could be massive.

How Is This Different?

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Google is showing that it is willing to sacrifice a large chunk of constant revenue in order to no longer profit from the proliferation of pornography.

It should be noted that this isn’t Google’s first action against porn. They recently banned the sale of apps that contain pornographic material from being sold for Glass, and have invested substantially in fighting child porn.

The AdWords policy though—which actually first changed in March—is different.

Their efforts in partnering with law enforcement to find Internet users who exploit children is admirable, but it isn’t a threat to its business model. With this new stand, Google is showing that it is willing to sacrifice a large chunk of constant revenue in order to no longer profit from the proliferation of pornography on the Internet.

Top Comments

Nathan Lambert

1

Nathan Lambert replied to Dyan Dinstel's comment

Disturbing how you can show in one sentence that freedom IS your religion.

Princess Luna

53

Princess Luna replied to Shang Ko's comment

That would only work if Google users forgot that you can search for porn directly on their site.

27 Comments

Matthew Boyle

1

Matthew Boyle commented…

Disturbing how religion is more important than freedom.

Nathan Lambert

1

Nathan Lambert replied to Dyan Dinstel's comment

Disturbing how you can show in one sentence that freedom IS your religion.

Julie Smith

1

Julie Smith commented…

Regarding losing freedom, you are fully free to search porn through Google or another search engine. This is only relevant to ads. To relate it to the recent Costco book ban, Costco removed the ability to purchase the book from their store (although now reinstated). However, you will not see the book in their sale ads or displayed on banners through their store. If you want the book, from their store, you are permitted to enter the store & search. Same with Google's porn policy. It's not advertised on their search engine, but you have not been restricted from entering Google & doing a search. Totally fair game.

Sheryl Wagner

1

Sheryl Wagner commented…

Googles search findings are much more erudite and clean than others as well. I am so tired of Bing finding innapropriate content and pictures when i am searching simple subjects at work. I work with allergies and in my office i get on he internet to help patients with their questions. Simply compare the search for "latex" in Bing and in Google and you'll see the difference. I dont appreciate being bombarded with porn Bing. I have to keep switching my search engine back to gogle because of some Bing virus. Hate Bing, love Google

Shang Ko

1

Shang Ko commented…

Google isn't just giving up ad profits, it is also sending some of its customers away and training them to use other search engines. Good job, Google!

Princess Luna

53

Princess Luna replied to Shang Ko's comment

That would only work if Google users forgot that you can search for porn directly on their site.

Donovan Steltzner

1

Donovan Steltzner commented…

Google does business things for business reasons. It may be able to be spun by persons on this site that they are willing to sacrifice profits to stem the proliferation of pornography. And certainly Google would love you to believe this. But this is probably false.

My guess is that they are looking to minimize legal risk from both rampant piracy and child pornography. Corporations don't give up profits; they just want to hang on to the future profits, which will be much greater if they don't have to pay billion-dollar fines or judgments to future civil litigants and government entities.

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