Google AdSense doesn’t honor their policy on inappropriate content

First, let me make clear that I think Google AdSense is one of the most extraordinary services on the web and is hugely important in making large parts of the web sustainable over time. It’s a new service that they’re constantly enhancing, and so I expect them to fix this problem eventually. The issue today, though, is that Google AdSense displays ads that are inappropriate and even dangerous given the page’s content, and offers no way to fix the problem.

I administer PWS Notes, which is an informational and support site about the rare genetic disorder Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). The site provides a variety of useful information about treatments, medical research, support groups, etc. In 2000, PWS sufferers were granted FDA approval for use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to help treat the severe obesity associated with the disease. Therefore, there are pages on the site about HGH, and over time, many pages are likely to mention it, such as this one about a child’s progress. All proceeds from Google AdSense are being donated to the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.

The problem is that every Google ad regarding HGH appears to be a fairly fraudulent pitch for herbal supplements that they say “release” or “activate” HGH. In fact, these advertised products have nothing to do with HGH, which is a very powerful but also quite dangerous drug that is controlled by the FDA. The issue is the Google ads may confuse (in fact, are designed to confuse) na´ve parents to think that these cheap (and, frankly, worthless) herbal supplements are any replacement for physician-prescribed HGH. You can see the ads here. Although ads for worthless herbal supplements are legal, they are potentially dangerous in this context.

What Google needs is a tool so that I can set with a “-HGH, -GH and -‘growth hormone'” regarding Adwords, so that no HGH products will be advertised there. I believe this would be an example of “Sensitive content filters: At times, certain ads may not be appropriate to run on all pages. For example, Google automatically filters out ads that would be inappropriate on a news page about a catastrophic event.” However, the only tool Google offers is block out specific URLs of advertisers. I did this for 60 of them (4 at a time), but there appears to be an unlimited supply of advertisers, due largely to affiliate sites.

The temporary solution was for me to modify the wiki code to not show any ads on the HGH page. However, this isn’t a real fix, because other pages already mention HGH (and it’s a wiki, so they change over time), and any of those pages may get the same problematic ads.

The temporary fix was a change to my previous directions:

-<?php include("adsense.php") ?>
+<?php if ($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] != "/HGH") include("adsense.php") ?>

Google’s only reponse was a form letter.

Hello Dan,

Thank you for your email.

Regarding the ads themselves, thank you very much for bringing this issue to our attention. Our AdWords specialists review every ad for adherence to AdWords program policies. If the ads in question are in violation of AdWords policies, it will be removed. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know about your concerns.

Regarding filtering, currently, you may not individually filter out specific ads or types of ads. The only way to filter ads from your site is by blocking all ads from that advertiser’s site. In the future, however, we may enhance this functionality so publishers can retain even more editorial control while still offering diverse advertising content.

To assist you, you may want to check out our Preview Tool. The Google AdSense preview tool is an addition to the right-click menu for Windows Internet Explorer 6.x which allows you to preview the ads that may show on any web page.

Using the AdSense preview tool, you can visit the destination of an ad to view its content or to add it to your filter list. Clicks and impressions from the preview tool are not applied to the advertiser’s account. You can click through to the target site without worrying about invalid clicks being generated on your account, and without costing the advertiser for your test clicks.

For additional information, or to download the AdSense preview tool,
please visit

We appreciate your feedback and welcome any additional suggestions on ways we can improve Google AdSense for you.

Please feel free to reply to this email if you have additional questions or concerns.

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The Google AdSense Team