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 www.pwsnotes.org 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.
Continue Reading »