For the last week or two something very odd has been happening. When I've done my daily rotations through the Apple news sites (MacRumors.com, 9to5mac, AppleInsider, etc..) I've noticed a bizarre preponderance of ads for the Church of Scientology. At first I thought I was just seeing things, or crediting the ads as being more common than they really were because they stood out so much. Apparently I was wrong; someone else noticed it too.
A few days ago Seth Weintraub over at Computerworld noticed that virtually every advertisement on his adsense block was for the Church of Scientology (CoS). This disturbed him a little bit. The CoS has a controversial history, and besides that, their ads don't really fit at all on a tech website. Computer nerds want to see ads for gadgets and games, not religions. It's understandable that Mr. Weintraub would want to get rid of the CoS ads.
Unfortunately, he was utterly unable to find any way to switch the ad rotation for his site. Numerous complaints to Google and posts on the Adsense forums were to no avail. In fact, no one at all responded to his requests on the Adsense forums, or to any other similar requests that other webmasters made.
Weintraub notes that Google has also recently removed the Anonymous AdSense account. Anonymous is a group of folks from 4chan who have spent a good portion of the last year or so crusading against Scientologists. This sounds a little worse than it is. AdSense partners have never been allowed to crusade for "advocacy against any individual, group, or organization."
That doesn't explain away every issue that Weintraub brings up, though. Mark Bunker, a journalist who was about to post a 3 hour documentary with a movie star who fled the church, had his YouTube account suspended by Google. He'd had previous accounts banned due to copyright violations, which is how Google justified the ban.
This would be perfectly acceptable, had Google not let the CoS reregister an account after their first one was banned for putting up the personal information of several members of Anonymous. Corporations holding double-standards for lucrative clients is hardly something new, but I think we all expect a little bit better from Google.
Here's what it sounds like happened. The CoS decided to roll out a huge new ad campaign, and they paid Google a whole load of money to advertise as much as they have been via AdSense. Once they were pumping all of this money into Google, they started to complain about content that attacked them. Google put profits before integrity and agreed to help quiet some dissident voices. If there is nothing fishy going on here, then why the double standard? And why are they refusing to answer webmaster's about the content of their ad rotations?
This is not a religious issue or an issue with the teachings or adherents of Scientology. This is an issue with Google, and their apparently schizophrenic sense of integrity. They'd better be careful with how they handle all of this; news involving the CoS travels fast around the Internet, and they risk losing an awful lot of their hardcore supporters if they continue to fold like this.
Adding a filter for scientology.org in Adsense stops the serving of these ads. We have done that. Update: Well that is not enough, ads still showing.
If you still see CoS ads on I4U News please let us know. We would like to filter all religous ads, but this Adsense feature is still in limited beta.