Tech companies like Google and Facebook are increasingly stepping outside the realm of neutrality and into the role of moral arbiter by restricting specific content that they deem to be harmful to users – even if this goes beyond what is dictated by law.
On Wednesday, Google was praised for banning ads for payday loans from its site.
“This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products,” David Graff, Google’s director of global product policy, David Graff, wrote in a blog post.
Other restrictions by Google, like those on fireworks, paintball guns, and novelty IDs are less obviously for the good of its users.
Using Google’s AdWords policies, we gathered 17 products and services that Google thinks are too dangerous of deceptive to be shown to its users, or that it restricts, to gain an insight into its opaque ethical code.
BANNED: Pay Day Loans
Pay day loans are the most recent addition to Google’s banned list. From July 13, Google will outlaw ads for loans due within 60 days. Loans with interest rates of 36% or higher will also be banned.
BANNED: Paintball guns
- Stefan Krause, Germany
Google says it errs “on the side of caution” with all types of gun, “whether for sport, self-defense, or combat.” The ban includes airsoft guns, paintball guns, and BB guns.
The ban on ads for fireworks comes under Google’s blanket ban on products “designed to explode (that) could cause damage to nearby people or property.”
RESTRICTED: International bride services
All “adult-related content” is restricted on Google. This includes dating services. However, the restrictions seem pretty reasonable. When promoting adult content, advertisers cannot “target minors,” “promote sexually explicit content,” “promote content with underage or non-consensual sexual themes,” or “promote escort services.”
BANNED: The Tiananmen Square Riot
Google sets its rules about political advertising on a country-by-country basis. It takes particular care with China, where ads about specific issues like independence for Taiwan and Tibet, the Hong Kong Democratic Party and the 1989 riot at Tiananmen Square are banned.
Despite this apparent pandering to the Chinese government, Google remains blocked in China.
Ads for medical products are tightly restricted by Google and often require pre-authorization. As well as sexual enhancement services like Viagra, Google restricts the promotion of “over-the-counter medication.”
- Thomson Reuters
Advertising for cigarettes, tobacco, and tobacco related products are not welcome on the search ad site.
BANNED: Recreational drugs & drug-related equipment
- “Pineapple Express”
Likewise “substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce ‘highs,'” cannot be promoted on Google. This ban includes so-called legal highs and related equipment like pipes and bongs.
BANNED: Fake IDs
“We value honesty and fairness, so we don’t allow the promotion of products or services that are designed to enable dishonest behavior,” Google says.
BANNED: Paper-writing or exam-taking services
Similarly, Google bans ads promoting services which offer to take exams and write academic papers for struggling students.
BANNED: Hacking services
- Adam Berry/Getty Images
Hackers are also banned from advertising their services on Google.
- Thomson Reuters
Less surprisingly, Google bans ads for grenades, nail bombs and chemical bombs.
- REUTERS/Jason Miczek
Given the ban on paintball guns, it’s only fair that genuinely dangerous guns are also out of bounds for advertisers, as is ammunition and other gun-related paraphernalia.
BANNED: ‘Dangerous’ knives
- Getty Images
Google regards a knife as “dangerous” if it is designed to “injure an opponent in sport, self-defense, or combat,” or if it has a disguised appearance or “assisted-opening mechanism.”
BANNED: ISIS videos
You cannot advertise for anything which contains “violent language, gruesome or disgusting imagery, or graphic images or accounts of physical trauma,” Google says.
The examples Google gives include crime-scene photos and execution videos.
BANNED: Extinct, threatened species
Google bans any ads which look to profit from threatened or extinct species, including: “tigers, shark fins, elephant ivory, tiger skins, rhino horn, dolphin oil.”
- Reuters/Tiffany Brown
Google’s restrictions on gambling ads require companies to comply within local laws and to make sure that children are not targeted.