Google Saga: Help Prevent Death by a Thousand Cuts

Since Google AdSense began restricting advertising on some of Hollywood Gothique's pages, we have been working behind the scenes to resolve the situation. Unfortunately, the experience feels like death by a thousand cuts - every time we bring one page into compliance, they ding another page for violating their policies. We are still working toward a solution, and we hope to enlist a small amount of aid from our readers.

Our options are limited: When Google restricts a page, we can remove the offending material, or we can remove the Google Ads from the page. We would prefer not to censor ourselves, but neither do we want to continually remove ads. Not that the ad revenue ever earned a living, but the website did pay for itself and the various expenses associated with it (tickets, travel, parking, etc). So the issue is how can can make up the lost revenue from running ad-free content.

Our proposed solution is this. We have created a Donate button for those who want to support uncensored, ad-free pages. For the very first donation, we will post a gallery of all the images that have been removed so far (obviously, we won't be running any Google ads on that post!). After that, for every $1 someone kicks in, we will restore one page that was altered to bring it into compliance.

Here is a list of pages and posts from which we have removed Google advertisements:

Here are pages and posts from which we have removed images to bring then into compliance with AdSense:

Additionally, the Hollywood Gothique home page currently has ads restricted, even though it is displaying nothing from any of the pages listed above. We have no idea what needs to be removed in order to reverse Google's decision.

This may not seem like many, but as we mentioned above, the list has been growing, and we are already second-guessing ourselves when posting new stuff (there's a doozy of an image from Harry's Haunts in Van Nuys that we didn't even bother trying to sneak in).

If it were just a matter of removing a photo here are there, this would be a minor issue. The problem is that Google is not specific. They simply restrict certain pages for containing "Shocking Content" (which can include anything from actual violence and crime-scene photos to Halloween costumes deemed too "bloody"). We are left to determine which images and/or text are the problem. Our situation is akin to filmmakers resubmitting their work to the MPAA without quite knowing that they have to cut to replace the NC-17 rating with an R - we take our best guess and submit the page for review. If the original decision stands, there are a limited number of times we can resubmit pages each month. Consequently, we cannot remove one photo, submit; then remove another photo and resubmit over and over again until we get it right. We have to remove everything the first time that might even come close to violating Google's guidelines. This can have a somewhat chilling effect, not only on pages currently under scrutiny but also on future posts: before we hit "publish," we have to stop and consider whether some images might get us into trouble we would rather not deal with.

Perhaps we are making a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps we should simply remove any questionable material from the website; after all, we constantly praise atmospheric horror over the explicit variety, so why should we run explicit photos?

Our answer, particularly in regard to Halloween haunts, is that the pages we devout to them are supposed to be archives of material that accurately represent the attractions. We have never been disgusted by the Backwoods Maze, but it does have a grizzly vibe to it, and it is one of the pages from which we removed images in order to appease Google. We would rather put the images back and remove the ads.

Ultimately, the question is: How do you feel about this? Your answer will help determine which direction we go.

Obviously, a $1 donation is financially insignificant. It's just a way of determining whether anyone thinks this is worth fighting over. If no one does, then we know we should not be wasting time on this. Instead, we will simply keep the website on a PG level and be done with it.

If you want us to restore pages and post images as we see fit, regardless of Google AdSense policy, the Donate button is below...





Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.