Shocking Photos Revealed!

As promised, here are the "shocking" photos that were removed from Hollywood Gothique in order to bring us into compliance Google's AdSense policies.

Warning: If you're hoping for some truly jaw-dropping splatter, you may be disappointed. These images are certainly intended to be scary but in a Halloween-fun kind of way that (at least to us) does not seem particularly disturbing.

A word or two of explanation may be needed to explain why these images were removed:

Google does not specify which photographs or text are at issue; they simply identify a page that violates their guidelines and state the nature of the objection. In our case, the problem was "Shocking Content," which Google defines thus:

  • Content containing gruesome, graphic or disgusting accounts or imagery (e.g. blood, guts, gore, sexual fluids, human or animal waste, crime scene or accident photos)
  • Content depicting acts of violence (e.g. accounts or images of shootings, explosions, or bombings; execution videos; violent acts committed against animals)
  • Content with significant obscene or profane language (swear or curse words)

To us, these restrictions sound as if they refer to photographs of actual events (e.g., "crime scene or accident photos"). Everything on our website is fantasy, much of it unrealistic in appearance, often achieved with pullover masks and rubbery prosthetics. Nevertheless, all of the photos in the gallery below appeared on pages that were targeted by Google. But exactly which photos were causing the problem? Aye, there's the rub....

If a page had only one or two photos, it was easy to identify the culprit. However, if a page had a dozen images or more, it was up to us to figure out how many crossed the line. Because there is a limited number of times we can submit a page for review each month, it is not practical to eliminate images one by one and resubmit the page for review each time - we could easily have exhausted our review opportunities before purging the offending material. So we  had to take our best guess and try to eliminate everything in one go.

As best we can tell, images of dismemberment (even if obviously fake) are not allowed. That's not terribly surprising. What is surprising is that non-violent images can be deemed too "shocking." In particular, closeups of bloody faces were the only potential offenders we could find on certain pages, which led us to remove probably more facial closeups than necessary on other pages, just to be safe. If we seem to have been overcautious, keep in mind that the first image to draw Google's ire was not even a photograph but an illustration:

Universal Monsters
Universal Monsters at Halloween Horror Nights 2018

As you can see, there is no violence, no victims, just classic movie monsters with some red splotches. Creepy, yes? Shocking? We don't think so, but some people do. (When we solicited feedback from other Google AdSense publishers, several were not only shocked by the image; they were dismayed that we were blind to how "obviously" shocking it was.)

In the end, we opted to eliminate anything that even seemed as if it might be objectionable. We have a feeling that this is a deliberate part of the AdSense strategy: refuse to give specifics that would tell publishers exactly where they are crossing the line, because then publishers could push the limits while staying just inside the safe area. By remaining vague, Google forces publishers to be overcautious, self-censoring anything that might come anywhere close to the undefined line separating acceptable from unacceptable.

In any case, here is a gallery of deleted images, all of them from Halloween Haunts. Peruse them and decide for yourselves which ones are too "gruesome, graphic or disgusting." Fortunately, as long as we have the support of our readers, we will not have to pinpoint specific offenders; we will simply remove Google ads from those pages and restore all the photos that were removed. Google will not ding us for photos on pages not carrying their ads, so we can stay in compliance with them and continue to run ads on other pages.

This post sponsored by a donation from Adam Woebken. Thanks for your support!

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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.