Google AdSense Follies (Part I): OH MY GOD WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!??

I am, in a word, bemused.

In addition to the WordPress advertising from WordAds that I have been using in my blog since March of 2018, I recently opened a Google AdSense account and began serving ads from AdSense. (If you are connecting to this blog via desktop computer, you can see one such ad under “Advertising” in the left-hand column, underneath the “Follow RyanSchultz.com via email” link.)

Today, I was surprised to discover an email from Google telling me:

Dear Publisher, 

This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations. 

Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level. 

In the last 24 hours: 

New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found. To resolve the issues, you can either remove the violating content and request a review, or remove the ad code from the violating pages.

Further details on enforcements can be found in the AdSense Help Center. To learn more about our program policies, please view the AdSense Program Policies.

Kind regards,
Google Publisher Policy

Now, I was very surprised to see this, since I have always strived to keep things at a PG13 level at all times on my blog. And, when I click over to see what the “violations” were, I find that four of my blogposts were flagged for “Adult, Sexual Content” violations, which are defined as:

Adult: Sexual Content

As stated in our Program policies, we may not show Google ads on pages or apps with content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse. This includes but is not limited to:

– pornographic images, videos, or games
– sexually gratifying text, images, audio, or video
– pages that provide links for or drive traffic to content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse

So, which blogposts triggered the violations? Glad you asked. There were four. Here are the first three (all linked, so you can visit and see for yourself how unoffensive and safe-for-work they are):

UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Romeo and Juliet Full-Body Mesh Avatars as Valentine’s Day Gifts at the eBENTO Event!, which contains, AT WORST, a blurred-over image of a female avatar’s breasts in the background of the first photo, and ABSOLUTELY NO SEXUAL OR ADULT CONTENT AT ALL. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT MESH AVATARS.

The Mesh Project Releases New Male and Female Mesh Bodies for Second Life Avatars: Why I Won’t Be Buying One, which, AT WORST, shows a naked male avatar with a COMPLETELY BLURRED OUT penis on the first photo, and two photos of The Mesh Project’s new male mesh avatar which is essentially a FREAKING. KEN. DOLL. WITHOUT. A. PENIS.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Rick Bento Mesh Body by Alantori for Only L$50!, which, AT WORST, shows a naked male avatar rear end. OH MY GOD END OF THE WORLD SPARE THE CHILLUNS!!!

And then, finally, a double strike against this fourth and final blogpost: “Adult: Sexual Content” AND “Adult: Sexual Merchandise”, the latter of which is defined as follows:

Adult: Sexual Merchandise

Google ads may not be placed on adult or mature content. This includes fetish content as well as sites or apps that promote, sell, or discuss sexual aids. Examples include, but are not limited to:

– sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional
– sexual aids or enhancement tools such as vibrators, dildos, lubes, sex games, inflatable toys
– penis and breast enlargement tools

The blogpost Google finds so offensive? Utherverse and the Red Light Center: A Brief Introduction. Now here, I can begin to see why it might have gotten flagged. All the female-presenting nipples and vaginas and such are completely blurred out, but it’s still clear from at least one photo that some (as Google calls it) “sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional” could be taking place. And I do also include a link to the Utherverse/Red Light Center with a VERY CLEAR warning that the link is Not Safe For Work (NSFW). So now I have to think twice before I put in any links like this, even with a warning label? (UPDATE: I have decided to go in and blur out the offending images in this blogpost even more strongly than before, including completely blurring the kinky one.)

I would argue that my blogpost is simply TALKING about an adult virtual world at a PG13 level. I am tempted to remove the link to Utherverse/RLC, but instead, I have called for a review of all four “violations” (which I am told can take up to a week or longer to process).

The first three “violations” are ludicrous. Am I supposed to start blurring out AVATAR REAR ENDS OH MY GOD THE CHILDREN THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! This is ridiculous. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT AVATARS, PEOPLE. THE DIGITAL VERSION OF BARBIE DOLLS. The fourth one, well, if the review is rejected, then I supposed I am going to have to go in and sanitize it even more. But this is a slippery slope; am I going to have to go back through 1,255 blogposts over two years and check each one for inadvertent tits and ass?

I have subtitled this blogpost “Part I”, because I have a horrible sinking feeling that this issue is not going to go away so easily. If the four blogposts above were flagged (either by machine or human), there a probably dozens more that would also fall afoul of Google’s AdSense rules. I have written about (and linked to) other adult/sexual worlds, always with a very clear NSFW warning. Should I remove the links and tell people to just Google them? (Now THAT would be ironic.)

But to date, I have never seen the need to blur out an avatar rear end (male or female) as I would a penis, a vagina, or a “female-presenting” nipple. And we are talking about AVATARS, which are not to be confused with real people. I’m not serving porn here, I’m talking about mesh avatar bodies! GET A GRIP, GOOGLE ADSENSE.

This is NOT over. Even though I have a feeling I am in a losing battle here. The good news is that it would appear that Google AdSense has blocked advertising only on those four blogposts.

Stay tuned; I will post updates!

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Philip Rosedale Talks About the New Direction for High Fidelity

Philip Rosedale is always a great interview: insightful, engaged, and articulate. Here’s a perfect example, a recent 11-minute interview with GameReactor (a European videogame magazine) at the Gamelab 2019 conference in Barcelona, where he talked about his favourite topic, the metaverse, and the new direction for High Fidelity as a platform for remote workteams:

He argues that the change in the medium and the technology with virtual reality is so profound that it’s unlikely that the same big companies will dominate it, thus creating business opportunities for new companies (like HiFi!). He compares the shift from flatscreen computer use to virtual reality as being similar to the change from radio to television in the last century.

Image from IEEE Spectrum

Philip Rosedale is a true pioneer and visionary, without whom we literally would not have the metaverse landscape that I love to blog about! Even though I am still somewhat annoyed at how High Fidelity chose to handle the sudden pivot away from their original consumer audience, I can certainly understand and appreciate the company’s need to establish a beachhead in one area (remote business teams) and then use that as a base to expand into other areas. VR needs more time to mature. As he says in this interview, HiFi was early to the game. The pivot was the best possible corporate strategy to keep the company moving ahead and generating revenue while waiting for millions of consumers to adopt VR (and eventually, they will).

I do admire Philip and I wish him and his team at High Fidelity the very best (even if I do deliver the occasional critical editorial on this blog).

Oculus Venues Comes to the Oculus Quest

In 2018, Facebook/Oculus launched the Oculus Venues app for the Oculus Go and Gear VR. They describe Oculus Venues as follows:

Oculus Venues lets you attend LIVE events in VR with all the sounds, lights, and energy of really being there. You can watch the Golden State Warriors defend their title, rock out with top musical artists, catch an improv show, or enjoy a classic fright fest, complete with audience commentary. You can even get exclusive accessories or tops for your Oculus Avatar at select live events, including official NBA jerseys so you can show support for your favorite team! Oculus Venues puts you in the front row for concerts, sporting events, comedy shows and more. Choose from an ongoing calendar of live, immersive events in VR where there’s always something new to see. Join thousands of others to share the experience and meet other fans, or watch in solo mode from a box seat high above the crowd. Oculus Venues lets you feel like you’re really there for the best events in VR.

As of today, July 24th, Oculus Venues has been extended to the new standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest!

Hang out with your friends or connect with thousands of fans as you take in all the lights, sounds, and energy of larger-than-life events from the best seat in the house. And on Quest, you’ve got full hand presence and 6DOF (six degrees of freedom) tracking, so you can dance to your favorite songs, cheer for your home team, and interact with the crowd like never before.

Among upcoming live events are a July 24th soccer/football match between Liverpool Football Club and Sporting Clube de Portugal at Yankee Stadium, and Tenacious D performing their animated and over-the-top rock opera Post-Apocalypto live at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 31st.

Basically, I expect Oculus Venues will operate much like Bigscreen does, where your avatar is fixed in place in its seat and watching an (in this case, live) event on a screen in front of you. Note that this is a totally different concept from events such as the ongoing Monstercat concert series in Sansar, where the live performers are actually embodied as avatars sharing an experience with you in a virtual world, instead of being on a flat screen in front of you.