30 April 2014

Is Google Robbing Adsense Publishers of Hard-Earned Money?


Yesterday, an alleged former employee of Google blew the whistle on a very troubling issue - that Google was and still is stealing hard-earned money from publishers duly registered with its Adsense program.

The Pastebin post, titled "Google AdSense Leak" and published anonymously few hours ago, has generated and is still generating heated debates online and offline.

The poster (a male or female - s/he) explains why s/he had to leak this dirty secret anonymously.
Having signed many documents such as NDA's and non-competes, there are many repercussions for me, especially in the form of legal retribution from Google. I have carefully planned this leak to coincide with certain factors in Google such as waiting for the appropriate employee turn around so that my identity could not be discovered.

Google Stealing From Adsense Publishers?

Google Adsense
Is Google stealing from publishers?
The former Google employee whistleblower alleges he took part in what could be considered as "...theft of money from the publishers by Google" and goes on to insinuate that the practice is still on on a wider scale.
To sum it up for everyone, I took part in what I (and many others) would consider theft of money from the publishers by Google, and from direct orders of management. There were many AdSense employees involved, and it spanned many years, and I hear it still is happening today except on a much wider scale.
S/he further alleges that this 'robbery' by Google, which started since 2009 as a kind of company policy was done by cutting "...off a large portion of publisher’s payments".

S/he explains that such illegal measures were taken because Google was experiencing some financial department challenges in 2009 due to writing too many and too large of checks to its Adsense publishers; and thus “needed to tighten the belts” by implementing a new “quality control” initiative to ban publishers making more than $5,000 per month from AdSense.
It began in 2009. Everything was perfectly fine prior to 2009, and in fact it couldn’t be more perfect from an AdSense employees perspective, but something changed.

In the first quarter of 2009 there was a "sit-down" from the AdSense division higher ups to talk about new emerging issues and the role we (the employees in the AdSense division needed to play. It was a very long meeting, and it was very detailed and intense. What it boiled down to was that Google had suffered some very serious losses in the financial department several months earlier. They kept saying how we "needed to tighten the belts" and they didn’t want it to come from Google employees pockets.

So they were going to (in their words) "carry out extreme quality control on AdSense publishers". When one of my fellow co-workers asked what they meant by that. Their response was that AdSense itself hands out too many checks each month to publishers, and that the checks were too large and that needed to end right away. Many of the employees were not pleased about this (like myself). But they were successful in scaring the rest into thinking it would be their jobs and their money that would be on the line if they didn’t participate. The meeting left many confused as to how this was going to happen.

What did they mean by extreme quality control? A few other smaller meetings occur with certain key people in the AdSense division that furthered the idea and procedure they planned on implementing.

There were lots of rumors and quiet talking amongst the employees, there was lots of speculations, some came true and some didn’t. But the word was that they were planning to cut off a large portion of publisher’s payments.
Thus it appears employees who did not play along with this plan were coerced into doing it out of fear, or else to resign.

Not only was this senseless action practiced, but the whistleblower alleges the practice of banning Adsense publishers just before their periodic payout so Google could keep their ad revenue.
What happened afterwards became much worse. Their "quality control" came into full effect. Managers pushed for wide scale account bans, and the first big batch of bans happened in March of 2009. The main reason, the publishers made too much money. But something quite devious happened. We were told to begin banning accounts that were close to their payout period (which is why account bans never occur immediately after a payout). The purpose was to get that money owed to publishers back to Google AdSense, while having already served up the ads to the public.

This way the advertiser’s couldn’t claim we did not do our part in delivering their ads and ask for money back. So in a sense, we had thousands upon thousands of publishers deliver ads we knew they were never going to get paid for.

Google reaped both sides of the coin, got money from the advertisers, used the publishers, and didn’t have to pay them a single penny.
In other words, Google would get paid by advertisers, run their ads on publishers’ properties, but then ban the publisher right before they were to receive their payout for the ads. What meanness!

Finally, to automate the process, Google set up the “AdSense Quality Control Color Codes” system to identify lucrative publishers to ban, and protect large corporations and anyone else who Google believed had the muscle to hurt it with negative press or drum up anti-AdSense sentiment amongst publishers.

Google Denies Accusations

Google has however come out to deny these accusations in its totality, calling it "...a complete fiction."

A TechCrunch post, also published yesterday, confirms Google's strong denial statement obtained at the request of the popular site:
This description of our AdSense policy enforcement process is a complete fiction. The color-coding and ‘extreme quality control’ programs the author describes don’t exist. Our teams and automated systems work around the clock to stop bad actors and protect our publishers, advertisers and users.

All publishers that sign up for AdSense agree to the Terms and Conditions of the service and a set of policies designed to ensure the quality of the network for users, advertisers and other publishers. When we discover violations of these policies, we take quick action, which in some cases includes disabling the publisher’s account and refunding affected advertisers.”
TechCruch equally notes that "...the report doesn’t include hard evidence, and the whole thing might just be from a jilted publisher or someone else out to harm Google. Still, it could spark an investigation into AdSense’s banning procedure or at least a loss of confidence amongst AdSense publishers even if it’s untrue."

What Sector Regulators Must Do Now

Such callosity from Google, if proved true, must not be allowed to go without adequately commensurate punishment. I cannot think of any act more wicked than an ad network deliberately robbing its own publishers, knowing that publishers spend sleepless days and nights writing and publishing articles, only to be denied what is justifiably theirs.

It is true that no hard evidence has been presented by the whistle-blower so we may not know, at least for now, whether s/he is saying the truth or not.

On the other hand, these accusations are so weighty, that regulators of the sector should swing promptly into action to further investigate Google Adsense thoroughly, especially concerning its banning procedures and what exactly happens to the funds of banned publishers. I and the accuser are on the same page here:
No one on the outside knows it, if they did, the FBI and possibly IRS would immediately launch an investigation, because what they are doing is so inherently illegal and they are flying completely under the radar.
Every single accusation by the whistleblower, should of extreme necessity, be thoroughly investigated. That's the least that should be done.

I hope the FBI and other federal regulatory agencies in the sector are all watching.


  1. I've always had my suspicions after Google began to ban large numbers of publishers in 2012. A close friend was similarly banned for no clear-cut reason, except that he constituted a 'risk' to advertisers. He had sworn at the time that he never clicked on any ad and had never broken any Adsense TOS. I believed him 100%. The only part I find troubling is that this has been on for longer than I suspected.

    1. @kool T, you are not alone in your suspicions. Regarding unjustified Adsense bans on publishers who I personally know to be honest in their online and offline dealings, I have lost count.

      Of course, there would always be the bans on true offenders, but the rate of Adsense bans in recent years, especially the really suspicious ones, should have a lot of people and the concerned authorities, raising their eyebrows.

      As far back as 2011, I stumbled across some really pissed publishers who contemplated initiating a class action lawsuit against Google Inc. for what they had termed at the time "...unscrupulous business practices which allege fraud and unfair business practices." You can read about it here: http://adsenseclassactionlawsuit.wordpress.com/; and also on Google Product Forum here: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/adsense/Cc3M511jDIo[1-25-false].

      I really wish this is investigated deeply.

  2. Replies
    1. Hello @doncyber, I do agree with you that this is a really serious issue that should be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate authorities.

      Google is an internet giant, as we all know, and many giants have the tendency to take normal-sized people for granted. I would not be surprised if investigations reveal 'unexpected' facts.