I got an official e-mail from Google over the weekend…. from Ad Sense (Ad Sense is the ad program we use to monetize BCDB.com and all the related sites), and it reminded me how much I hate Google. According to the e-mail, bcdb.com or pages on it are in violation of Google policy. The e-mail neither listed the pages, the problems on those pages, or a direct secure link to a page that summarized the problems Google had found. And that turned out to be the least of my problems…
To be fair, there were instructions on how to find out what the violations are…. but that was a 5 step process and a waste of my time. It could have been so much easier to just link to the page, or tell me straight up what was wrong.
When I finally tracked down the problem, it turns out Google is accusing the site of publishing “Dangerous or derogatory content.” The page? The BCDB entry for Arthur Coopers’ 1912 film Ten Little Nigger Boys. OK, so now that makes a little sense, but it is obvious no real person reviewed this- Google is just running some basic algorithm and it got set off by a word in the title.
I immediately set the page up for review…. but if it is again automated, the page will fail again, based on the word remaining.
The first and foremost item of importance on the DataBase is to be accurate, and as complete as possible. I just cannot see being accurate- much less considered a reliable source- if I was to censor, edit or remove the title of a film, no matter how offensive. Did you know- there are six films in the DataBase with the word “Fuck” in them? I have not edited them, and I am not going to edit this one, either.
Now I am not one to use a word with this much “baggage” loosely; I understand very well how much hate and pain is associated with the word. When I am writing a synopsis or production notes, I will use “African American” when race is appropriate to cite. And other than it’s use in this title, the word “nigger” is used two additional times- once in a direct quote, and once in reference to a turn of the century blackface proper name. It is NOT a term I use loosely, flagrantly or with intent to inflame; I have used it only to be accurate and correct. I do not find it appropriate to substitute “ni**er” for it, either. We are adults here, right? We can handle rough language with regard to accuracy.
When I submitted the page to be reviewed, there was no method to put in any “extenuating circumstances” or “additional information” to be considered when reviewing the page. Therefore, I believe that Google will again reject the page, based simply on the use of the word. I then noticed a feedback link to send information to Google about Adsense…. so I decided to take the opportunity to sound off to Google. This is the e-mail I sent them:
Email To Google
I hate Google. I really do. You always seem to be pushing your ivory tower views of what you want the internet to be on all the rest of us. While the ideas you push may be good, they are not always practical. Worse, we small website owners have no way to challenge the irrational dictates from “Google On High”. It seems like every year or two Google forces all of us that want to be listed to do a lot we don’t really want to, like all sites to https, your insane AMP pages, and numerous other initiatives that Google has forced on the common website owner (and cost us tons of money in the process).
You are no longer a consumer friendly, responsive or even logical company- you just decide something and unilaterally push it on the Internet at large, with no way for someone to challenge or oppose your dictates (even when you are wrong, as in this case). You automate EVERYTHING with your machine learning algorithms, which works maybe 80% of the time…. but it fails to varying degrees 20% of the time. Is there someone I can call? No. You are one of the richest companies in the world, you can AFFORD to have REAL PEOPLE interface with people with problems. But you don’t. Because you are arrogant, and you think you are somehow superior to the great unwashed masses, because you think you are always right. I hate Google and all you stand for.
First, you send me a form e-mail which tells me NOTHING about what the violation is for- it is just a generic form e-mail that says my site has a violation. If your machine learning was so good, you could include the page and the violation in that e-mail… or even a direct LINK to some in-depth information about each page violation. E-mails do NOT cost you by the letter you know! Does the e-mail you sent me contain a direct link? No. Does it explain the violation? No. Why not? Too hard to program for the great Google? Hell, I could do that in perl in 1996…
Second, if a REAL PERSON had bothered to look at this violation, I am sure it would have never gotten to this point. Again, as I have been the victim of many times before, your algorithm is in error. As near as I can tell, the page “Ten Little Nigger Boys” at “https://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/59801-Ten-Little-Nigger-Boys” is in violation for “Dangerous or derogatory content”
My guess is your panties are all in a bunch because this page has the word “Nigger” in it.
Is it the official Google position that this word should no longer be used on the Internet? Or just that our site should not use it? Tell me specifically: what about the way this site is using the word is necessarily “Dangerous or derogatory”? Am I insulting a specific person, or even using the work to describe a group of people?
If a REAL PERSON had bothered to look at this, you would see that the answer is a resounding “NO!” “Ten Little Nigger Boys” is the accurate and original name of a film made in 1912, and this site is just listing this film and documenting it as having been made and ACCURATELY presenting the facts of production of the film. Just as we have for 150,000 other films. Other than using the word “Nigger” as the title of this film (which is historically correct), there is no other use of this work (particularly in a “Dangerous or derogatory” manner).
Check it out- the fact that a film named “Ten Little Nigger Boys” was made in 1912 should be something you can verify…. Unless you have strong-armed other sites into removing it and pretending it does not exist.
We do not work that way. We do NOT censor things like you seem to want us to do. I won’t even consider making it “Ni**er” because quite simply, that is not accurate. If one fact on our site is censored, the whole site is now worthless. There are films in our DataBase with the word “Fuck” in them, also- do you want those removed, too? Sorry, we won’t do that either.
Oh, look here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1265701/ It looks like IMDB lists the same film! Did you hit them up for a violation, too? (I found that on Google, BTW….)
Look, I understand, that word carries with it a lot of baggage. It is not a word I use or encourage anyone to use. But your attempt to censor facts and history is FAR more repulsive to me than some word. And I have always agreed with the notion that those who attempt to erase history are doomed to repeat it.
I used to admire Google. But the company has obviously lost sight of being the champion for the little guy, and for being about truth and freedom. That is unfortunate. I wish you would go back to the days when you played fair and kept your thumb off the scales… back when you were honest. To a certain extent, yes, you need to filter…. kiddie porn is a great example. But using the word “Nigger”- especially in this context- is far from what you should be censoring.
Why This Matters
Ultimately, I know this will get worked out, and this page will get let back in to the good graces of Google. But it really points out some of the problems with Google.
First and foremost, do we want Google to be the Internet policemen? Google will only do this in automated ways, and mistakes (such as this one) will continue to be made. If there is going to be a gate keeper, I am not sure we want it to be a private company. I am worried when and how Google may define hate speech (as exemplified here)…. but where does it end? If someone advocates the owning of AK-47’s, should Google muzzle them? I don’;t think so, and I personally don’t want Google making those decisions…
Second, it really points out the arrogance of Google. The simple fact that they do not even have a way to submit additional information in an appeal for review shows they aren’t concerned with what it’s users think. This is a microcosm of Google policy…. have a problem with Google Maps? Who are you gonna call? Try and contact ANYONE at Google- it really can’t be done easily or readily.
Third, as a website publisher, I have a real distaste for Google’s monolithicly and arrogantly throwing it’s weight around to institute web policy. The delisting of non-secure sites is only the most recent example of Google using its place in the market to force the market to do things it just does not want to do. Google’s self-serving AMP pages weren’t a requirement, they were just stupid… and expensive to impediment if you wanted. Remember when Google made all publishers make mobile-specific versions of their sites… that was a pretty big intrusion and expense. And it was at roughly that time when Google went from saying that “_” and “-” were the same in URLs, only to change to use “-” for space (OK, that is a whole lot inside baseball, but it caused me a LOT of problems). Trust me that every 1-2 years, Google does something that makes webmasters redo their websites- from small changes to complete overhauls- just because Google says so…. and usually at significant cost.
Personally, I do not want Google (or any private company) to make web censoring decisions as to web content. Nor do I want it dictating to me how to build my website. And I really see a problem with a web search engine ALSO running the major ad service of the web. And I really don’t want to hear that Google is selling my search patterns to Cambridge Analytica. I just want Google to be a damn good search engine. And if they keep being too much of all these other things, they are starting to be less and less appealing as a search engine.