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EcstasyData and Google Ads
by Erowid
Jun 2008
Citation:   Erowid. "EcstasyData and Google Ads". Erowid Extracts. Jun 2008;14:2.
EcstasyData.org, our street ecstasy lab testing project, has been without funding for nearly two and a half years (as of June 2008), significantly reducing the number of tablets being tested. As an experiment, we ran Google ads on the EcstasyData site for a little over six months, intending to use the revenue to boost the project. These ads yielded about $300 per month. Unfortunately, we received word from Google in early May 2008 that they have cancelled their AdSense service to EcstasyData.org because it violates their service policy: "As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on sites with content related to prescription drugs, illicit drugs or drug paraphernalia, beer, hard alcohol, or tobacco."

Initially, we felt that Google's policies were unreasonable, but after looking into the issue, we have reconsidered. Many companies' rules around psychoactive-related content are strongly prohibitionist, disallowing advertising or other services only for content that is deemed to "promote" illegal drug use. Such policies allow those with a particular "anti-drug" viewpoint to advocate their message (often for free) while restricting groups with alternative viewpoints from using the services. Google's policy equally limits the serving of ads to all drug-related sites.

Google also appears to have applied these rules to the ads they serve on their own search results. Searching Google on a variety of psychoactive-related terms in May 2008 reveals that they appear to disallow advertising even on common words like beer and cannabis. Although we are saddened that a possible funding opportunity for ecstasy tablet testing has closed, we are satisfied that, at this time, Google is taking a content-neutral stance on issues related to this controversial field.