It may not be a big story about censorship, but it does indicate a startling future for one of the few places that allow you to upload and host memes, especially with the 2020 elections on the horizon. What am I talking about? I’m talking about Imgur being silently dropped from Google’s ad services for a “policy violation” in early 2019.
According to Reclaim The Net, Imgur was stricken from Google’s ad program in early 2019. When asked why Imgur was removed, Google opted not to go into detail, with Reclaim The Net explaining…
“When questioned on banning Imgur from advertising services, Google said that it was their policy not to speak about individual cases but pointed to a section of their AdSense rules called Prohibited content.”
They link to the Prohibited content policy page, which runs through the gamut of content that Google’s ads won’t run on, including violent and gory imagery, shocking or extreme content, or sexually explicit material.
Of course, none of that really explains how Imgur violated that policy and what part of the policy they violated.
Reclaim The Net further explained Imgur’s position, as well as what a spokesperson told them, writing…
“Insiders at Imgur describe Google’s decision to ax the image platform as an effort to provide brand safety and trust to their advertisers, with questions raised about some of the content that was being found among the 1.5 million images uploaded daily by Imgur’s users. […]
“However, an official spokesperson for Imgur – while admitting to Reclaim The Net that the partnership with Google’s advertising services had been terminated for ‘a policy violation’ – wanted to make clear that it was ‘in no way related to problems with indecent images of minors.’”
The news outlet was told that it was the lack of moderating the user-generated content that eventually did them in, but since Google is unwilling to explain what part of the user-generated content they found violating, it’s impossible to tell if that’s true.
This slipped under the radar for sure, and it’s obvious why Imgur wouldn’t want to broadcast that they lost a major means of funding through an ad partner. However, the article points to the image-hosting service branching out and looking for investors beyond the traditional ad partnerships with membership services and subscription fees for premium users.
Back in June of 2019, Tech Crunch reported that Coil had invested $20 million in Imgur to adopt the premium service options.
While it might read like doom in gloom in the Reclaim The Net article, it’s hard to tell exactly how much Google’s ad services contributed to Imgur’s overall revenue intake. It’s also hard to tell if the loss of Google had any serious impact on their long term fiscal goals.
I suppose if Imgur announces public layoffs then we’ll know for sure just how much of an impact the loss of the ads had on the image hosting site. Whatever the case, it should be alarming to any business out there just how much control Google has over the entire internet, from browsing, to news, to searching, to video hosting, to advertising. We’re living in a modern day dystopia controlled by a few big tech brands and few people seem compelled to do much about it.
More than anything, Google pulling out of Imgur just seems to coincide with the current push to ban memes, suppress meme culture, and go after communities and cultures themed around mimetic content. That’s not to mention that with policies like Article 13, the attempted shutdown of 8chan, and the Christchurch Call all targeting meme culture, it looks like there’s a systematic push to eradicate memes and meme communities from the internet ahead of the 2020 elections.
(Thanks for the news tip Oswego)