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22 Mar, 2015 18:04

US news website accuses Google of censorship over photos of Abu Ghraib, dead Ukrainians (GRAPHIC)

US news website accuses Google of censorship over photos of Abu Ghraib, dead Ukrainians (GRAPHIC)

Non-interventionist news portal Antiwar.com has accused Google of using “authoritarian” tactics and being “an arm of the US State Dept.,” after it stopped providing adverts on several of its stories, which the tech giant says violate its policy.

The conflict erupted last Sunday, when the tech giant notified the website that its advertising service AdSense would be disabled, due to depictions of “violence” and “gore” next to its ads, in what Antiwar.com said was a “big hit” to its funding. As an example of the violations it listed a 2006 article containing photos of torture from Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq – which Antiwar.com says has been viewed over 2 million times – and urged the administrators to “check all other remaining sites in your account for compliance.”

Screenshot from www.antiwar.com

“As Washington gets ready to re-invade Iraq, and in bombing, killing, and abusing more civilians, they suddenly decide that their ‘anti-violence’ policy, which prohibits ‘disturbing material’, prohibits any depiction of violence committed by the US government and paid for with your tax dollars,” said a statement from Antiwar.com, which urged its readers to lodge a protest against the Google policy.

“To say this is an utter outrage would be an understatement: It is quite simply the kind of situation one might expect to encounter in an authoritarian country where state-owned or state-connected companies routinely censor material that displeases the government. Is Google now an arm of the US State Department?”

Google Disables All Ads On http://t.co/w622h7DXQf For Abu Gharib Photos http://t.co/HNxALWQcGepic.twitter.com/O9yCLtT8hI

— Bill7940 (@Bill7940) March 21, 2015

Although the offending article had been on the website for years without notice, it does appear to be in violation of two AdSense policies, which Google enclosed with its warning missive:

VIOLENCE/GORE: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images.

VIOLENCE: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with violent content. This includes sites with content related to breaking bones, getting hit by trains or cars, or people receiving serious injuries.

But Antiwar.com’s director of operations Angela Keaton told RT that the removal took place without the requisite 72-hour warning, and that even if there was a violation of the letter of the regulations, it was “equating news with titillation” and suppressing legitimate journalism.

The story was then picked up by the wider online media, including Gawker, and Google took notice. According to Antiwar.com a member of Google’s team promised to personally review the content, as well as apologizing for “poor service.”

READ MORE: Anti-war site, upon notifying FBI of cyber-threat, became surveillance target

Google then reinstated AdSense – only for the conflict to flare up again. On Friday, the California giant wrote to Antiwar.com, saying that its article from May last year, which showed an AP photo of Ukrainian rebels killed by government forces, also violated its policies.

As opposed to playing “whack-a-mole,” scanning each article for potential violations, Antiwar.com has now decided to break off its contract with Google altogether.

“Antiwar.com has no intention of allowing Google to dictate our content. We are looking into alternate sources of advertising and will not likely be working with Google AdSense in the future,” said a letter from the editorial team.