Google orders censorship of explicit album covers

Google Advisory: Explicit Content

Google has asked a music website to censor album covers that could be deemed 'explicit'.

The request was made to Drowned in Sound, an award-winning site that brought in 28.5 million page views from 3.5 million users in 2013. Around 20 per cent of DiS's income is generated by Google-served ads displaying next to its content.

However, the site was told this week it must comply with the ad network's rules around explicit content, with eight pages initially pinpointed as requiring censorship.

Album covers deemed explicit included Lambchop's OH, featuring a painting of a nude couple, Sigur Ros album Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, which depicts four people running naked, as well as albums by The Coathangers, Aidan Moffat, and Dark Dark Dark.

The images in question have now been pixellated.

Revenue under threat

DiS was given until Friday to comply - or risk being removed from the Google ad network altogether. Founder Sean Adams said: "As a small music magazine we can't lose that revenue"; the income from the ads in fact pays just a third of the site's server costs. Although altering the code on the pages could have prevented ads from showing and therefore avoid Google's restrictions, Adams told a Twitter user the site has no full-time developer.

Meanwhile a Google spokesperson said:

"Our policies for websites make clear that we will not serve ads to websites with adult or mature content. This policy has been in place for a long time and nothing has changed recently."

Eugene Henry, head of PPC at theEword, commented: "It's easy to see why the rules on explicit content were put in place, as most advertisers wouldn't want their ads appearing near certain types of adult or offensive material. However, this is clearly an extreme example of Google enforcing its regulations."