New York.- A news blog owned by CBS’ prominent Greek American journalist, John Metaxas, decided to remove Google ads from its main pages, after many visitors complained that these ads were advertising property sales and rentals in the occupied areas of Cyprus. The blog (Greek News blog, not affiliated with “Greek News”, or “GreekNewsonline.com) can be visited at www.johnmetaxas.com.
Scores of readers of “Greek News” (our newspaper) contacted us on Friday, complaining about ads promoting properties in Keryneia and other occupied areas, as well as Turkish products and services.
Greek News Editor, Apostolos Zoupaniotis, notified the blog’s administrator about the problem and the reactions. In replying, John Metaxas stated that “the ads for the sale of illegally-seized property in occupied Cyprus have indeed been a major concern for me and have taken up much of my time in recent days. After trying to work within Google’s system to eliminate these offensive ads from our site, but not succeeding, I have come to the decision to eliminate ALL Google ads from the site until we can reach a solution to this problem. I have written about this decision in my most recent posting on the Greek News Blog (www.johnmetaxas.com), which I hope you will get a chance to read.
I thank you for relaying the concerns of your readers, which echo my own. I am glad, at least, that our modest publication is beginning to get some notice. I hope we get noticed in the future more for our editorial content than for the content of our advertising”.
In a letter published on his web page, Mr Metaxas explained how the problem was created.
“We have attempted to prevent Google from electronically serving ads to our site that advertise the sale of illegally-seized properties in the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus. But those ads keep popping up, much to our chagrin.
Google’s ad system is a brilliant innovation. It electronically reads the words on a website’s pages and automatically serves ads to the site that its computer program has determined are related to the content on the site. But one problem with computers is that they cannot think independently and do not have judgment. Every time we write an article that mentions the occupation of the northern third of Cyprus by Turkey, Google’s system reads those words and ends up serving the offensive ads.
Google’s solution to this is an automated program known as a “competitive ad filter.” We signed up for this program some time ago, but have found it ineffective for our purposes. The competitive ad filter requires that a site’s webmaster sign on to scan the ads on a site at any given moment. The program identifies the url’s or domain names behind the ads and allows the webmaster to exclude those ads in the future.
Every morning in recent weeks we have diligently scanned our site and blocked ads from all sorts of advertisers, from the real estate broker Re-Max, which sells properties in the north of Cyprus, to a law firm in Kyrenia that does real estate closings there. To our knowledge these particular ads have been successfully blocked. In all, we have blocked several dozen offensive ads, but each time we block one, another seems to pop up to take its place.
One added difficulty is that we see only the ads that are served to our geographic region. As we understand it, people in other parts of the world see totally different ads that are not visible to us. Also, the ads keep cycling. If we screen ads at any given moment, different ads can appear within seconds. Consequently these ads are a moving target. So we feel it is best, for now at least, to remove the Google ads from our site”.