Google’s unofficial motto of “don’t be evil” is being heavily scrutinized by firearms enthusiasts following the release of a letter the company sent out to merchants using its Google Shopping service. The email informs sellers that the service is becoming a commercial operation; this means that merchants can pay money to have their products show up first in Google Shopping search results.
Along with this change came an announcement which informed merchants that “weapons” and “weapon accessories” (including things like hunting rifles and ammunition) would no longer show up in Google Shopping results. Officially, Google has said that “Our Company has a strong culture and values, and we’ve chosen not to allow ads that promote products and services that are incompatible with these values.”
Now many in the firearms community are questioning exactly what these values are. There is an online petition asking Google to amend their policy started by change.org user Michael T which can be found here.
It appears as though the policy has already been put into place, and you can see for yourself with a bit a quick googling – try searching “remington 700” or “9mm ammo” on Google and then clicking the “Shopping” tab on the left sidebar. Below is the official announcement from Google as reproduced from Michael T’s petition (emphasis added by editor).
We’re writing to let you know about some upcoming changes to the product listings you submit to Google. As we recently announced, we are starting to transition our shopping experience to a commercial model that builds on Product Listing Ads. This new shopping experience is called Google Shopping. As part of this transition, we’ll begin to enforce a set of new policies for Google Shopping in the coming weeks. A new list of the allowed, restricted, and prohibited products on Google Shopping is available on our new policy page – Google Shopping policies – NEW – Google Merchant Center Help.
Based on a review of the products you’re currently submitting, it appears that some of the content in your Merchant Center account, ****************, will be affected by these policy changes. In particular we found that your products may violate the following policies:
When we make this change, Google will disapprove all of the products identified as being in violation of policies. We ask that you make any necessary changes to your feeds and/or site to comply, so that your products can continue to appear on Google Shopping.
To help you through this new set of policies and how to comply with them, we would like to give you some specific suggestions regarding the changes needed to keep your offers running on Google Shopping.
As highlighted on our new policy page Google Shopping policies – NEW – Google Merchant Center Help, in order to comply with the Google Shopping policies you need to comply first with the AdWords policies AdWords Policy Center – Advertising Policies Help. We do not allow the promotion or sale of weapons and any related products such as ammunitions or accessory kits on Google Shopping. In order to comply with our new policies, please remove any weapon-related products from your data feed and then re-submit your feed in the Merchant Center. For more information on this policy please visit Weapons – Advertising Policies Help.
We’re constantly reviewing our policies, and updating them when necessary, to ensure we’re offering the best experience possible to our users. We’ve identified a set of policy principles to govern our policy efforts on Google Shopping in the U.S. These principles are:
1) Google Shopping should provide a positive experience to users.
Showing users the right products at the right time can truly enhance a user’s experience. When people trust us to deliver them to a destination that’s relevant, original, and easy to navigate this creates a positive online experience to the benefit of both users and merchants.
2) Google Shopping should be safe for all users.
User safety is everyone’s business, and we can’t do business with those who don’t agree. Scams, phishing, viruses, and other malicious activities on the Internet damage the value of the Internet for everyone. Trying to get around policies or “game the system” is unfair to our users, and we can’t allow that.
3) Google Shopping should comply with local laws and regulations.
Many products and services are regulated by law, which can vary from country to country. All advertising, as well as the products and services being advertised, must clearly comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
For the most part, our policies aren’t designed to describe every law in every country. All advertisers bear their own responsibility for understanding the laws applicable to their business. Our policies are often more restrictive than the law, because we need to be sure we can offer services that are legal and safe for all users.
4) Google Shopping should be compatible with Google’s brand decisions.
Google Shopping must be compatible with company brand decisions. Our company has a strong culture and values, and we’ve chosen not to allow ads that promote products and services that are incompatible with these values. In addition, like all companies, Google sometimes makes decisions based on technical limitations, resource constraints, or requirements from our business partners. Our policies reflect these realities.
We’ve given much thought to our stance on this content, as well as the potential effect our policy decision could have on our Merchants, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.
The Google Shopping Team
© 2012 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043 You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Merchant Center account.
Google Announcement from https://www.change.org/petitions/tell-google-not-to-interfere-with-our-2nd-amendment-rights-retain-your-current-policy-concerning-weapons; image is a screenshot by author; slider image © iStockPhoto/Jeff Trausch