Here’s an odd, slightly chilling tale that isn’t directly linked to self-publishing but which does show the kind of problems that can befall anyone who’s building their own online platform. US author Cody Jackson has apparently had his Google AdSense account disabled because his site was linking to a copy of a book on a torrenting site. No matter that he wrote the book, titled Start Programming with Python, or that he was the one who put the book on the torrent site in the first place.
Jackson speculates that Google’s bot was launched into action simply because sites such as the Pirate Bay (which is one of the sites where he’d released his book for free) are widely seen by some within the entertainment industry as piracy-enablers. He goes to note that although he has now disabled links from his site to the torrents, his AdSense account remains blocked. It seems that Google’s automated systems can’t be persuaded that Jackson’s site is legitimate either with or without the torrent links, and since it’s almost impossible to advance the case to an actual live person, there’s little that can be done.
Something else worthy of note is the language used in Google’s email to Jackson, in which the company notes that his site committed the cardinal sin of being “involved in the distribution of copyrighted materials”. Now, I know what Google means to say, but what they’re actually saying is that any distribution of copyright materials is banned, in which case the entire internet might as well be de-indexed from Google’s search engine and we’ll all be left staring at plain white screens.