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Google Sparks Outrage, Censors Guns, Ammo and Accessories

Yesterday, after searching for whatever firearm-related term on Google -- "5.56 ammo," for example -- not only would one see general search results, but also a few shopping results.

Not anymore, it seems. According to an online retailer who contacted us to shed light on this outrage, they received a lengthy email from Google Shopping stating per the company's new policies, all firearms, ammo and accessories will not be approved to be listed.

Indeed, it seems Google is sticking to their guns, if you'll pardon the expression; search results for even the broadest terms turn up no results on Google shopping (see screenshot at left).


Google Shopping outlined its new policy -- part of the company's transition to its new identity, Google Commercial -- in an email sent to the retailer that they were kind enough to forward directly to Guns & Ammo:


Dear Merchant,

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 - http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/ApI7UWRj6OCZpd.

Based on a review of the products you're currently submitting, it appears that some of the content in your Merchant Center account, HamLund Tactical, will be affected by these policy changes. In particular we found that your products may violate the following policies:

Weapons


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.

Weapons


As highlighted on our new policy page http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/ApI7UWRj6OCZpd, in order to comply with the Google Shopping policies you need to comply first with the AdWords policies http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/StQ08jAzM4fVtG. 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 http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/GbBNIGHOribLzf.

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Well. This is disappointing -- and pretty odd, considering gun sales are through the roof. So exactly what criteria is this ban based on? Let's break it down point by point.

  • Google Shopping should provide a positive experience to users.

    This, of course, applies to all who are opposed to guns, or to criminals looking to score a Saturday Night Special. But what about law-abiding, responsible gun owners? Clearly Google hasn't taken us into account.

  • Google Shopping should be safe for all users.

    As was stated, Google isn't necessarily referring to weapons or keeping users physically safe, but rather their computers from malware and viruses -- which admittedly is a smart move, but that should be a no-brainer for any website. Even if Google was referring to the physical well-being of its users, we could point out that it's still OK to shop for kitchen knives, which work just the same on people as they do on veggies.

  • Google Shopping should comply with local laws and regulations.

    So in which state is it absolutely, 100-percent illegal to purchase guns, ammo or accessories? Sure, there are plenty of regulations in place, but just saying, "Ah screw it," and banning a legal practice rather than comply with state regulations -- no matter how much of a pain in the you-know-what it is -- on every sale is just laziness.

  • Google Shopping should be compatible with Google's brand decisions.

    Ah yes, Almighty Google and its moral high horse. We'd actually love to see Google's official ethical code, considering this is the same company that was keen on limiting search results in China, per the request of the country's Communist government.

For a company whose unofficial motto is, "Don't be evil," Google has some pretty questionable business practices. If they think limiting gun sales won't make much of a difference, their sorely mistaken, and chances are, it's a lesson they're about to learn the hard way.

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