Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Since Flickr is being an ass these days and won’t let me share images with you that they don’t approve of, which includes just about everything I put on my blog and no doubt includes screen shots of ads that I am using to illustrate my points, you’ll just have to accept that I am not misleading you if you can’t see the offending ads themselves.

Basically, if you take a peek at the ads in the top and right sidebar of this blog, you’ll notice that Seed Media has revised their advertising policies recently. One of the results of that revision has been to run Google ads on both these blog locations. For the uninformed (like me), this doesn’t sound so bad, but I can’t help but notice that Google Ads include sexist — and now racist — ads that are just generally tacky overall, ads such as the Russian Brides ads that I mentioned recently.

I complained to the SB overlords, as did several of my colleagues, and the Russian Brides disappeared .. only to be replaced by ads for “Asian Girls for love and marriage”. This leads me to ask; what is the difference between Russian Brides and Asian Brides? Semantics? Eye shape? Because it seems to me that these women all speak the same language — the language of desperation.

I really hope that Seed Media Group and Google Ads can get this worked out, because I don’t think I am the only person in the world who finds this offensive — and the Russian Brides comment thread indicates I am not. I am sure there are thousands of blogs and websites out there that must rely on Google Ads to simply survive, and really don’t want to display such disgusting crap on their sites. Which leads me to ask why Google ads are so scummy? WHy can’t Google try to portray their ads as being something with a little sophistication instead of appealing to testosterone-driven desperados and angry control-freaks? Why doesn’t Google Ads use some of their brilliant anti-spamming ability to remove these sexist, racist and disgustingly exploitative ads before they are approved for addition to their advertising line-up? How difficult is it for Google to add a variety of keywords to their spam detecting software to prevent these sites from exploiting women? Or maybe Google is intentionally aiming for the lowest common denominator — knowing the bigger companies, like Google, feed off the desperation of smaller companies who, in turn, feed off the quiet desperation of exploited and disenfranchised individuals?

Comments

  1. #1 John
    July 2, 2009

    I ended up removing most of Google’s ads from my blog because they kept serving ads for bird-killing companies. I understand they now allow blog owners more control, but I’m still reluctant to bring them back.

  2. #2 Duae Quartunciae
    July 2, 2009

    Progress! There’s an add up for “lavalife”; with a blond blue eyed girl smiling out at me. uh… is that progress?

  3. #3 Jeff Knapp
    July 2, 2009

    I find such ads reprehensible. I’ve seen them elsewhere but not here. I use ad-blocking software so, that is probably why. I really thought Google had more integrity than that. It really angers me that they would allow such crap.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    July 2, 2009

    Uffda. I didn’t realize they were google ads. Google ads can be better targeted, but it takes time to make adjustments. Hey, last one or two times they changed up how the ads were done this happened (but with different sorts of undesirable results than we have now).

    Just checking to see if they ads are still there …. well, “my age = 80, seeking russian bride age 19″.. yup, still there.

    BTW, most of Russia is actually in Asia (Grrl, I know YOU know that… .) …

  5. #5 MadScientist
    July 2, 2009

    “Eye shape?”

    Not necessarily. Russia after all is in the large region long known as “Asia Minor”. I can’t tell some of the Russians apart from people from Mongolia and other parts of Asia, nor are those people recent immigrants to Russia. (Hey, we’ve got the eskimo who are likely to have come from somewhere in Asia as well.)

    I suspect a desperate wish for a better life is all they have in common; the differences are superficial at best.

    I haven’t seen any of these ads; a few weeks ago I was swamped by too many ads and the blinkyflashy ads just make me feel like buying a pump-action shotgun – so I installed adblock.

  6. #6 Phil
    July 2, 2009

    Where are these ads? Why haven’t I ever seen them? Are they like UFOs, seen by other people but never by me?
    Or perhaps, like it’s my brain. Rather like how I read a magazine these days, I have trained myself to read the left side first and ignore the right side, which is where most of the ads are. I think I have trained my brain to only read text and ignore web ads. I’m not kidding.

  7. #7 Chris
    July 3, 2009

    Actually, right now there is a new ad on both the top and side that is for RussianEuro that says “Find your Russian Beauty Today” with drop down selection menus preselected with “I’m a male” … etc.

    In the 1970s I accepted being one of only a couple women in the classroom, I believe that being male would not be assumed for someone reading a science blog.

    Someone in Seed needs to be looking for a new job. SOON!

  8. #8 Chris
    July 3, 2009

    Ugh, lateness of hour… I meant to say: I believe now in the 21st century that someone who reads science blogs is not assumed to be male.

    Oh, and after refreshing the page, the “Find your Russian beauty” is still on both the top and side.

  9. #9 KristinMH
    July 3, 2009

    Seed should switch to Federated Media for its advertising like BoingBoing and other big blogs. They’re classier-looking and there seem to be fewer sleazy/scam ads.

  10. #10 Interrobang
    July 3, 2009

    Now there’s an ad for “Sexy Arab Girls.” I’m definitely sensing a theme here, and it’s not a very nice one. :(

  11. #11 KT
    July 3, 2009

    I’ve noticed the icky ads too, but they only seem to pop up later in the evening, perhaps when more desperados are out trolling.

  12. #12 BAllanJ
    July 3, 2009

    Because it seems to me that these women all speak the same language — the language of desperation.

    Not to mention the desperation of those that actually respond to these ads. Boy am I ever glad I use Firefox w AdBlock Plus. I don’t have to look at this stuff at all. So much for Google’s “Do no evil” mantra.

  13. #13 Eric Lund
    July 3, 2009

    Actually, right now there is a new ad on both the top and side that is for RussianEuro that says “Find your Russian Beauty Today” with drop down selection menus preselected with “I’m a male” … etc.

    I’m seeing this ad, or a similar one from the same company (the relevant pulldown menu defaults to seeking “a woman”), at about 1600 EDT. It’s the first such ad I’ve actually noticed; I surf with a narrow window, so I don’t usually see the ads on the right (unless they do something evil like activate when I roll the mouse through there on my way to the vertical scroll bar). They even let me specify separately lower and upper bounds on the age (defaults are 18 and 80, respectively). Yes, it’s the language of desperation. No, I’m not that desperate.

    Google’s ads tend to serve based on words contained in the post, regardless of the author’s editorial position on the topic. The post discusses mail-order brides, therefore Google serves up an ad for mail-order brides, even though we argue against the practice.

  14. #14 Jimmy Groove
    July 3, 2009

    It makes sense that they would advertise that sort of service here. There are lots of men in scientific fields. And what is the stereotype in our culture of a scientific male? Intelligent, wealthy, and so terrible with women that he’d have to buy a bride.

  15. #15 abb3w
    July 4, 2009

    Jimmy Groove Intelligent, wealthy, and so terrible with women that he’d have to buy a bride.

    Or build one. Whichever.

  16. #16 AlekNovy
    July 4, 2009

    ===Jimmy Grove Said===
    It makes sense that they would advertise that sort of service here. There are lots of men in scientific fields. And what is the stereotype in our culture of a scientific male? Intelligent, wealthy, and so terrible with women that he’d have to buy a bride.
    ======================

    Exactly. Finally someone points out the elephant in the room. Ad-serving programs are auto-optimizing. It means they serve ads that work the best for that given site/audience.

    In other words, if science-blogs readers weren’t using those services (not just clicking, but using), the ads wouldn’t be displaying.

    The Politically Correct thing is to just hush hush, condemn something public-ally, and let it go on in the background, and when someone dares point out the elephant in the room, he/she will be blasted for it.

    We can try to sweep the issue under the rug, but that’s not gonna change the fact that a lot of male scientists are unsuccessful with women in society. We can try to talk about the actual core issue, or just whine about the symptoms and repress them.

  17. #17 blf
    July 4, 2009

    The russian slaves ad was displayed when I checked this blog a few minutes ago, and now, for this specific post, the asian slaves ad is being displayed.

  18. #18 CTD
    July 5, 2009

    We can try to sweep the issue under the rug, but that’s not gonna change the fact that a lot of male scientists are unsuccessful with women in society. We can try to talk about the actual core issue, or just whine about the symptoms and repress them.

    Uh… First of all, do you have any acutal statistics to support this assertion, or are you just going by your gut here? Secondly, it seems to me you’ve jumped a rather large ethical chasm between “being unsuccesful with women” and “sending off for a mail-order bride”. Thirdly, do you consider the “issue” to be society’s, or the male scientists’?

  19. #19 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 5, 2009

    My FF plus Adblock blocks them out. I didn’t even know about those ads.

    This leads me to ask; what is the difference between Russian Brides and Asian Brides?

    More fruitful is to ask what is the similarity. Both groups are part or parcel of sexual fetishes.

    The rest of your analysis is good though, and Eric’s explanation makes sense to me.

    Google likely doesn’t need to know how the ads play out, there’s a lot of confounding factors there. But they may need to show the buyers of their services that the ads, preferably preferentially, reach selected target groups. (I.e. those mentioning it are interested, one way or other.)

    And they have the tools to make it so.

    that’s not gonna change the fact that a lot of male scientists are unsuccessful with women in society

    That would be surprising, seeing that intelligence and high education both goes hand in hand with a high and satisfied sex drive, according to statistics as I remember them.

    Why would scientists, and especially male scientists, deviate from the rest of the group, and what is your evidence for this?

  20. #20 Tommykey
    July 6, 2009

    What, no ads for Latina brides? :-)

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