Terraria co-creator Andrew Spinks is the latest high-profile victim of Google’s ban-first, answer-questions-never approach to creators on its platform, but the problem goes back over a decade.
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In a recent thread on Twitter, Spinks tagged Google in an explanation of his situation. In short: his accounts have been locked for weeks, and no one will tell him why.
Like countless internet users, Spinks had loads of money and data under Google’s control in the form of Google Play apps, Google Drive space, YouTube content, and his Gmail account.
The thread’s replies are packed with users who share similar stories.
Spinks’ story is frustrating, but it’s far from new. For nearly as long as Google has offered user accounts, users have shared stories of mysterious ban notices and lockouts with vague—if any—reasoning. Although there is an appeals process in the case of bans, submissions are commonly rejected without revealing any additional significant information.
In Google’s earliest days, this phenomenon was tied almost exclusively to webmasters and bloggers using the AdSense system (this is where yours truly was personally banned for life years ago now). As big as Google is, it seems to consistently do more advertising business than it can apparently keep track of, so it seems to rely on a largely automated system of flagging what it deems “suspicious” or “invalid” activity on its ads, routinely banning the responsible accounts.
But the word “responsible” is interesting in the context of ads accessible to the entire internet. In effect, anyone can go on a clicking spree on anyone’s AdSense ads with a decent chance of getting the responsible account banned indefinitely. This has led to a loss of tons of advertising revenue for creators likely in no way responsible for their removal. This nonsensical system has become so well-known that a cottage industry for Adsense Extortion eventually sprung up targeting site owners. The threat: pay us or we’ll get you banned.
Instead of improving, Google has taken over more of the internet, and the lazy bans have spread. YouTube creators are now at the mercy of the very same system that once only plagued us webmaster nerds. Anyone is capable of the very same “invalid click activity” on the very same ads, and the results are identical.
Spinks’ lockout seems more security-related. It’s unlikely he does a lot with AdSense, and ad bans rarely result in a full account lockout. However, this doesn’t explain why Google has left him with no idea what happened for most of a month now. He’s absolutely right in saying Google is a risk to his business.
While no one is in a position to fully ruin Google’s day, Spinks was in a better position to give them something to think about than the rest of us.
Google has been known to reach out in a very limited number of high-profile cases like this to resolve issues, but it’s frankly a bad look at this point whether they do or don’t. I would never call on a dev to make good on a threat to cancel a game, but I hope he’ll continue to advocate for the countless creators who have no leverage with the internet’s premiere provider for synchronized productivity and advertising revenue solutions.