6aadbye.jpgIt was an unpleasant surprise to see homophobic ads on the Appeal this morning, and not just because we’re “anti Prop-8 cheerleaders.” Here’s how it happened:

Some of our ads are direct sales — that means the company buys them straight from us. These are our favorite ads! Buy some! We need money like hell, but we would never directly sell an ad space to someone who supported the removal of folks’ rights.

Some of our ads are served by Google AdSense. You might remember that they took some heat for how their ads responded during last year’s election, when sites that supported same sex marriage ended up plastered with pro-Prop 8 ads. Because of this, they improved publishers’ ability to filter ads. So, as soon as we saw the Google ad spaces on our site displaying messages opposing same sex marriage rights in Maine, we took the information from those ads and used it to initiate some filters.

Finally, we have some ads served by Six Apart Media, the ad network run by the folks who built the software we use on this site (Movable Type) and who developed this site for us (and where many of my friends work). Six Apart’s a San Francisco-based company, so we were floored to see their ad slots filled with the same hateful ads.

So we took those ads down, too, and spoke with Alysson TeCarr (Director, Publisher Development for Six Apart Media). “Those ads aren’t acceptable, and have damaged some of our network relationships because of their refusal to adhere to our policies” she told me. She explained that Six Apart has two sales channels — direct sales, and indirect sales, which is basically like ad network ads for ad networks. (I am sorry that this is so boring and inside baseball!)

“We typically screen all the ads, but in a case like this, they’re bought in bulk from a provider who runs a large number of ads through with the same tags, and they can slip through.”

“This is an egregious example of someone violating our policies, and we’re working to track it down. We have removed the ads from our network.”

As our good friend Greg Dewar (our go-to for ad knowledge) has told us, this is the risk one runs with ad networks, and TeCarr agrees. “This a hazard of the business” she said “but we’re always making our best efforts to catch ads that violate our standards as early as possible.”

Unfortunately, she’s right — this is a hazard of our business. One day, we hope the Appeal is all direct sales advertising, but until then we’re reliant on ad networks like Six Apart — who is certainly more responsive to our concerns that Google would ever be! But if you ever see an ad that you think is sketchy or that you know would piss me off, please screencap and send it to me straight away. Like I said, we need money like hell, but not that kind of money. Thanks.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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