Google bullied us and must be regulated, says Vivaldi and Opera founder

Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner calls for Google to be regulated after experiencing a three-month AdWords suspension.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Vivaldi's Jon von Tetzchner: "I am saddened by this makeover of a geeky, positive company into the bully they are in 2017."

Image: Vivaldi Technologies

Jon von Tetzchner, the founder of the Opera and Vivaldi browsers, says Google suspended Vivaldi's AdWords account for three months without providing a decent explanation. He's now calling for the search and advertising giant to be regulated.

Von Tetzchner says Vivaldi's Google AdWords account was suspended in May, shortly after he said in an interview that Google should be banned from tracking users on the web to deliver personalized ads. Instead, he suggested it should be limited to location-based advertising.

It took three months for Vivaldi's AdWords account to be re-enabled, but that only happened after it "bent to their requirements", which were vague and included demands that Google itself does not follow, he says.

According to Von Tetzchner, the timing of the suspension "spoke volumes" and he was never given a decent explanation for why it happened in the first place.

"Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended -- without prior warning. Was this just a coincidence? Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?" he writes in a blogpost entitled 'My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil'.

When Vivaldi contacted Google to resolve the issue, it was told it didn't comply with its terms and conditions. Google's in-house specialists dictated how Vivaldi should arrange the content on its website, according to von Tetzchner.

The content that Google was directing Vivaldi to fix related to its end-user license agreement (EULA), a Vivaldi spokesperson told ZDNet.

Google asked it to add the EULA to its website, which it did, only for Google to then demand it add the EULA "within the frame of every download button". Now Vivaldi has a Terms link beneath its 'Free download' button.

Google later admitted this was not a "hard requirement" but kept the account suspended anyway, Vivaldi said.

"They also asked us to add detailed information about uninstalling Vivaldi -- a requirement they didn't have direct guidelines on in their help articles. Admitting to that, they wrote to us that they 'rely on the advertisers to take responsibility when advertising with us, hence reading up on and following our policy guidelines'," said Vivaldi's spokesperson.

As Vivaldi points out, Chrome's landing pages don't have a link to an EULA underneath the download button.

Google told ZDNet that it doesn't suspend anyone from AdWords for criticizing the company.

"We do take action against sites that contravene our guidelines and policies about software downloads, which are there to ensure that our users know exactly what they're downloading and that the installation process is safe and easy to understand," Google said.

"And we follow those same guidelines and policies for our own products."

Von Tetzchner says Google's handling of Vivaldi's AdWords suspension adds weight to the EU's $2.7bn antitrust fine.

"A monopoly both in search and advertising, Google, unfortunately, shows that they are not able to resist the misuse of power. I am saddened by this makeover of a geeky, positive company into the bully they are in 2017," he wrote.

"I feel blocking competitors on thin reasoning lends credence to claims of their anti-competitive practices. It is also fair to say that Google is now in a position where regulation is needed. I sincerely hope that they'll get back to the straight and narrow."

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