© AP Photo/James NordDoomsday prepping, once only practiced on the fringes of society, has never been more popular.
A mass email sent to Google advertisers this week announced a planned update to the platform's Inappropriate Content Policy to address "Sensitive Events" beginning in February. The new guidance regarding "unforeseen events" including "public health emergencies, conflicts, and mass acts of violence" has fueled speculation about what exactly Google is preparing for...and with the update scheduled for February 2024, there's a limited window of time to figure it out.

Even before the New Year, many were anticipating a "year of chaos" in 2024. With more than 50 countries preparing for high-stakes elections and global instability on the rise, the likelihood of unexpected "Black Swan" events is at an all-time high.

Further fueling the public's general sense of trepidation is the fact that wealthy and influential elites like Mark Zuckerberg have begun building themselves high-tech survival bunkers, leading to an increased interest in "Doomsday prepping."

It's unclear if one of these doomsday scenarios is what Google is describing to its advertisers...but that hasn't stopped the speculation.

An email sent out by the platform earlier this week read: "In February 2024, Google will update the inappropriate content policy to clarify the definition of Sensitive Events."

The email continues:
A 'Sensitive Event' is an unforeseen event or development that creates significant risk to Google's ability to provide high-quality, relevant information and ground truth, and reduce insensitive or exploitative content in prominent and monetized features. During a Sensitive Event, we may take a variety of actions to address these risks.

Examples of Sensitive Events include events with significant social, cultural, or political impact, such as civil emergencies, natural disasters, public health emergencies, terrorism and related activities, conflict, or mass acts of violence.
Google also provides a non-exhaustive list of advertising that will be prohibited under the new guidelines, including "products or services that exploit, dismiss, or condone the Sensitive Event" or engage in price gouging and victim blaming.
googe sensitive event
Google's definition of a "Sensitive Event"

Word of these unexpected accommodations for "Sensitive Events" quickly sparked a wave of online speculation, with many questioning whether Big Tech knows something the rest of the world doesn't.

This increased concern comes shortly after CBS News correspondent Catherine Herridge predicted a "Black Swan event" for 2024. A Black Swan is defined as a "high-impact event that is difficult to predict under normal circumstances but that in retrospect appears to have been inevitable."

While some have suggested that the policy update is a ramping-up of censorship ahead of the 2024 US election, the restrictions are notably not primarily aimed at YouTube or Google AdSense clients, but rather at advertisers themselves. Existing restrictions on content creators already regulate coverage of Sensitive Events.