The UK government is among organisations worried about their ads appearing alongside extremist content on YouTube.
The UK Government has decided to remove all of its advertising from YouTube. This is due to instances of advertising appearing alongside potentially harmful content, such as videos from supporters of extremist groups and tutorials on how to tie a noose.
A report published by The Times brought this matter to the attention of many organisations, including the government and Marie Curie. The report states that when adverts are placed on harmful content, the creators earn roughly £6 per 1,000 views. This would mean that advertisers working with Google are indirectly and unknowingly funding terrorism and extremism through their ads. These videos include content from white nationalist David Duke, terror-preacher Wagdi Ghoneim, and openly-homophobic Christian fundamentalist Steven Anderson.
The BBC, The Guardian, and Channel 4 have also withdrawn advertising on all Google platforms for this reason. Google maintains strict guidelines about what kinds of content on YouTube is eligible for monetisation, but these are not always adhered to.
Havas becomes the first of the global marketing groups to pull all its UK ad spend from Google/YT. Clients incl. O2, BBC, Royal Mail. £175m
— Mark Sweney (@marksweney) March 17, 2017
“Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content,” a spokesperson for the government stated. The Cabinet Office added on 17 March that the removal was temporary, “pending reassurances from Google that Government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way”.
Google’s UK managing director Ronan Harris said on 17 March that “in a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetisation policies”. The company has acknowledged the issues with the advertising system and say they are committed to “doing better”.
Following this withdrawal of advertising by the UK government, many companies have done the same. These include Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, HSBC, and Audi. Sky and Vodafone are considering taking similar action, with a spokesperson from Sky stating, “It is clearly unacceptable for ads to be appearing alongside inappropriate content and we are talking with Google to understand what they are doing to stop this.”
Google has stated that it will be reviewing its ad policies, as well as how the regulations for appropriate advertising are enforced on its platforms. There will also be specific focus on rewriting the policies regarding videos containing hate speech to ensure it cannot be monetised.