YouTube: UK government suspends ads amid extremism concerns

Mar 18, 2017, 00:57
YouTube: UK government suspends ads amid extremism concerns

According to a report in The Times, Google is to be summoned before the government to explain why ads have been running alongside inappropriate video content - including terrorist propaganda, banned hate preachers and rape apologists.

This week, the British government, retailers and The Guardian began pulling ads from Google and YouTube, saying the mishap was unacceptable. In addition, Havas, a large French ad agency that represents a number of leading brands, said Friday that it would pull its business from Google and YouTube for similar reasons. This issue surfaced after an investigation by the Times of London where it wrote about many ads from big corporations having being placed alongside web content from white nationalist David Duke and pastor Steven Anderson, known for praising the killing of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Nicklin, who spent ten years working at Google before joining the Guardian last year, also warned that if these - and other issues such as ad fraud and brand safety - could not be remedied quickly then the industry could face government regulation.

"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 spokesman said.

All government-funded YouTube advertising remains on hold until further notice. Most major advertisers use programmatic ad buying on sites like YouTube, buying ad views in bulk rather than targeting any specific videos. These use cookies stored on user devices to anonymously select ads which match the known interests of viewers, based on their browsing history.

The managing director of Google's United Kingdom team, Ronan Harris, addressed the situation in a blog post, saying the company recognizes the necessity of "strict policies" that dictate where Google ads appear.

Google is rethinking some of its advertising policies after coming under fire in the UK. As a backlash, the tech giant itself is now facing a boycott from the advertisers.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "We have placed a temporary restriction on our YouTube advertising pending reassurances from Google that government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way".

Google has responded with a blog post from United Kingdom managing director Ronan Harris, saying the company has tried to balance freedom of speech on the web with its advertising policies. With this new goof up from YouTube, it would be interesting to see if the government takes some action against the website.

A senior Google executive in the United Kingdom acknowledged the controversy in a blog post on Friday, saying the company does its best to ensure that client ads aren't published alongside offensive content.