Google apologises over ads appearing next to extremist content, while several more UK and US brands pull their ads from the platform

Google apologises over ads appearing next to extremist content, while several more UK and US brands pull their ads from the platform

Earlier this month, The Guardian reported that they had pulled all online advertising from Google and YouTube after discovering ads for their membership scheme were being inadvertently placed next to extremist material.

As The Guardian explains, content included YouTube videos of American white nationalists, as well as a controversial Islamist preacher and the former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke.

Following this announcement, more than 250 UK brands and organisations confirmed that they would also be pulling their ads from the two platforms. These include Vodafone, Sky, BBC, Marks & Spencer, Royal Mail, Lloyds, and Transport for London, amongst other big names. The British government also withdrew their adverts with Google, and called for the company to address the British Cabinet Office.

Last week, a number of major US brands, including Verizon, AT&T, and Enterprise, also followed suit.

As a result of this controversy, Google has publicly apologised and promised to “raise the bar” on what is considered to be “safe content”, The Telegraph reported.

Speaking at The Advertising Week Europe conference last week, Google’s head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Mark Brittin, said: “I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content. We take our responsibilities to these industry issues very seriously.”

He added: “we have a review under way on how we can improve. We are accelerating that review.”

Additionally, Brittin said that although Google’s reviewing process (which sees 98% of flagged YouTube content being examined within 24 hours) worked well, more could be done. However, he failed to say whether they’d employ staff to detect inappropriate content, rather than continuing to wait for their users to flag it.

Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, also said that of Tuesday, Google would be “taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content.”

“This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender, or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”

The TJM take: While no one wants to appear next to unsavory content, you have a choice on how you market. If you want to be 100% safe then you can just ‘white list’ sites, but this may not get you the best cost per conversion as you will no doubt be white listing the same sites as many others.

The alternative is to put our trust in the algorithms that media buying platforms provide.  These are never going to be 100% safe, but that is the nature of the beast. Caveat emptor is our best advice.

*Image source: The Guardian

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