By Meshach M.
On February 9, 2017, the Times Newspapers (a British publication) published an article showing that ads on YouTube, owned by Google, were displaying on videos for Islamic extremists, other hate speech, and offensive content without consent of their advertising firms. On March 17, the UK government pulled all ads from Google along with the popular British news source The Guardian. On the same date, Ronan Harris, the Managing Director of Google UK, published a blog post outlining Google’s ad policy and explained what had happened. He outlined that the company invests millions of dollars every year to insure that advertisers are not paired offensive content, but because there is so much content, there is a possibility of error.
On March 22, AT&T and Verizon pulled their advertising from YouTube and do not wish to return until they can be sure that their ads will not be paired with offensive content. However, both companies will still be hosting ads on the Google search engine. On March 23, Procter and Gamble, Toyota, and Volkswagen pulled all advertising from Youtube. According to an article published in the New York Times on March 24, Walmart, Pepsico, and Starbucks have all pulled advertising as well.
As of March 2017, four hundred hours of video are uploaded every minute to Youtube. Through Google’s efforts in 2016, they were able to remove 1.7 billion illegal or misleading ads from their system, 100,000 publishers from receiving ads because they promoted offensive content, and prevented ads from appearing on over 300 million YouTube videos. However, they still see that there is room for improvement and they are already working to “…tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators…” They are also expanding their team of software developers to increase accessibility for advertisers so that ads appearing on questionable content can be easily resolved. This will give advertisers further control over which videos on their ads appear.
Google had promoted freedom of speech since its’ beginning but does not wish to be promoting content that is hateful, offensive, or gory. According to a statement published of Philipp Schindler, the Chief Business Officer, “…there’s nothing more important to Google than the trust we’ve built amongst our users, advertisers, creators and publishers. Brand safety is an ongoing commitment for us, and we’ll continue to listen to your feedback”.
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