Google challenged why Government ads fund extremism

Google executives have been summoned to Whitehall to explain why Government ads are funding extremists
  • The Government has withdrawn adverts from YouTube until it gets reassurances
  • Taxpayer-funded adverts were seen next to extremist videos on the platform 
  • Revelation comes in a week Google was slammed by MPs over content control

 Google announced a review of its advertising policies today after the Government demanded answers on why taxpayer-funded adverts were supporting extremist videos. 

The Government withdrew its advertising from YouTube today after the problems emerged and a string of public and private organisations have followed. 

After Google executives were summoned to Whitehall to explain themselves, the internet giant's UK boss admitted  'we don't always get it right'. 

UK Managing Director Ronan Harris said in a 'small percentage of cases' automatic systems to keep ads off extreme content failed.

In a blog post, he said: 'We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content.

'While we have a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, we can do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetized videos and content.

'We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network.'

Mr Harris defended YouTube's openess, insisting Google does 'believe strongly in the freedom of speech and expression on the web'.

And he said last year Google removed 'two billion bad ads', blocked 100,000 publishers from receiving advertising support, and stopped ads from from appearing on 300,000 videos.

 Alongside the Government, Transport for London, Channel 4, L'Oreal, Sainsbury's and Argos are also set to withdraw advertising.  

The Government said it was Google's responsibility to make sure adverts do not appear alongside 'inappropriate' content.

The appearance of adverts on YouTube is controlled by complex automatic processes rather than manual placement by staff. 

Extremists who upload videos to YouTube can make about £6 for every 1,000 views on their content. Some videos have a million hits.

 Google vice-president Peter Barron defended the company to MPs earlier this week against claims the firm was too slow to react to extremist content 

Google vice-president Peter Barron defended the company to MPs earlier this week against claims the firm was too slow to react to extremist content 

An investigation by The Times found taxpayer-funded ads running against anti-Semitic, rape apologist and hate preacher videos.

A Government spokeswoman said: 'Google is responsible for ensuring that the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content.

'Google has been summoned for discussions at the Cabinet Office to explain how it will deliver the high quality of service that government demands on behalf of the taxpayer.'

Chuka Umunna, a senior Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said it was 'staggering' Google allowed extremist content to be hosted on its platform and to earn revenue.  

He said: 'They say they are taking action but proper action will require far more resources and their profits will have to take a hit that is the elephant in the room which they dare not acknowledge.

'Profit comes first for these people.'

 
Home Affairs committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper (left) has demanded Google do more to stop extremist content while senior Labour MP Chuka Umunna (right) said it was 'staggering' the company allowed extremist content on YouTube to make money 

Google was among three companies lashed by MPs on the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament this week. 

MPs demanded stronger action to remove hate content from their platform but were told pre-moderation is impossible.

After the more-than two hour interrogation, committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: 'YouTube say they don't even check proactively to stop banned or terrorist organisations like National Action from posting content, or check proactively for online child abuse.

'You Tube's enforcement of their own community standards is a joke. They rightly say ''it is not acceptable to post malicious, hateful comments about a group of people solely based on their race''.

'Yet they claim that anti-Semitic videos from white supremacists like David Duke don't breach their standards.'

 Google executives will be summoned to the Cabinet Office on Whitehall to explain how they will stop Government ads appearing on extreme content 

Google executives will be summoned to the Cabinet Office on Whitehall to explain how they will stop Government ads appearing on extreme content 

She added: 'These are incredibly powerful organisations. They are able to analyse algorithms and behaviour in a sophisticated way in order to target potential consumers with adverts.

'It's time they used more of that power, money and technology to deal with hate crime and to keep people safe.' 

At Wednesday's committee, Google vice-president Peter Barron said a 14-minute by Duke called 'Jews admit organising white genocide' did not breach rules on hate speech.

He said this was despite it being 'anti-Semitic, deeply offensive and shocking'.

Mr Barron told MPs: 'We have 400 hours of video uploaded onto YouTube every minute which is an extraordinary amount of content.

'Clearly, we don't want illegal content on our platforms and when flagged to us we remove that as quickly as we possibly can.'

 Google this afternoon announced a review of its advertising policies after complaints about ads appearing against extremist content 

Google this afternoon announced a review of its advertising policies after complaints about ads appearing against extremist content 

Dan Brooke, Channel 4's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer said: 'We are extremely concerned about Channel 4 advertising being placed alongside highly offensive material on YouTube.

'It is a direct contravention of assurances our media buying agency had received on our behalf from YouTube.

'As we are not satisfied that YouTube is currently a safe environment we have removed all Channel 4 advertising from the platform with immediate effect.'

A Google spokesman said: 'We have strict guidelines that define where Google ads should appear, and in the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended, protecting users and advertisers from harmful or inappropriate content.

'We accept that we don't always get it right, and that sometimes, ads appear where they should not.

'We're committed to doing better, and will make changes to our policies and brand controls for advertisers.' 

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By World Staff Writer 03/17/2017 06:40:00
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