Google in revamp of operations to tackle United Kingdom advert scandal

Posted March 22, 2017

Google has responded to major companies withdrawing online adverts by promising to take "a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content".

Google has announced a three-pronged approach to addressing the problem of ad misplacement and brand safety by promising advertisers it will place more of an emphasis on policies, controls and enforcement. As Bloomberg reports, Google is broadening its advertising policy on hate speech to cover content that targets vulnerable groups, including people harassed or demeaned due to their country of origin or socioeconomic status.

A number of companies, including McDonald's, Audi, L'Oreal and retail giant Marks & Spencer pulled their ads aimed at United Kingdom markets from Google's sites, according to media reports.

The Times reported last week that BBC programs were promoted alongside videos posted by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke as well as videos by Wagdi Ghoneim, an Islamist preacher banned from the United Kingdom for inciting hatred. A YouTube spokesperson told CNET that none of the changes are about removing offensive content itself from YouTube.

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Outcry was sparked by a Times of London investigation that showed YouTube channels promoting hate speech were earning tens of thousands of dollars for their extremist operators thanks to ads placed by Google. The UK government and The Guardian had also pulled ads from the video site.

Britain is Google's largest market outside the U.S., generating US$7.8 billion past year mainly from advertising, or almost 9 percent of global revenue.

"Finally, we won't stop at taking down ads".

Google also says it plans to staff up in this area.

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Other businesses including Barclays are considering what to do - though Barclays does not now have any advertising on YouTube or Google.

In addition to former Klan leader Duke, the ads were used alongside content from far-right party Britain First and an organization of Polish nationalists, as well as a smattering of religious extremists and controversial hate preachers.

In the blog post published Tuesday, Schindler said "Recently, we had a number of cases where brands' ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values".

He pledged Google would hire significant numbers of people and harness its latest developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to review questionable content for advertising. It has been designing a new platform that will allow the advertisers and agencies to see where the adverts appear and what comes with them.

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Schindler said Google will "ensure that ads show up only only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program - as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate community guidelines" and take another look at its ad policies.