UK questions Google about government ads before extremist YouTube videos

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Google Inc. has landed itself in some hot water in the U.K. after its YouTube video site displayed a number of government-sponsored ads before videos that promote extremist views.

The Times reported that YouTube displayed several U.K. government ads before videos that supported anti-Semitism, homophobia and other controversial content. As a result, the U.K. and a number of major advertisers have pulled their ads from YouTube until they are satisfied that the issue has been resolved and their ad money will not go to extremist content creators.

“Digital advertising is a cost-effective way for the government to engage millions of people in vital campaigns such as military recruitment and blood donation,” said a spokesperson for the U.K. government. “Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content. 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 been summoned for discussions at the Cabinet Office to explain how it will deliver the high quality of service government demands on behalf of the taxpayer.”

During the meeting, officials told Google that they expect to receive both a plan and a timetable for how the company intends to resolve the issue.

Google addressed advertisers’ concerns in a blog post today. The company promised to provide brands with better tools that will allow them to manage where their ads appear.

In the post, Ronan Harris, managing director for Google U.K., said that with the volume of video content and advertising content on YouTube, the site “[doesn’t] always get it right.” However, Harris also said that only “a very small percentage of cases” involve ads that mistakenly violate Google’s own monetization policies. “We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more,” said Harris.

“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,” he added. “We are committed to working with publishers, advertisers and agencies to address these issues and earn their trust every day so that they can use our services both successfully and safely.”

Photo: Rego – d4u.hu via photopin cc