The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website is promoting a campaign by ‘Refugees Welcome’ – a group encouraging Europeans to offer their spare rooms to migrants – by using advertising to target anti-immigration YouTube videos… on YouTube.
Refugees Welcome has paid for pro-migrant adverts to play before videos tagged with keywords and phrases associated with scepticism of Germany’s open door policy to migrants, such as “refugees out” and “the truth about refugees”.
The “pre roll”, 30 second advertisements, which the organisation says cannot be skipped, feature migrants speaking out against stereotypes they say are false, such as their being lazy, dangerous, or economic migrants.
In one, a man called Arif condemns fears of migrants being criminal. Comparing his own lack of criminal record to Lutz Bachmann, founder of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida), who has convictions for drug dealing and drunk driving, the Syrian implies that people with concerns about unsustainably high levels of immigration are more likely to be criminal than migrants.
Clicking on the ads redirects users to a website, which operates in English, German and Arabic, with more information about the migrants’ stories. As well as the full collection of 30 second adverts, the website features a longer video.
The professional voiceover on the website’s longer, explanatory video claims that the campaign’s adverts rebut arguments by the “far right.”
However, it is unclear as to how pointing to Mr. Bachmann’s criminal record addresses valid German concerns over the wave of violent and sexual crime that the influx of migrants has brought to the country.
The longer video also states that says other adverts by the campaign “debunk false statements or statistics by the leaders of the far right.”
To highlight this, the longer video points to an advert featuring a Syrian woman called Najlaa, who denounces suggestions that money is a motivation behind migrants’ journeys to Germany, calling such accusations “prejudice”. Stating that her house was bombed, she asks the camera, “do you think I care about money?” Going on to declare that three of her cousins in Syria were killed she then asks again, indignantly, “do you still think I care about money?”
Having crossed through so many safe countries before settling in the generous Western European state it is doubtful Najlaa’s assertion, spoken in English: “all she wants is peace” – will convince German taxpayers who believe migrants are “taking them for a ride”.
Jonas Kakoschke, one of the co-founders of Refugees Welcome, praises the “courage of the refugees” and says he believes it is important for people who oppose mass migration into Germany to see refugees “present their perspective”.
However, there is a downside to the pro-refugee campaign’s plans. As the BBC article points out, channel owners who upload the anti-migration videos which the Refugees Welcome campaign targets end up receiving receive some of the money paid by advertisers – including Refugees Welcome.
Mr Kakomschke admits, “it’s painful that the uploaders are getting money from our campaign,” but he hopes that anti-migration groups might dislike his campaign’s adverts so much that they disable advertising for their videos:
“Ultimately, we hope that some of these groups will disable advertising and therefore lose out on YouTube [advertising revenue] altogether.”
The initiative is called “Search Racism, Find Truth” and its parent company ‘Mensch Mensch Mensch’ partners with ‘Better Place’ to fundraise. Better Place lists as supporters: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BMW, Google, PayPal, Save the Children, and even YouTube.