Google’s European boss has announced a policy change along with apologizing for allowing advertisements on Google and YouTube to appear next to extremist material. Multiple organizations, including the UK government, have already pulled their advertisements for fear of damaging their brands and contributing to the funding of groups whose videos their advertisements appeared next to.
Concerns first arose last week when executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter were called to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Chuka Umunna MP accused Peter Barron, the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at Google Europe, of profiting off extremist videos, along with allowing the individuals themselves to make money as well.
Barron responded by arguing that the profits they made from these videos were “very small amounts,” also saying that they would crack down on them. However, in regards to a video made by David Duke, he insisted that they didn’t “meet the test for removing under our guidelines. We are in favor of free speech and access to information.”
This then led to the British Government, along with many other corporations, pulling their advertising funding from Google. “Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content,” a government spokesman said. “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.”
Havas, the global advertising giant, suspended their advertising last week. Havas represents 240 clients in the UK, including the BBC, O2, and the Royal Mail. Their spend on YouTube was estimated to be around £35 million per year. Other companies to take individual action include McDonald’s UK, Audi UK, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Tesco. M&S was the most recent company to pull advertising, saying that “in order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through.”
At an industry conference, Matt Brittin, Google’s Head for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, apologized to “anybody that’s been affected.” Brittin announced that a review that had been “going on for some time” is being accelerated, with Google investigating how to better define inflammatory content and hate speech, improving the removal of videos that break content guidelines, and simplifying the controls that advertisers are offered.
In a Cabinet Office meeting on Friday, Google apologized to government representatives and promised to review their advertising systems, according to Sky News. Google will hold a second meeting with civil servants sometime this week in order to expand on their plan of action in regards to this incident.