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Big brands implement ads boycott, Google says ‘sorry’

sorry

via Flickr © Dave Keeshan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Google ads boycott after extremist video outrage
  • UK govt and 'big 'brands' want action on taking down extremist videos faster

Google Europe's boss, Matt Brittin, has apologised to an advertising conference in London after big brand ads had appeared against ‘extremist’ content on Youtube and caused a flurry of protest in the UK, with a long list of major brands instituting a partial boycott. The content in question included videos from ‘hate preachers’ and those featuring the former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke.

The UK government itself and a surprisingly long and growing  list of companies and ad agencies have suspended advertising schedules with Google or are reviewing the way forward. They currently include McDonald’s, the BBC, L’Oréal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, the Guardian, Audi and Channel 4.

Google is now finding itself attacked on two flanks.  On one side is the argument about ‘placement’. That is done ‘programmatically’ by apparently matching subject matter to user interests.

However Google, while apologising for the unfortunate placements, is not about to cave in completely and is thought to be considering upping its engagement with advertisers and agencies to help them make ‘better use of the tools’ available to steer their ads to the right audience. This is the old "it’s your own fault, you just need to learn how to use us better’’ approach which Google has used periodically in the past, especially with newspapers complaining about losing ad revenue. Whether that will go down well with media buyers etc  has yet to be seen.

The second flank involves an all-out assault on Google’s apparent lack of rigorous policy on removals, once ‘extremist’ content has been identified. The accusation is that Google is ‘profiting from hate’  since it obviously gathers revenue from the ads shown with extremist content and passes a proportion on to to the video poster.  

Google says  that the actual sums involved are very small and, considering that it stands to lose valuable advertisers when such content appears, it has no interest in keeping it up longer than it has to. It points out that it must police a huge avalanche of material - 400 hours of YouTube video is uploaded per minute - and its AI facilities are not yet up to determining what’s an extremist recruitment video and what’s not.

Google’s ordeal is far from over.  It is soon to face a meeting with HM Government’s Cabinet Office where it has to explain what it’s going to do about the extremist content. Best guess, "not a lot.  More technology needed."

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