Google, YouTube see more brands pull ads over extremist videos

Extremist and offensive content on YouTube is becoming a big, fat and expensive headache for Google as more advertisers pull their ads.

Last week, several brands in the United Kingdom, including the British government, began to cancel advertising on YouTube after a Times of London article that was published in February. The Times found that many brands’ ads are appearing alongside offensive content, such as homophobic and anti-Semitic videos, videos supporting terrorism or featuring former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. U.S. companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and others began pulling their ads this week.

The Times reports Thursday that the value of the ads pulled from Google and YouTube amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

When asked about this figure, the company told SiliconBeat Thursday: “We don’t comment on individual customers but as announced, we’ve begun an extensive review of our advertising policies and have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear.”

That is what Google announced earlier this week, and the company also said it would hire more people to screen content. The Mountain View company has grown to be an advertising behemoth in part because of software that allows for mostly automated placement of ads.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet, said on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” Thursday that “because the ads come from everywhere, every once in a while an ad will come in that was sort of, somebody was trying to sneak it in, if you will, get underneath our rules and violate our Terms of Service.” He added that the company “can’t guarantee” that ads won’t be placed on offensive content, “but we can get pretty close.”

Schmidt added that Google and YouTube’s vast reach complicates things, of course. The company has said 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“YouTube… went from about 100 million hours of watched per day, to 1 billion hours of YouTube watched globally per day,” he said on the Fox show. “It’s an extraordinary platform and an extraordinary responsibility.”

Google shares, which started off the week with a downgrade, are down nearly 1.5 percent to $838.44 Thursday.

But at least one analyst, Scott Kessler of CFRA Research, is keeping a “strong buy” rating on the stock despite the company’s advertising woes.

“We have related concerns, but think GOOGL will successfully work through these issues,” Kessler said.

According to various media reports, other companies that have pulled their ads from YouTube include Enterprise, Volkswagen, Toyota, Heinz, Volvo and more.


Photo: AT&T, Verizon and several other major advertisers are suspending their ad campaigns on Google’s YouTube after discovering their brands have been appearing alongside videos promoting terrorism and other unsavory subjects. (Richard Vogel/AP)


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