Given that advertisement is about boosting brands, it’s hardly surprising that several major companies pulled their ads from YouTube after it was revealed that they’d appeared next to extremist videos. Fortunately, it seems as if Google has learned from the experience: the tech giant is reportedly planning to offer advertisers more control over which videos their ads appear next to.
The new system will enable brands to better protect themselves from appearing next to content that could damage their brand. For instance, companies will be able to filter out things like nudity, extremism and political satire. These new safeguards are estimated to come into effect later this year and, according to Simon Duke at The Times who broke the story, it “would hand advertisers the power to block their adverts appearing alongside a bawdy comedy sketch, for example or risqué music video.”
By introducing these measures, Google hopes to appease the organisations behind the boycott YouTube has faced following a report in The Times in March. The story revealed that several major brands were appearing next to videos with links to organisations like the Ku Klux Klan and Isis, meaning that they were indirectly funding extremism. As a result over 250 organisations pulled their advertisement from Google, something that was estimated to have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Among the organisations boycotting the tech giant were the BBC, Coca-Cola, Marks and Spencer, Lloyds, HSBC, Heinz, Honda, Starbucks, Walmart and the British government. However, some brands have since returned to the platform.
Following the scandal, Google hasn’t just focused on giving advertisers more control over whose content they monetise: it has also doubled down on its efforts to fight extremism on its platform. Using a combination of AI and human editors, the tech behemoth stated in early August that it had doubled the number of removed videos featuring illicit content from YouTube. It has also began to redirect searches from extremist videos to content which confronts and debunk much of the propaganda. Additionally, Google has also begun to work with several NGOs to better counteract the spread of violent extremism online.
However, while these new measures will certainly help reduce the risk of future mishaps, with 300 hours of videos being uploaded to YouTube every minute it still looks as if Google have much work to do before the problem is truly solved.