Google seeks to stem flow of big groups pulling ad­verts over extremist videos

Financial Times Middle East - - Front Page - MADHUMITA MURGIA AND DAVID BOND — LON­DON

Google’s Euro­pean op­er­a­tions boss has pub­licly apol­o­gised to ad­ver­tis­ers af­ter a grow­ing cri­sis over extremist con­tent on YouTube led big com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Marks and Spencer and Havas ,to freeze their Google ads.

“When­ever any­thing like that hap­pens, we don’t want it to hap­pen and we take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it,” said Matt Brit­tin, pres­i­dent of Google’s busi­ness and op­er­a­tions in the re­gion. “We apol­o­gise.”

But, speak­ing at the Ad­ver­tis­ing Week Europe con­fer­ence in Lon­don, Mr Brit­tin re­fused to an­swer ques­tions on whether Google would start proac­tively polic­ing con­tent on its plat­forms.

A Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion last week re­vealed that ads from the UK govern­ment, as well as com­pa­nies such as su­per­mar­ket chain Sains­bury’s and cos­met­ics group L’Oréal, were dis­played along­side in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent on YouTube. This in­cluded videos by David Duke, a US white na­tion­al­ist, Wagdy Ghoneim, a banned Egyp­tian preacher, and Steven An­der­son, a fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian pas­tor who has praised the mur­der of gay people.

Speak­ing at AWE, Keith Weed, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of Unilever, one of Google’s biggest ad spenders, said it was right that tech­nol­ogy groups such as Google and Face­book were be­ing held to ac­count but added that the whole ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try needed to take ac­tion: “We need to smart en up .”

Google said it would change how it con­trolled and en­forced ap­pro­pri­ate ad­ver­tis­ing on its plat­forms. It pledged to ex­er­cise more con­trol over where ads were placed and to be bet­ter at re­view­ing con­tent. Fur­ther de­tails are ex­pected this week.

Google only re­views con­tent flagged by its users. It cites the vol­ume of video up­loaded to YouTube — 400 hours ev­ery minute — as the rea­son why it does not po­lice all con­tent proac­tively. About 98 per cent of con­tent flagged on YouTube is re­viewed in 24 hours, the com­pany says. “We know we can do even more here,” Mr Brit­tin said.

Marks and Spencer froze its ad­ver­tisin­gon Google and You Tube yes­ter­day.

Michael Roth, chief ex­ec­u­tive of In­ter­pub­lic, one of the biggest ad­ver­tis­ing groups, warned it could also freeze spend­ing if Google did not quickly cor­rected the prob­lem. “If they can’t fix it then we are not go­ing to par­tic­i­pate,” he­said.

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