Google’s cash for hate: They still don’t get it!
Anger as boss says terrorists make ‘pennies, not pounds’ from adverts Web giant refuses to say it’ll hire staff to root out vile content
‘They can afford to do far more’
GOOGLE bosses finally apologised for financing hate yesterday – but sparked fresh anger by saying the sums involved were ‘pennies not pounds’.
In another day of shame for the technology giant, it tried to downplay the impact of adverts placed alongside extremist videos on its YouTube website – which make money for their creators.
And in a move which angered MPs, Google repeatedly refused to say whether it would actively root out vile content.
Matt Brittin, the firm’s European boss, told a London advertising conference yesterday: ‘I want to start by saying sorry. We apologise when anything like that happens. We don’t want it to happen and you don’t want it to happen, and we take responsibility for it.’
But he added: ‘I’ve spoken to ... some brands that are affected. In general I’ve found that it has been a handful of impressions and pennies not pounds.’
Household names and Government departments have been horrified after an investigation found their adverts running alongside YouTube videos by Islamic State preachers and white supremacists.
Google, whose motto is ‘Don’t be evil’, hands a slice of the revenue generated by adverts to the user who posted the content.
According to independent marketing experts, extremists have made around £250,000 from advertising on YouTube.
The notorious Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim’s YouTube channel has raised £63,500 after being watched 31million times.
MPs reacted furiously to Mr Brittin’s mealy-mouthed mea culpa, saying: ‘This apology from Google doesn’t go far enough.’
Yvette Cooper, Labour chairman of the home affairs select committee, said: ‘They still don’t seem to have woken up to the seriousness and toxicity of some of the videos they are still hosting and their own responsibility to deal with that. They need to say whether they will be paying back any of that advertising revenue, and to answer our questions on what more they are doing to root out extremism or illegal activity.
‘It isn’t enough for Google to respond only when their advertising revenues take a hit.
‘They are one of the biggest and most powerful companies on the planet. They can afford to do far more, far faster.’
The advertisers’ trade body, ISBA, agreed that Google’s apology fell short, saying: ‘Let us be clear, it has not gone far enough.
‘Whatever Google’s editorial policy, advertising should only be sold against content that is safe for brands and if it is serious about tackling this it needs to increase its enforcement and support capabilities urgently.’
It added that Google should stop selling advertising space on YouTube until it can guarantee brands that it is ‘safe’. Meanwhile, Google bosses yesterday tied themselves in knots to dodge questions about whether the firm will pay staff to actively look for offensive videos.
Executive Peter Barron admitted last week that the web giant does not employ a single person to root out hate speech on YouTube. But yesterday Mr Brittin refused to confirm this, or to say whether Google would consider hiring staff to look for extreme content.
In a farcical episode at the AdWeek Europe conference, he ducked the question four times – either ignoring it or changing the subject. He said three times that Google was reviewing its policies, the ‘controls’ it gives to advertis- ers and its ‘enforcement’ practices. But he stubbornly refused to say whether this might include staff to proactively find hate videos.
Currently, users can flag inappropriate content themselves.
Google bosses have already been hauled into the Cabinet Office and given a dressing down over the scandal. The firm places adverts using computer algorithms rather than human judgment. Users posting videos on the site take a cut of revenue worth up to £6.15 for every 1,000 views.
Pressure on Google grew last night as Go Ape, which runs assault courses, became the latest brand to boycott YouTube adverts. In all, more than 250 firms have blocked advertising with Google, including Volkswagen, Tesco, Toyota, Heinz and ITV, which all announced suspensions yesterday. They followed Marks & Spencer, Channel 4, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Audi, the BBC, O2, Royal Mail and Domino’s. The Government has also suspended its YouTube adverts.
Lord Best, chairman of the Lords’ communications committee, said he believed Google had the technology to banish hate speech from its platform if it wanted to.
Google and Facebook should be forced to apply the strictest privacy controls and age settings as default, peers have claimed.
The technology giants have been ‘dragging their feet’ over child controls, and should be forced to sign up to a code of conduct, the House of Lords’ communications committee said. This would make child- friendly content filters standard, and stop the firms gathering information about users’ locations without permission.
Farcical: Matt Brittin yesterday