Last week The Guardian and UK government suspended their adverts from YouTube after it emerged that their ads were appearing next to extremist and inappropriate content. Since then, a number of global brands have pulled their ads from both YouTube and the Google Display Network, including Vodafone and Nestle in Australia.
The reason for the mass exodus from YouTube and the Google Display Network is partly due to the current quality checks made by the platforms before placing brand adverts on the web.
The sheer vastness of videos and publishers on which Google places video and banners is mind boggling. YouTube alone has more than 400 hours of videos uploaded every minute and serves ads to more than a billion websites each month.
Google's AI system is automated to carry out all the quality checks of the content alongside which ad content is served. However, even with the company's most advanced systems checking and double checking content, it is difficult to be 100% accurate all the time.
This has unfortunately resulted in a number of brands appearing alongside hateful content.
Unsurprisingly, Google is not taking the situation lightly and addressed it directly in a public statement on Friday 17 March:
“We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content. While we have a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, we can do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetized videos and content. We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network.”
Read the full Google statement from Friday 17 March, here.
Since then, the company has taken action to address the concerns of its customers and tighten controls on the content against which its ads are served.
In a subsequent statement issued on Tuesday 21 March, the company detailed the steps it is taking to improve its ad policies, enforcement of these policies and new controls for advertisers:
“We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values. So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.
“We’ll also tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program—as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate our community guidelines. Finally, we won’t stop at taking down ads. The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.”
In the statement, Google also detailed the new tools it is developing for advertisers to more easily and consistently manage where their ads appear across YouTube and the web:
“Safer default for brands. We’re changing the default settings for ads so that they show on content that meets a higher level of brand safety and excludes potentially objectionable content that advertisers may prefer not to advertise against. Brands can opt in to advertise on broader types of content if they choose.
“Simplified management of exclusions. We’ll introduce new account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for Video and Google Display Network campaigns, and manage brand safety settings across all their campaigns with a push of a button.
“More fine-tuned controls. In addition, we’ll introduce new controls to make it easier for brands to exclude higher risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.”
Read the full Google statement from Tuesday 21 March, here.
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