The Times of London opened a can of issues for YouTube after they published a story detailing several instances where advertisements from the UK Government, and some prominent businesses, were appearing alongside extremist YouTube videos. Unfortunately, many of those extremist videos contained vile anti-semitic and homophobic messaging. In response, many major companies, from supermarkets to banks, as well as the UK Government pulled their advertisements from YouTube. The government even summoned Google representatives to the Cabinet Office to explain what happened.
In a blog post published earlier this week, Google’s chief business officer, Philipp Schindler detailed the steps Google is taking to make sure this situation does not repeat itself in the future. On a high level, Google is going to take steps to more aggressively police content that targets people based on color, gender, race or “…other similar categories”.
“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,” said Schindler.
The company’s updated ad settings will now exclude any “potentially objectionable” content by default. Advertisers will also now have the option to exclude specific channels or sites from their advertising campaigns from the outset. This essentially allows advertisers to manually create a digital safety net to ensure that their content doesn’t accidentally get placed next to inappropriate content. Google’s response to this YouTube scandal is to give advertisers more control, and responsibility, over where their ads show up online.
“We believe the combination of these new policies and controls will significantly strengthen our ability to help advertisers reach audiences at scale, while respecting their values,” Schindler wrote.
New policies are only part of the plan Google has put into motion to address these YouTube concerns. “We’ll be hiring significant numbers of people and developing new tools powered by our latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to increase our capacity to review questionable content for advertising,” Schindler said in the same blog post.
In today’s divisive political climate, dealing with issues like hate speech and censoring are more important than ever for companies, particularly tech ones. This example of widespread boycotting is only the most recent. Advertisers have likely never been more concerned about avoiding political conflicts than now.
Google’s response to this controversy has been admirable, and will hopefully serve as a blueprint for others moving forward. Advertising isn’t going anywhere, but advertisers need to be mindful of where those ads are being served and how they are being perceived.