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Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Culture | By Elsie Buchanan

Gov.UK pulls plug on its YouTube ads amid extremism concerns

Gov.UK pulls plug on its YouTube ads amid extremism concerns

The British government had been expected to question Google executives on Friday on why ads marketing government services were appearing alongside videos carrying hate speech and extremist content on YouTube. As we are not satisfied that YouTube is now a safe environment, we have removed all Channel 4 advertising from the platform with immediate effect.

The Times found that these advertisements resulted in payouts for extremist YouTube creators, including American white nationalist David Duke and Holocaust-denying fundamentalist pastor Steven Anderson, who praised the killing of 49 people in the Pulse nightclub terror attack.

The controversy comes after a Times investigation revealed that adverts from government departments, Channel 4, the BBC, Argos, L'Oréal and others were placed next to YouTube videos of American white nationalists, a hate preacher banned in the United Kingdom and a controversial Islamist preacher.

Analysis by The Times showed that blacklists which are created to prevent digital adverts from popping up next to extremist content, are not working.

Ministers have summoned Google for talks at the Cabinet Office after imposing a temporary restriction on its own ads - including for military recruitment and blood donation campaigns - appearing on YouTube.

Harris said 400 hours of video was uploaded to YouTube every minute, adding that previous year Google removed almost two billion "bad ads" from its systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from its AdSense programme and prevented adverts from serving on over 300m YouTube videos.

Google responded: "We accept that we don't always get it right, and that sometimes, ads appear where they should not".

Ronan Harris admitted that Google needs to "do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetized videos and content", and that the company plans to introduce more ways for customers to control how and where their ads appear. The UK government has chose to remove its ads altogether from YouTube over concerns that they were appearing right next to extremist videos promoting inappropriate and often violent behavior.

That also led to Google to remove PewDiePie from a "family-friendly" ad network he was previously included in and cancel his YouTube Red show.

Google has been hauled in front of officials at the Cabinet Office to explain how it will end the inappropriate advertising.

"It is inexplicable to us that Google can move very fast to remove material from YouTube when it is found to be copyrighted, but that the same prompt action is not taken when the material involves proscribed organisations and hateful and illegal content".

The government suspended advertising on Thursday, citing "pending reassurances". A spokeswoman later said the rest of the group would not follow suit.

"We have strict guidelines that define where Google ads should appear", a spokesman said.

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