YouTube ran ads from over 300 companies on extremist, white nationalist channels: Report
Earlier this year, YouTube pledged to demonetize videos that contained “inappropriate content,” but a recent CNN investigation has revealed that advertisements from over 300 major companies have continued to appear before videos depicting extremist, white nationalist or other hateful content.
Content featured on those channels include videos promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories, North Korean propaganda, among other things, CNN reports.
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According to reports, many of the companies were not aware that their ads were being run on videos of this nature and said they’d be investigating how they wound up there. Incidents have cropped up over the past year that have sparked questions about YouTube’s ability to monitor ad placement on its platform.
Companies that advertise on YouTube have the option to target ads according to user base and demographic. CNN also reports that companies can stop their ads from appearing on videos posted by specific channels, and can select a “sensitive subject exclusion filter.”
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For the past year, YouTube has repeatedly come under fire for extremist content on its platform, and more recently, for allowing those channels to monetize their videos. In response, several companies have scaled back their use of YouTube advertising, while others have pledged to abandon the platform.
Sportswear company Under Armour, for example, told CNN that it would be working with YouTube to prevent this from happening after the company was notified that its ads had appeared on a video posted by a white nationalist channel entitled “Wife With A Purpose.”
“We have strong values-led guidelines in place and are working with YouTube to understand how this could have slipped through the guardrails. We take these matters very seriously and are working to rectify this immediately,” a spokesperson for Under Armour said.
According to Fortune, YouTube’s parent company, Google, had the potential to lose as much as USD$750 million in revenue from advertisers boycotting YouTube. Several major companies, including Johnson and Johnson, PepsiCo and McDonald’s, had already pulled their ads from the site.
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20th Century Fox released a statement Friday stating that all the appropriate filters were in place when the company discovered its ads had appeared on videos posted by a “self-described Nazi.”
“YouTube has once again failed to correctly filter channels out of our marketing buys,” the statement read. YouTube has since deleted the offending channel, but the Hollywood studio says it has unanswered questions about how it happened in the first place.
“All of our filters were in place in order to ensure that this did not happen,” Fox said, adding it has asked for a refund of any money shared with the “abhorrent channel.”
The investigation was published in the middle of Facebook’s latest data controversy, which began with an academic app that collected the data of over 50 million Facebook profiles without explicit user consent and led to the discovery of how much data Facebook had quietly scraped from its users’ mobile devices over the years.
Both Facebook and YouTube have been pelted with questions about their ability to exercise control over the content that appears on their platforms, and some experts are predicting that YouTube’s parent company, Google, will be the next to come under fire.
“I absolutely think that Google is next and long overdue,” said Josh Golin, director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google-owned YouTube’s advertising and data collection practices earlier this month.
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When asked for comment, YouTube provided the following statement:
“We have partnered with our advertisers to make significant changes to how we approach monetization on YouTube with stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency. When we find that ads mistakenly ran against content that doesn’t comply with our policies, we immediately remove those ads. We know that even when videos meet our advertiser-friendly guidelines, not all videos will be appropriate for all brands. But we are committed to working with our advertisers and getting this right.”
Global News reached out to YouTube/Google for additional comment but has yet to hear back.
-With a file from the Associated Press.